My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERIn the fall of 2009, the food world was rocked when Gourmet magazine was abruptly shuttered by its parent company. No one was more stunned by this unexpected turn of events than its beloved editor in chief, Ruth Reichl, who suddenly faced an uncertain professional future. As she struggled to process what had seemed unthinkable, Reichl turned to the...

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Title:My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life
Author:Ruth Reichl
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Edition Language:English

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life Reviews

  • Debra

    Once I find an author I love, I read absolutely everything she/he has written. Such was the case when I discovered Barbara Kingsolver in the early 90s. (

    still remains one of my favorites). After I heard David Sedaris on "This American Life," I had to read everything he ever wrote (and I've seen him in person twice). Then there's Bourdain (who I also shelled out big bucks to meet). I would so run away with him if the chance ever presented itself.

    I fully admit that I have a stalker l

    Once I find an author I love, I read absolutely everything she/he has written. Such was the case when I discovered Barbara Kingsolver in the early 90s. (

    still remains one of my favorites). After I heard David Sedaris on "This American Life," I had to read everything he ever wrote (and I've seen him in person twice). Then there's Bourdain (who I also shelled out big bucks to meet). I would so run away with him if the chance ever presented itself.

    I fully admit that I have a stalker like relationship when it comes to my favorite authors.

    Then, there's Ruth Reichl. I started my obsessive reading quest with Ruth about eight years ago when she appeared on "Top Chef Masters." (I also read works by her co-judges, Gael Green and and Jay Raynor, but Ruth won my heart). I just felt like Ruth and I could be friends, sharing cups of coffee with homemade pastries every morning as we discussed world events. (Again, that stalker personality could easily manifest in me.)

    She was also the esteemed editor-in-chief of

    , but she he may have the infamous distinction of being known as the last editor of this classical, culinary, sixty-nine year old publication.

    Her latest work,

    (September 2015), deals with that unexpected demise of Gourmet and how she found herself unemployed and drifting.

    That she felt a little unmoored is an understatement. Her kitchen saved her: "And so I did what I always do when I'm confused, lonely, or frightened: I disappeared into the kitchen."

    I am a cookbook

    but as I perused through

    , I realized I was reading more than just a mere cookbook. I was experiencing all the blood, sweat and tears (and confusion, and loneliness and fright) that Reichl had balanced and overcome.

    is beyond a cookbook. It's a memoir about her driven and fast paced career life slashed short and her regaining of confidence through her cooking.

    In between her plain spoken narrative are poetic tweets from this same time of her life. The poetry doesn't stop there and in the recipes proper are glimpses of Reichl's more lyrical language: "Peel a few different kinds of apples, enjoying the way they shrug reluctantly out of their skins" (from "Apple Crisp").

    The recipes that spoke to me the most were those in the fall and winter sections. The comfort that Reichl needed for herself is echoed in the food of this time---soups, stews, hearty desserts, roasted shanks of meat, bowls of noodles, gratins, pasta...

    But, since it is the growing season, I was also drawn to her spring and summer menus and musings. I did notice, though, as spring arrives and she finds a new life direction (writing said cookbook), her prose becomes more succinct and sometimes are mere recipe hednotes for her new cookbook dream. I have earmarked her Lemon Pudding Cake (165), Cochinita Pibil (200), Three Day Short Ribs (214) and her Painless Pasta for Three (276).

    As you read, you will feel like Reichl is speaking directly to you and she writes that she wanted the book and the recipes to be written in a "relaxed tone, as if we were standing in the kitchen, cooking together." (Remember my fantasy of having coffee with her?)

    If you're an old

    fan, you will love this book.

  • Chris

    There are precious few food writers today that I would follow to the ends of the earth; Amanda Hesser is one, and Ruth Reichl is the other. I don’t re-read, but looking at her list of books through the past 20 years or so I realized I have re-read at least two of them. She’s just that good. Anything she writes will make you want to get in the kitchen and cook and this book is no exception.

    In 2009, Reichl, and the rest of the country, was shocked when “Gourmet” magazine, the oldest cooking publi

    There are precious few food writers today that I would follow to the ends of the earth; Amanda Hesser is one, and Ruth Reichl is the other. I don’t re-read, but looking at her list of books through the past 20 years or so I realized I have re-read at least two of them. She’s just that good. Anything she writes will make you want to get in the kitchen and cook and this book is no exception.

