Gourmet magazine editor/author Ruth Reichl talks about our changing palates
A Q&A with Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl, who will speak at Third Place Books Oct. 1.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Ruth Reichl, former New York Times restaurant critic and current editor in chief of Gourmet Magazine, is considered one of the nation's most influential figures in the food world. Reichl, who also has a large female fan base for her four best-selling memoirs, will be at Third Place Books Thursday, Oct. 1, to promote "Gourmet Today: More than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen."
Q: You write that the way we eat is different now. How are the supermarket aisles different now from 10 years ago?
A: We have a house in upper New York. And the supermarket there. There is an aisle (called), 'Rices of the World': Jasmine, basmati, Arborio, sushi. It goes on and on. They have about 30 kinds of rice. They have an entire section of Latino ingredients and all kind of Asian ingredients ... You have five different kinds of chicken — organic, free-range, hormone-free, et cetera. And you have grass-fed beef and Berkshire pork that has been humanely raised.
Q: Why these changes?
A: In the last three years, America has become a food culture. It has moved from being in the women's section to front-page news. It's so important that the president and first lady thought they needed to start a farm garden at the White House.
We have become enormously sophisticated eaters. We have a generation raised upon supermarket sushi, for instance. And immigration patterns have changed.
Q: What food trends do you see in restaurants?
A: The biggest is recession-driven. People do not want to spend the money that they used to spend. And chefs (are) looking at less-expensive cuts of meat ... It's no accident that the chic menu item is pork belly. That started out because it's cheap. All of a sudden, people realize how delicious it is.
Q: So Gourmet's new cookbook, all 1,008 pages of it, is supposed to reflect our changing approach to food. Lots of 30-minute meals, 100 main vegetarian courses, recipes for produce usually found in farmers markets. But a whole section on cocktails?
A: We've become a cocktail culture. Cocktails now are food. They're a kind of cooking.
Q: What's your favorite recipe in the cookbook?
A: It's like asking which is your favorite child. (A few of her favorites are at seattletimes.com.) I really love bacon-and-cheddar toast. My theory of entertaining is you have to put something out early that is really great.
We also have a recipe for spice chicken. It is an example of how if you use spices, it can be just incredibly flavorful. We have a recipe for black beans that I really love because it used soy, sherry and balsamic vinegar. It just ramps up the flavors. I can just go on and on.
Q: What's in your fridge?
A: I always have butter, bacon, Parmesan cheese, lemons, good soy sauce, oyster sauce. Two or three different salsas and hot sauces. I make chicken stock almost every weekend. Chicken stock is like gold in your freezer. If you got that, dinner is ready. You can make risotto. You can make great soups. You reduced it down, and you can make great sauces. It's free. It's just bones.
Q: So every foodie is going to want to know: Where will the Gourmet editor eat when she's in town (Thursday, Oct. 1)?
A: It's hard for me to eat on book tours. So I end up ordering room service. In (public television's upcoming) "Gourmet's Adventures with Ruth," shot last May, I had some really wonderful meals there (in Seattle). Tilth. Canlis. And I love Café Juanita. I really like Lark.
Q: What's the Seattle episode about?
A: It's about seafood in Seattle and foraging at Totten Inlet. We got oysters and clams and mussels. Tom Skerritt came along. And Jon Rowley, the person whom Julia Child called the fish missionary.
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