In this inviting feast of a memoir, former New York Times food columnist Jonathan Reynolds dishes up a life that is by turns hilarious and tender, seasoned with the zest of cooking, family, eating, and lounging around various tables in tryptophanic stupors.
Growing up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a child of material privilege and emotionally distant parents, young Jonathan discovers that food serves as a catalyst for adventure, a respite from loneliness, and a fail-safe way to navigate his often eccentric surroundings. When Jonathan is 13, his uncle Bus, a surrogate father of sorts, treats him to his first fine-dining experience, at the old Westbury Hotel on Madison Avenue. The suspicious teen orders pheasant under glass — and from the moment the glass dome is lifted, Reynolds’s culinary curiosity takes off.
Always absorbing, often hilarious, and surprisingly affecting, Wrestling with Gravy is full of wonderful characters and anecdotes. With droll self-effacement and a sharp eye for detail, Reynolds relives the time that his own father made a move on his girlfriend during a meal at Maxim’s in Paris; extols the surprising virtues of baseball-stadium cuisine (with the exception of New York); and recounts how he once whipped up a seductive meal for a woman, only to have her excuse herself after dessert because she had another date lined up, buffet-style, later in the evening. Even on a glum Christmas day in New York City, or at the deathbed of his dear cousin the actress Lee Remick, food offers solace and a cathartic sense of home.
Wrestling with Gravy speaks eloquently about food without affectation, while striking a note of cosmic comedy and honest regret. And of course, the recipes are all here, from a perfect water-smoked Thanksgiving turkey to a barbecued Chinese duck, from an old-fashioned malted to Flaming Babas au Armagnac. Like a truly great meal, Wrestling with Gravy will entertain and satisfy any reader’s appetite.
A father’s legacy
The vegetarian-cooking pioneer
Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more
Good on everything