    In 2009, Reichl, and the rest of the country, was shocked when “Gourmet” magazine, the oldest cooking publication in the country, closed its doors immediately. After almost 70 years, Conde Nast folded the monthly with nary a reason. At the helm was Reichl, who along with being blindsided, also blamed herself. With no job and no prospects, she tweeted on Twitter and retreated to the kitchen and cooked.

    I always want a look into peoples’ inner lives (they’re just like us!) and reading Reichl’s pain after being fired made me feel like she was indeed one of us; guilt, anger, depression, questioning whether she was ever going to work again. I thought, “of course you are, you’re Ruth Reichl!” but in all seriousness, she was 61. We know how America treats older women in this country and thought she quite possibly could have gone into oblivion. A job interview and subsequent offer at a well-known magazine (I think I know which one is it, but I wanted her to name names!) led her to examine and realize it wasn’t what she wanted although I think some part of her regretted saying no.

    This book encompasses her tweets and recipes she created during that year. Recipes are vague with what I found to be a heavy focus on Asian dishes. This isn’t a book for someone who doesn’t know his or her way around a kitchen; instead it is a map to make a dish, with you, the home cook, to find your way to your dinner. I found that fall and winter much more generous than in the spring and summer; by that time, perhaps she was feeling better and wasn’t as cooking as much, but I still wanted her stories. Or maybe it was me; dare I say I grew a little weary of her beautiful tweets that were becoming too twee for me?

    One quibble, I took my copy out from the library, but the binding was so tight I could hardly open it, let alone use it as a cookbook. But maybe it shouldn’t be used that way; maybe one should just read and be inspired. I know I was. I bought a small butternut squash and quietly made soup one late morning, as the first spitting of snow swirled outside the window.

  • Dianne

    I don't usually rate cookbooks on Goodreads, but this is a more than a standard cookbook. It's an interesting pairing of personal diary with recipes that mark milestones in the diary.

    I am a foodie and a cookbook fanatic. I read and collect cookbooks like novels - one of my happiest pastimes is curling up with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and purusing stacks of cookbooks or old Bon Appetit/Gourmet magazines (I have a collection that goes back to the 80's). I especially love cookbooks that h

    I don't usually rate cookbooks on Goodreads, but this is a more than a standard cookbook. It's an interesting pairing of personal diary with recipes that mark milestones in the diary.

    I am a foodie and a cookbook fanatic. I read and collect cookbooks like novels - one of my happiest pastimes is curling up with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and purusing stacks of cookbooks or old Bon Appetit/Gourmet magazines (I have a collection that goes back to the 80's). I especially love cookbooks that have lots of glossy photographs and, even better, personal stories that give meaning to the recipes. That is exactly where this book falls.

    Ruth Reichl was for many years editor of Gourmet magazine, a high-end periodical devoted to food and wine that was shuttered by Conde Nast in 2009 due to declining revenues. Reichl was devastated by the loss and found herself at loose ends. To help herself heal, she began work on this cookbook that chronicled the year following the loss of Gourmet. Writing and cooking were a healing balm for her.

    I enjoyed this journey very much. The book is beautifully written (Reichl is a terrific writer) with gorgeous pictures and the recipes are a nice mix of "interesting, but I will never, EVER make this" to "I am so TOTALLY making this!" If you are a cookbook afficianado, I think you will really enjoy this. Take a look at a library or bookstore and see if this is collection-worthy for you. It was for me!

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    When

    Magazine closed without warning, Ruth Reichl was dumped into a world without a direction. The first year after Gourmet was a tough one, but cooking helped her keep her sanity and process the emotions. This is really a cookbook with a framed narrative, including Tweets she made during the time (@ruthreichl). Because of her respect for ingredients and since practically everything in the book is comfort food, many of the recipes sound appealing.

    I listened to the audio, which felt a bit

    When

    Magazine closed without warning, Ruth Reichl was dumped into a world without a direction. The first year after Gourmet was a tough one, but cooking helped her keep her sanity and process the emotions. This is really a cookbook with a framed narrative, including Tweets she made during the time (@ruthreichl). Because of her respect for ingredients and since practically everything in the book is comfort food, many of the recipes sound appealing.

