PW: In addition to serving 10 years as the restaurant critic at the Los Angeles Times, six years at the New York Times, and currently as editor-in-chief of Gourmet, you've written two memoirs, Tender at the Bone and now Comfort Me with Apples. Besides the obvious—that they cover different periods in your life—how does Comfort Me with Apples differ from Tender at the Bone?
RR:Tender at the Bone is a coming-of-age story. Comfort Me with Apples is a love story, or better, two love stories. And since it deals with a later period in my life, most of the people who appear in it are living.
PW: Can you tell us something about the title of the book?
RR: It's from the Song of Solomon, which has the most beautiful writing about love and food. The complete line is "Comfort me with apples, for I am lovesick."
PW: You deal so honestly in this book with painful subjects, particularly the story of Gavi, a baby you and your husband were in the process of adopting when her biological parents reclaimed her. How did you decide what to include and what to exclude?
RR: Writing about Gavi was hard. I cried as I was doing it. As for choosing what to include, it didn't happen that way. I didn't plan to write this book at all until I read the audio book for Tender at the Bone . Reading an audio book is a very odd experience, because there are three people sitting out there while you're reading in this glass booth, and you can see their reactions. It took a few days, and when I was done, there was this silence from the other side of the glass, and then they all said simultaneously, "No, it can't be over. What happened next?" I got out of bed that same night and in 15 minutes I blocked out the chapters, and it just felt right.
PW: You write about your relationship with and admiration of M.F.K. Fisher. Which qualities of hers do you try to emulate? Why do you think her work is so lasting?
RR: I'm certainly not emulating her consciously. She's very writerly, and I try to write conversationally. Also, she was from another time, so I'm more frank. You know that she fell in love with someone, for example, but you never quite find out how she left her husband. What I love about her as a writer is that she's a fabulous stylist. Also, hers was the first really intelligent writing I'd read about food. In the '60s, when nobody in America cared about food, she made you feel that it was worthy. She took the little things in life seriously and basically said that if you respect yourself, you'll care about your boiled egg.
PW: You're known for puncturing food pretension. What current food trend would you most like to see disappear?
RR: There are about a thousand of them! For one thing, everybody's putting too much stuff on the plate, coming up with these ludicrous combinations. If you have caviar, the way to eat it is by the spoonful. Don't combine it with shrimp, pomegranate seeds and huitlacoche. I'm so tired of silly food.