Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl

“I’d learned an important lesson: When something frightens me, it is definitely worth doing.”

SAVE ME THE PLUMS

Trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the job (and the risk) of a lifetime when she entered the glamorous, high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor-in-chief of Gourmet, during which she spearheaded a revolution in the way we think about food.

When Condé Nast offered Ruth Reichl the top position at America's oldest epicurean magazine, she declined. She was a writer, not a manager, and had no inclination to be anyone's boss. And yet... Reichl had been reading Gourmet since she was eight; it had inspired her career. How could she say no?


Ruth was just eight years old when she first found Gourmet magazine, sitting on the dusty wooden floor of a used-book store. Her father, a book designer, often took her book hunting with him. She couldn’t get enough of the old issues, and as her father went off hunting for his own magazines, Reichl was a mission of her own. 

She always had a passion for food, and it was later in life that a friend recommended she write a cookbook. That brought her to A Feastery, which was not a big bestseller, but it bridged her path to becoming a food writer. She began contributing to magazines from here on out. After all those years regarding Gourmet, she had a dream to write for the magazine, and was just waiting for the perfect story. ‘It came to me in a spoonful of soup,’ she says, ‘sitting in a small Thai restaurant, I ordered tom yum goong, which turned out to be the shocking pink of a Technicolor sunset.’ She continues ‘This, I thought, was my Gourmet story. The next time I went to New York, I made an appointment with the magazine.’

They thanked her for her visit, then swiftly dismissed her, claiming the article was not for them. 

Ruth, courtesy of her Facebook

It wasn’t until twenty-five years later, when a call came in from James Truman at Condé Nast, which led to a meeting with founder Si Newhouse, “I am determined to make it the finest magazine in its category. I feel certain that you are the one to do it. Please give this your utmost consideration." She did, and eventually accepted the position as editor-in-chief at Gourmet magazine, a publication she hadn’t regarded since they turned her down all those years ago. 

After some time there, she said something in her memoir that really resonated with me ‘When I’d contemplated the job I’d worried about the burden of being a boss, afraid the staff would fear and resent me. But now I saw there was another side to that coin: Nothing feels as good as building a team and empowering people, watching them grow and thrive.’

Complete with recipes, Save Me the Plums is a personal journey of Ruth Reichl coming to terms with being in charge and making a mark, following a passion and holding on to her dreams—even when she ends up in a place she never expected to be, where she would spend the next ten years until the magazine's closure in 2009.


I really appreciated Ruth’s openness and vulnerability throughout Save Me the Plums, especially when talking about growing up, her family life, and her mother’s bipolar disorder, which seemed to have a great effect on her family life. She goes on to talk about her mother's death, and how she wishes her mother events with her. 

I found myself inspired by, and respected her great tenacity when considering the position at Gourmet despite the urging of Si Newhouse himself, with all his urging, Ruth still took her time to thoroughly consider the position, ensuring it was one that she truly wanted, one she could make a change in. By this point in her career, she had already made quite a name for herself, so there was no necessity to accept this position. 

After reading Save Me the Plums, I found myself scouring the internet for archives of Gourmet magazine to read former editions of the magazine from when Ruth was editor. I found this link which led me to some articles, but I’m hoping to get my hands on some physical copies.

I loved that there were recipes sprinkled throughout the book. As I read through the first recipe for the Spicy Chinese Noodles, I felt a rumbling in my tummy. The clock struck midnight, and I would have been tempted to make them had my family not been sound asleep and the stores surrounding me closed for the evening. Better to savour those for another day.

courtesy of Ruth's Facebook

It was fun to read about Anna Wintour, and her ongoing influences, in the book, given that I used to do some work for Vogue magazine. 

Save Me the Plums was a fabulous inside look into the working of not just Gourmet magazine, but also into the publishing industry as a whole. Ruth was able to capture this with such accuracy, her writing so concise. 

It took Ruth some time to find her voice at the magazine, but her show of strength and courage is commendable, and she eventually found her way there and made huge and impactful changes. I really enjoyed reading about her journey in the book. She wrote Save Me the Plums with such elegance and beauty, her prose lyrical and fluid. 

I used to spend quite a lot of time engrossed in the videos of the Bon Appétit YouTube videos prior to the scandal that broke out last year. I loved these videos since they inspired a fire in me, one that made me want to get into the kitchen and cook. It also gave me an inside look into the test kitchen at Condé Nast, which was probably pretty similar to the one Ruth worked in. I’m delighted to see the Editors of Bon Appétit, each with their own cookbooks now. My partner and I have a copy of both Carla Lalli and Claire Saffitz’s cookbooks, which are both wonderful additions to our collections. 

Ruth has a number of other books, My Kitchen Year, Delicious: A Novel, For You Mom Finally, Garlic and Sapphires, Gourmet Me with Apples, Tender at the Bone, and A Feastery. Clearly, extremely accomplished in her own right, I found Ruth to be an incredible inspiration throughout this memoir, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her published works.

courtesy of Ruth's Facebook

Ruth Reichl
is the bestselling author of the memoirs Garlic and Sapphires, Tender at the Bone, and Comfort Me with Apples and the novel Delicious! She was editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine for ten years. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and two cats.

Save Me the Plums is available at Indigo and on Kobo. Check Penguin Random House Canada for additional retailers. 

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