The initial phone call was a surprise. “Is this the restaurant critic of the New York Times?” a British voice asked. Ruth Reichl confirmed her identity, but the name of her caller meant nothing to her: James Truman, editorial director of magazine publishing company Condé Nast, was calling about Gourmet. The magazine had introduced an 8-year-old Reichl to the magic of food and its influence on the world. But she couldn’t imagine why Truman was calling.
That phone call ultimately led Reichl to a role she’d never dreamed of: editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. Truman’s name was the first of many things she had to learn. During Reichl’s first visit to the office, an editor gushed that she’s great at the “teeosee.” Reichl, whose background was in newspapers, didn’t realize the editor was talking about the TOC, or table of contents.
Save Me the Plums, Reichl’s memoir about her years at Gourmet, is filled with such endearing, revealing moments. Although she considered herself a writer, not a manager, Reichl reimagines the magazine that captured her youthful imagination. Alongside her talented staff, Reichl took the publication from a staid magazine that delivered the luxury readers expected (and no more) to a sometimes scintillating examination of not only food but also its impact.
Readers of her past memoirs will recognize Reichl’s lighthearted but dedicated approach to her work, as seen in Garlic and Sapphires. They’ll be welcomed by her big-hearted approach to the dinner table, as in Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples. And new readers will be equally delighted by Reichl’s account of an influential magazine, its final days and the many moments that illustrate the ways food can bring people together.