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Not Becoming My Mother

If you haven’t read  Ruth Reichl’s Tender is the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, or Garlic and Sapphires, treat yourself to one or all.  Reichl was the food editor for the NY Times.   Her hilarious disguises (Garlic and Sapphires) while she was reviewing restaurants will have you laughing while you drool over the entrees. She makes work sound like fun, and she is clearly enjoying herself.

When Conde Nast decided to discontinue publication of Gourmet magazine in October, Reichl, editor-in-chief, was on a tour for Gourmet Today, a compilation of recipes from the years that the magazine successfully lured would-be cooks and foodies to its pages.  Her latest book is a short read – possible to read it all during a football game (I did) –  titled Not Becoming My Mother.  In her usual humorous style, Reichl begins with a hilarious tale of how “Mim” created a last-minute snack for her Brownie troop that somehow did not poison the girls. Her mother was not the cook in the family.

She quickly segways into a serious analysis of her mother’s life. Understandably, she dared not attempt to write about her while her mother was alive; who would? A box of letters conveniently chronicling relationships, disappointments, and missed opportunities becomes the basis for getting to know her mother. Predictably, her mother is not the person she thought she knew.  Like all mothers, she had a life before becoming a mother, and Reichl convincingly attacks the nuances of her mother’s ups and downs with compassion and a gratitude for lessons learned.

Reading this short book can’t help but make you wonder what you don’t know about your own mother, or, if you are a mother, what your children got wrong about you.

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