Ruth Reichl, the former editor of Gourmet magazine, grew up when, she says, “America wasn’t very proud of its food. It was a hot dog and hamburger time.” Reichl took to cooking at a very young age, continuing to make large meals for friends until after graduate school, when a friend suggested she write a cook book. “If you went to a publisher today and said I want to write a cookbook, they’d say, where did you learn to cook, who’s testing your recipes,” she said. “In 1971, they said, hey, that’s a quaint idea, and they gave me a contract. After that people thought I was a food writer.” Read on to learn more about Reichl.
Q. What’s the last habit you tried to kick?
A. Talking without thinking.
Q. What time, past or present, would you most like to visit?
A. The time of Queen Elizabeth I. I would really like to meet her.
Q. Who was your childhood hero?
A. A woman named Alice, who was my Aunt Birdie’s housekeeper.
Q. What do you consider to be the greatest simple pleasure?
A. Eating great food.
Q. What do you do to clear your mind?
A. Take a shower.
Q. What do you wish you had the nerve to do?
A. Almost everything. I wish I had the nerve to skydive, to mountain climb. All kinds of physical things are scary to me.
Q. What is your favorite word?
Q. Who is your favorite fictional character?
A. He’s not fictional, but I’ve just read Wolf Hall. The Thomas Cromwell that Hillary Mantel imagines is at the moment my favorite character.
Q. What is your favorite cocktail?
A. A martini.
Q. What is your greatest indulgence?
A. Bread and butter, as much as possible.
Q. What profession would you like to practice in your next life?
A. I would love to be a doctor, if I weren’t so squeamish.
Q. What is your fondest childhood memory?
A. My father on weekends would cook steaks, and we would go out together to buy them.
Q. If you were about to be executed, what would you want for your final meal?
A. I’d start with oysters and go on to clams on the half shell, then big piles of caviar and a T-Bone steak and a huge salad, and then one perfect tomato on warm sliced bread with freshly churned butter. The meal goes on and on and on and finally ends with one perfect peach.
Q. Who is the one person living or dead you would most like to meet for dinner?
A. My son.
To read more about Reichl’s panel on Gourmet magazine, click here.
*Photo by Aaron Salcido.