    I listened to the audio, which felt a bit crazy - I would need to transcribe or memorize the recipes if I wanted to make anything (and I do! Starting with her apricot pie!) but hearing the story in her voice really was a special treat. She is comforting and genuine, like the food she creates. I wish her all the best in whatever comes next.

  • Renata

    If you sometimes like to cook (but not always), if you like a variety of delicious foods, and if you are often tantalized by the beauty and fragrances of food as much as the flavors, then make friends w Ruth Reichl and her new book. With any luck the friendship will last for years!

    Ruth Reichl has been writing about food almost as long as I've been enjoying food. The passion for food runs deep to the bone both in preparing it and sharing it w friends and family and in ever exploring and learning

    If you sometimes like to cook (but not always), if you like a variety of delicious foods, and if you are often tantalized by the beauty and fragrances of food as much as the flavors, then make friends w Ruth Reichl and her new book. With any luck the friendship will last for years!

    Ruth Reichl has been writing about food almost as long as I've been enjoying food. The passion for food runs deep to the bone both in preparing it and sharing it w friends and family and in ever exploring and learning more about the cuisines of the world. Reichl has been a restaurant critic and the chief editor of Gourmet Magazine. However, whenConde Nast abruptly chose to stop publishing Gourmet, Reichl's life went into a tail spin.

    So she did what she has always done so well - she immersed herself in cooking and writing about cooking. In this book she shares 136 recipes "that changed my life" as well as reflections on seasons , the cities where she first enjoyed a given recipe. I'll admit I completely understand that! I can picture the small cafe on Lake Lucerne where I enjoyed the most perfect peach Melba of my life, my mouth waters w the memories of the crab Louis salad I ate overlooking the Pacific in Laguna Beach. And that was before I turned twenty. The list goes on...melding places, people, food, and hours of pleasure - but oh to recreate those special dishes!

    The book is as beautifully presented as the writing is eloquent and yet congenially personal. Before each recipe Ruth shares a Twitter piece printed in her writing in a warm sepia color. Food photos do not overwhelm the book - this is no table top decoration, but an intimate sharing of seasons in our life, our response to the seasons of the year, to weather and traditions and our own biological clock.

    "To me recipes are conversations...they are a beginning, not an end. I hope you'll add a bit more of this, a little less of that, ...what I really want is my recipes to become your own. ...And so I've tried to write these recipes on a relaxed tone, as if we standing in the kitchen cooking together." And so she has. I'm not really finished with the book- I'm going to be exploring her recipes with the seasons and my changing moods.

    Right now I have a bumper crop of citrus fruit so I'm exploring cooking with lemons (and since Ruth doesn't mind if I switch things out I'll sometimes use those fragrant limes) she I try the Lemon Panna Cotta, Tart Lemon Tart,and the Avgolemono soup. My mother-in-law always made the soup for us when we were sick. Comfort food at the first sign of a sniffle. Reichl's tweet"White world. Snow still falling. Even the Hawks have flown away. Lemon Soup, bright, soothing. Somewhere the sun is shining." Her tweets often have the effect of a Haiku.

    When her world was momentarily turned upside down,she wrote " I did what I always do when I'm confused, lonely, or frightened: I disappeared into the kitchen." Because she believes "to the core of my being, that when you pay attention, cooking becomes a kind of meditation." I couldn't agree more. But when I'm not in the frame of mind to cook, I think I'll whip up a quick grilled cheese sandwich and curl up with Ruth and have s conversation with her on My Cooking Year.

  • Diane

    I just adored this foodie memoir and have been raving about it to friends for days.

    Ruth Reichl was the editor in chief of

    when Condé Nast abruptly shut it down in fall 2009. Stunned and saddened by the loss of the beloved magazine and not sure what to do about her career, Reichl returned to an old comfort: cooking.

    "I was sixty-one years old, and I wasn't sure I'd ever get another job. I had no idea what to do with the rest of my life and no notion how we'd pay the bills. And so I did wha

    I just adored this foodie memoir and have been raving about it to friends for days.

    Ruth Reichl was the editor in chief of

    when Condé Nast abruptly shut it down in fall 2009. Stunned and saddened by the loss of the beloved magazine and not sure what to do about her career, Reichl returned to an old comfort: cooking.

