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Seasonal food blog of Chef Deborah at Cuvée at The Greenporter Hotel

For You Mom, Finally

November 10th, 2010 · No Comments · Book Review

By Ruth Reichl

I read Ruth Reichl’s first memoir, Tender at the Bone, many years ago and it never left me.  Her writing is so vulnerable, so raw, I cried and I cringed through the details of her childhood that in some ways were extremely foreign yet in other ways very familiar.  So when I saw that she had published For You Mom, Finally, I picked it up in the airport book store.

You may know Ruth Reichl for scaling the heights of culinary writing – as the food editor and restaurant reviewer for The L.A. Times in the 80s; colorfully costumed restaurant reviewer for The New York Times in the 90s; writer of many cookbook introductions and editor of compilations; and most recently, editor of Gourmet magazine, from 1999 until its surprise demise in 2009. We know she loves food and that she knows it well. But it is through her memoirs that we learn the tragi-comic back story of her love of all things culinary.

What is remarkable about this book is that the one most painful part of her childhood which was her mother’s mental illness was also the thing the motivated her and eventually defined her success.  Her love for food grew out of her pain and the need for comfort that good food brought her.  I remembered many details about her life from that book but what always stayed with me were the stories about her mother.  So when I saw this book on the shelves, I couldn’t wait to read it.  In this book she attempts to let her mother off the hook and perhaps free herself at the same time.

The book is an allegory of her mother’s quest to free herself from the drudgery of domesticity along with descriptions of her mother’s recipes for moldy pudding with pretzels and prunes and the many culinary experiments gone awry.

In the end, she, like all women, wants to emulate her mother in all that is good.  However, in every other way, she does not want to become her mother.

However, despite the eulogy, you are left with the feeling that she has not buried the hatchet, or the pudding.

Ruth Reichl had to wade through a lot of pain and pudding to become the food genius that she is today. As she teases out the story of her mother, she writes her own story. As she takes over the kitchen, where her mother was so hopeless, her pots and pans are defense from becoming her mother, the measuring cup and the timer her weapons against chaos. So, after this close examination of their relationship and its reverberations, I feel ready to let her mom off the hook and perhaps now Reichl does too. Finally.

-Deborah Pittorino and Natalia de Cuba Romero

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