Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

Posted by on December 2, 2011

Book cover: Garlic and Sapphires

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, by Ruth Reichl.

Ruth Reichl was the New York Times restaurant critic for the New York Times from 1993 to 1999. To keep from getting preferential treatment from the restaurants she reviewed, she wore elaborate disguises and created personas to match. The experience was enlightening. This is the story of those years.

Her first persona, “Molly Hollis,” former high school English teacher, ended up neglected and treated rudely at a small table in the back of a fancy restaurant. When Reichl returned as herself, as the guest of the New York Times Magazine editor, the difference in treatment, and even in the quality of the food, was striking. The way Reichl saw it, her job was to explain what regular people could expect from these restaurants. If the restaurants were going to treat non-celebrities differently, her readers needed to know.

The book continues with stories of other personas and other restaurants. It’s a fun, fast read. There are also several yummy sounding recipes.


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