    "I was sixty-one years old, and I wasn't sure I'd ever get another job. I had no idea what to do with the rest of my life and no notion how we'd pay the bills. And so I did what I always do when I'm confused, lonely, or frightened: I disappeared into the kitchen."

    is part cookbook, part foodie blog and part grief memoir. It's also beautifully photographed, making for a lovely reading experience. I read a library copy, but I enjoyed this book so much and there were so many recipes I wanted to try that I ended up ordering my own.

    Highly recommended for readers who are seeking comfort and inspiration from cooking.

    "The physical act of cooking gives me enormous pleasure, but I also like watching what it does for others. Even the angriest person is soothed by the scent of soup simmering on the stove. The aroma of flour, sugar, and butter mingling in the oven is a better tonic than any alcohol. And the best recipe for a good evening is a dish so fragrant that it makes the tongue-tied start to talk. the formula is simple: when you cook for people, they feel cared for."

    "My Kitchen Year started in a time of trouble, but it taught me a great deal. When I went back to cooking I rediscovered simple pleasures, and as I began to appreciate the world around me, I learned that the secret to life is finding joy in ordinary things."

    "Captured by the cooking, I had a fleeting thought that I'd spent too many years trading time for money. Was I better off now?"

    "I finally understood why cooking means so much to me. In a world filled with no, it is my yes."

  • ☮Karen

    Slightly depressing (will she ever work again after finding herself unemployed at age 61?). Something of a bragfest (of course she will, she's world famous editor in chief of Gourmet mag, and author Ruth Reichl), but I won't hold that against her since she wrote it as a diary not for publication. Very quick read as there are recipes and gorgeous pictures with very little text. I probably won't make any of the suggested recipes as my tastes are simpler (no oysters, duck, matzoh, or puntarelle in

    Slightly depressing (will she ever work again after finding herself unemployed at age 61?). Something of a bragfest (of course she will, she's world famous editor in chief of Gourmet mag, and author Ruth Reichl), but I won't hold that against her since she wrote it as a diary not for publication. Very quick read as there are recipes and gorgeous pictures with very little text. I probably won't make any of the suggested recipes as my tastes are simpler (no oysters, duck, matzoh, or puntarelle in my future), but I do enjoy reading about her shopping excursions for everything ftom fresh fruits and exotic cheeses to short ribs and sausages. I enjoyed her novel Delicious much more, though.

  • Sarah

    Oh, Ruth, at least you didn't talk about your mother. But you did wallow in self pity. And you did write a recipe for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches--that includes the word "sexy" nonetheless. Oh, and the tweets. Sigh.

  • Grad

    The subtitle to My Kitchen Year, Ruth Reichl’s memoir-cookbook hybrid is “136 Recipes That Saved My Life.” Saved her life? Wow. What had happened to have so dramatically affected her life that it needed “saving?” you might ask. I know I did, and I purchased it using one of those precious book gift cards that comes along every now and then when good fortune smiles. I’m apt to hoard those cards, saving them for something that has staying power: a cookbook, an art book, historical non-fiction…a Led

    The subtitle to My Kitchen Year, Ruth Reichl’s memoir-cookbook hybrid is “136 Recipes That Saved My Life.” Saved her life? Wow. What had happened to have so dramatically affected her life that it needed “saving?” you might ask. I know I did, and I purchased it using one of those precious book gift cards that comes along every now and then when good fortune smiles. I’m apt to hoard those cards, saving them for something that has staying power: a cookbook, an art book, historical non-fiction…a Led Zeppelin CD. I never make a hasty decision when using a gift card. Even when I’ve zeroed in on a prospective choice I still mull it over a while. One would think I’d give greater thought to an item for which I’ve actually spent hard-earned money. But, no that is not the case. For whatever strange reason, no.

    And so I honed in on My Kitchen Year and waited impatiently for it to be delivered, ripping open the packaging as soon as it landed on my doorstep, and I began reading it that evening. I wanted to love it; I tried to love it. Sadly, I don’t love it. I just can’t bring myself to love it and here are some of the reasons why.

    Let’s begin with the physicality of the book itself as an object. It’s a chunky-ish book, about 9-1/2” x 7 x 1-1/2, the size one might find in the hardback version of a new crime novel. There is no dust cover, but it does have a nice hardboard cover with a picture of a smiling Ruth Reichl and a good-looking gray canvas spine. It feels heavy for its size – partly because the pages are printed on a hefty, matte paper – rather than the glossier paper that one often finds in cookbooks. One finds that sort of paper in many cookbooks for a very good reason: photographs of food should look temptingly glorious. So much so that the reader runs into the kitchen, throws open the pantry, and begins to pull out ingredients, never feeling the urgency to create that particular dish until a photograph sparks an epiphany of the palate. It pains me to say the photographs in this book are a bit lack luster – not awful. But, oh such a missed opportunity to make them shine.

