It’s time for Cook the Books, a club of literary food bloggers. CTB is open to anyone, just pick up the appointed selection for the month and read along. Before the deadline, whip up a recipe from or inspired by the book. Blog a post about it. It’s that easy. Anyone and everyone is invited.
For our February/March book, Deb at Kahakai Kitchen is hosting and she chose one of my favorite food writers, Ruth Reichl. I have read everything of Reichl’s and I rue the day that Gourmet went away. About five years ago, I went on a food fanatic’s reading binge and read everything of hers along with everything of Bourdain’s (except his fiction) and numerous other books by the likes of Gael Greene and Jay Rayner. (To qualify, I only read Greene’s memoir Insatiable, not some of her other racier, erotic books.) My most prized cookbook is the yellow Gourmet Cookbook which Reichl edited. The Hubs found me an autographed copy on eBay. I was in heaven when he presented it to me.
I have all of Reichl’s books (or so I thought), but for the life of me I could’t find Comfort Me with Apples in my unorganized book cases. I had to resort to buying a cheap used paperback on Amazon. I know that soon I will find my hardback copy.
I admire Reichl. I admire that she had the gumption to not only live in a communal ramshackle dwelling in Berkeley but that she also rubbed shoulders with Alice Waters. I admire the way she jumped at the chance to become a food writer and restaurant critic, first for New West and then on to the LA Times and finally settling in at the NY Times. Ultimately, Reichl is probably best known as the final editor at Gourmet. I admire her gumption and ability to live life to the fullest, even when that gets her into trouble.
Reichl’s writing style is honest, plain-spoken and sincere.
You know that quintessential party-conversation-starting question, “If you could invite any person, living or dead, to your dinner party, who would it be?”
My answer is simple. I would love to have dinner with Ruth Reichl.
And, what would I cook for her? A simple but hearty dish pulled from her first cookbook.
Soon after I immersed myself in my Ruth fanaticism by reading all of her books, I wanted to own a copy of her first cookbook, Mmmmm: A Feastiary, self-published in 1972.
I love the retro illustration of the cover. I would love to own a copy. This is a pipe-dream of mine because vintage copies are posted on Amazon for $250. (Rachel, if your Old Saratoga Books ever has one in inventory, can you cut me a deal?)
Ruth Reichl’s Spaghetti Carbonara
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 to 1/2 pound thickly sliced good quality bacon
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for the table
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When it is boiling, throw the spaghetti in. Most dried spaghetti takes 9 to 10 minutes to cook, and you can make the sauce in that time.
Cut the bacon crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Put them in a skillet and cook for 2 minutes, until fat begins to render. Add the whole cloves of garlic and cook another 5 minutes, until the edges of the bacon just begin to get crisp. Do not overcook; if they get too crisp they won’t meld with the pasta. Meanwhile, break the eggs into the bowl you will serve the pasta in, and beat them with a fork. Add some grindings of pepper.
Remove the garlic from the bacon pan. If it looks like too much to you, discard some, but you’re going to toss the bacon with most of its fat into the pasta. When it is cooked, drain the pasta and immediately throw it into the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce. Add the bacon with its fat, toss again, add cheese and serve.
This is Ruth’s recipe verbatim. I would never dare to mess with the master’s words. I hope she is a forgiving sort because I do throw in some fresh (but mostly frozen) peas to the mix.
I can just imagine her whipping up this meal for a late night dinner for her housemates in Berkeley during the early 70s.
Thanks Deb for picking this book and hosting this month. You’ve prompted me to revisit and reread my other Ruth books. Hopefully, I can find them.
Please join us for the April/May round of Cook the Books when your’s truly is hosting. I chose The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week) by Robin Mather. (Look for an announcement post here soon.)
And, if you’re really planning ahead, pick up The Wedding Bees: A Novel of Honey, Love, and Manners by Sarah-Kate Lynch for the June/July round (hosted by Simona at briciole).
I am also linking with Novel Food for the first time. Simona at briciole is one of the event organizers for Novel Food as well as a fellow co-host for CTB. I really don’t have an excuse for not participating before. (For more information on Novel Food, click here.)
Aside: Has anyone played Cards Against Humanity? Omygoshness! I guarantee hilarity!