It was just over three years ago that I read my first Ruth Reichl book. Of course her name and career had been on my radar before that—mostly as the editor of Gourmet—but I had never known her personal story.
It might have been that I saw Comfort Me with Apples on sale at Biography Bookshop. But something finally compelled me to pick up and read that book. I brought it with me on a trip to Paris. And all I wanted to do was read. Her life, her storytelling, her food and dining descriptions—she became an instant hero to me. Down-to-earth, witty, smart, fascinating, I was enchanted and inspired, there reading about her life in my most enchanting and inspiring city.
And then I got to towards the end when, after a heinously painful adoption process that left her heartbroken (the biological mother decided after three months that she, in fact, wanted the baby back), Ruth ended up getting pregnant naturally and having a son at the age of 41.
I was single and 37 at the time I read Comfort Me with Apples. Throughout my thirties, I figured love and motherhood would eventually be part of my life. But maybe in less traditional ways: I might not find true love until I was in my fifties. I might wind up adopting. I was okay with these things. I was clearly taking the long, unconventional path and in Ruth’s story, I found comfort and hope.
Since then, I’ve read nearly all of her books. I follow her on Twitter and have always wanted to meet her or at least make it to one of her readings or events. But logistics and schedules have always prohibited me. Until tonight.
It was a lovely literary dinner at Contrada in the East Village, my old stomping grounds.
I sat at a communal table, flanked by wonderfully interesting, friendly, cool people. And I got to hear Ruth read, talk a bit about her career, answer questions in this intimate setting. She’s as warm, gracious and eloquent as I had hoped and imagined.
The best part was meeting her at the end. I had to share the news that I’m 41 and pregnant with my first and she instantly lit up and became so naturally happy and warm, saying Nick (her son) is the best thing she’s ever done. It was a moment.
I firmly believe that when certain things, words, stories, people, whatever, resonate with you on that deep level that it means something. For the past five years, I’ve remembered Ruth’s story. I’ve shared it with other women. I’ve held onto it as comfort. It was just so, so awesome to share it with her and have my own story, this little thread of inspiration, come full circle and sort of manifest itself with her.