Entertainment,  Life,  Musings

Garlic and Sapphires

If you haven’t read Garlic and Sapphires, by Ruth Reichl, then it’s time to add it to your library.

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During vacation season, reading becomes a front-and-center activity as toes are dipped in sand, lazy Sundays on the back porch abound, and the fast-paced school year has come to an end. I'm sharing one of my favorite books you should add to your collection: "Garlic and Sapphires," by Ruth Reichl.

“This is one of those times I wish you were still a meat-eater,” I muttered to my sister.

Wait, let me back up a little first.

In 2011, I finished reading Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl’s honest autobiographical account of her costumed journey as the New York Times food critic in the ’90s. To say I loved this book would be an understatement; it easily remains in my top five favorite books to this day.

I read each chapter voraciously, wistfully salivating through every restaurant and home cooked meal Ruth describes: Nicky’s Vanilla Cake, Roasted Rhubarb, New York Cheesecake, Gougères (I could go on…). These simple recipes are worked right into the chapters—one of my favorite things about reading Under the Tuscan Sun, too—and even though you don’t necessarily expect them, it’s certainly not surprising to see them. And then you begin to anticipate them!

Ruth’s first work of fiction, Delicious!: A Novel, was released a few years ago. I prefer her memoir work, honestly, but I appreciate the consistent little touches—like sharing recipes—that make a piece of her writing, whether it’s a memoir or a novel, “so obviously Ruth.”

The way she describes scenes, tastes, feelings and emotions with such finesse and believe-ability easily make Ruth one of the best food and memoir writers, hands down. This seems like a simple thing to accomplish, but I assure you, friends, it’s not. It’s quite difficult and very hard work (done well, anyway)!

Years ago when my sister lived next door to us, she would come visit and cook dinner with me on the regular. They were I’m-tired-but-still-wanna-hang-out-so-glad-we-don’t-have-to-drive-anywhere spontaneous dinner parties. Then, about a decade ago she moved, first to a neighboring county and then up to to New York and nowadays when we’re together, either when I’m up in Brooklyn or when she’s down in Maryland, we often still cook and eat together.

Let’s go back to that night in 2011.

That afternoon I’d finished reading the “Chloe” chapter in Garlic and Sapphires. It’s not he first chapter to showcase a recipe, but it IS the first to give me the uncontrollable urge get in the kitchen and TRY IT IMMEDIATELY.

Oh, Spaghetti Carbonara, how I love thee.

The thing about Spaghetti Carbonara is that its main ingredients include both bacon AND bacon grease, and at this point in 2011 my sister had already become a vegetarian, and … well … there didn’t seem to be a way to vegetarianize it.

The first words out of my mouth when she arrived, as we contemplated the recipe were, “This is one of those times I wish you were still a meat-eater.”

I truly believe she was tempted to try it, I do. Okay, not really; but, she did admit it smelled REALLY good as things were cooking. How could it not? Bacon, garlic, bacon grease…

So, in the end, she cooked one sauce and I prepared the Spaghetti Carbonara I’d been craving.

It’s how we roll.

The images below are affiliate links to Ruth’s most popular books. Try one (or a few) this summer!


Hi, I'm Liza, a self-proclaimed word-nerd who loves getting sucked into whimsical stories and epic movies. I have laid-back, practical attitude towards life, and as a foodie at heart, I relish the chance to both cook and eat. (No picky-eater here!) I'm always on the hunt for the perfect mojito, inspiration for a third tattoo and time to finish my novel.


  • Alex

    Spaghetti Carbonara became my go-to meal sometime during college (along with grilled cheese). I’m in the middle of reading “Eating Animals” right now, but I still can’t imagine giving up bacon. Now I’m going to have to check out “Garlic and Sapphires”!

  • Liza

    I’ve made other carbonara recipes before, but none ever turned out like this one – I think it’s because the eggs are mixed beforehand, and then spaghetti is tossed in. Mmmm…bacon. It’d be hard to give up, for sure. 🙂

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