    The book itself is difficult to cook from because it does not lie flat, so if you are inclined to make the Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi you’ll either have to wrestle it into submission a with a big brick hauled in from the garden, write the recipe out by hand, or hire a butler who will submissively hold it open for you. A shame, really, because although a bit simplistic, the ones I’ve tried are really quite good (the Shirred Eggs in Potato Puree is good enough to dream about).

    I could readily ignore these annoying technical difficulties since they do not form the true basis of my irritation with having expended a precious gift card on this book. It is more visceral than. It’is Ruth Reichl herself who is irritating. Let me explain.

    For ten years Reichl was the Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine, a wonderful publication for which I had a subscription many years running. That is, until publisher Conde Nast (which also publishes big name magazines such as Bon Appetit, Brides, Glamour, The New Yorker, Vogue) decided to close down the magazine – literally overnight and after 69 years of publication. Reichl recounts going back to her “huge office overlooking Times Square,” feeling miserable. Apart from losing her job, she was also leaving what had become a “family” comprised of her co-workers. Up to this point, I was sympathetic – empathetic even. But then, Ruth Reichl drags the reader through 4 seasons of self-indulgent whining – with recipes.

    Suddenly finding herself unemployed, Reichl worried that she and her (obviously very loving, financially successful and unerringly supportive) husband would not be able to keep both their Manhattan apartment AND the “little country house” in upstate New York unless she was able to find another job. Photographs of “the little country house” and the grounds upon which it sits would seem like heaven to most of us. I would gladly have given up the New York pad, content to look out my country window at the magnificent million-dollar view. But that is me. Ruth, however, “entered the land of grief” (Yes, gentle readers..."land of grief") as her colleagues were beginning to find jobs and recover. She, on the other hand, “looked into the future seeing endless empty days, incapable of imaging how my life would ever change.” She actually insinuated she feared she would “end up alone and homeless.” This from a woman known widely in the publishing industry, with a vast array of influential friends, a loving family, and who was already a best-selling author. She is interviewed by Anderson Cooper; she attends Yo-Yo Ma concerts, she travels. Still, life is bleak until one makes Cranberry-Pecan Crostata which perhaps will make it worth living - for a short period of time. I had gotten to page 61 at this point and was tempted to throw the book against the wall…instead I read on.

    It is mid-February and Gourmet has been defunct for several months; she is feeling especially depressed. Out there, in the “real world, people were doing big things, thinking big thoughts, living big lives.” She felt “marginalized” and couldn’t help “thinking about the life I might be living.” At this point, I am overcome with the sudden urge to grab this tedious woman by the shoulders, look into her eyes, and ask her, "Do you really want to think about the life you might be living? Let me enlighten you, Ruthie. You might be living a life in a wheelchair or one filled with the despair of poverty and ignorance. You might be living a life where the grief you feel is not from losing your "huge office overlooking Times Square", but rather consists of the grief that comes with burying a child. You might be living a life where there is no loving supportive husband to be your companion and friend. Nor any dream of being lucky enough to own a "little house in the country" or anyplace else for that matter. Or, you might be living a life filled with an unsinkable positive attitude and appreciation for how truly fortunate - even blessed - you have been." Maybe I would have borrowed that great Cher line from Moonstruck and yelled, "Snap out of it!" Through all this angst, she is cooking up a storm – for you see, she has a memoir-cookbook in the making – the very one for which I would expend a precious book token - and which I do not love. And when added with all the other readers who aren't doing big things or thinking big thoughts, we will make it a little easier for you to keep that little place in upstate New York and that great Manhattan pad. And allow you to continue to think and do "big."

    I had finally had enough.

    Ms. Reichl is a fine writer, there is no taking that away from her. There are some very workable recipes in the book; delicious even. And, to be fair, after a full year of soul-searching, ingredient shopping, party giving, romantic evenings with her husband, and long walks in the woods, she comes to the revelation that her life is pretty damn good after all. Something that many of us already knew. One wonders why it took her so long.

    (The two stars are for the recipes)

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