August 22, 2010
Sunday Routine | Ruth Reichl
A Day for Food (Bears Not Invited)
By ROBIN FINN
For Ruth Reichl, the saving grace in losing her decade-long job as editor in chief of Gourmet when the magazine closed last year is being able to live, write and cook virtually full time at her glassy hilltop home in Spencertown, N.Y., in Columbia County. Ms. Reichl, 62, who was the dining critic for The New York Times before joining Gourmet, is the author of four memoirs and is currently working on a cookbook and a novel. She and her husband, Michael Singer, 70, a retired news producer for CBS, have a son, Nick, 21, who attends Wesleyan University, and a 17-year-old cat, Stella, as well as an apartment on the Upper West Side.
UP WITH THE CAT I’m up by 6, because that’s when Stella gets me up and demands her breakfast. Now that I don’t have a job, we often have a bunch of visitors sleeping over on weekends, so instead of getting up and making breakfast for Michael and me, I’m making it for lots of people at all different times, depending on when they wake up. But at 6, it’s Stella and me.
MAKE COFFEE, CHECK BREAD I make some coffee, a French roast by Strongtree that I buy in Hudson, read the papers online and walk around outside by myself with Stella looking at the deer and the birds for a while until it’s time to check the bread. I bake bread nearly every day; I use Jim Lahey’s no-knead method and leave it to rise overnight. At 8, I drive to Hudson to get the Sunday papers, and by the time I’m back, around 8:45, people are getting up.
O.J., BACON, EGGS First I squeeze the orange juice and make the bacon; I get it from a restaurant in Hudson called Swoon that uses local pigs and cures the bacon right there. My eggs come from North Plain Farm. I like poached eggs, but I’ll make scrambled or fried or whatever anybody wants. I’m kind of a short-order cook in the morning from 9 until noon. There’s home-baked breads for toast. And jams. Sometimes I make scones or muffins or biscuits: Sunday is the big wonderful breakfast day.
WRITING TIME Around noon, I put the leftovers on the kitchen counter and go out to my writing studio in the woods. It’s pretty comfortable in the summer; there’s always a breeze. In the winter, it’s a different story. There’s no heat, so I have to get out there and get the wood-burning stove going before breakfast if I want it to be warm by noon. I’ll usually write for two or three hours.
LUNCH, ANYONE? Around 2:30 or 3, if anybody’s hungry, I’ll make grilled cheese sandwiches or whatever. And I put the bread in the oven. Then my treat is to sit outside and do the crossword puzzle on the lawn. After that, I’ll drive to a farm stand and pick up whatever’s fresh.
NO GARDENING I don’t have my own garden; we’re on shale and in the woods. And if I did have a garden, the deer and chipmunks and squirrels and bears would eat everything anyway. The bears can be scary; I woke up a few days ago and two of them were peering in the window.
DINNER AT SUNSET Let’s face it, my life tends to revolve around food, and I love feeding people. We try to time dinner to sunset and we eat on the porch. Corn, tomatoes, potato salad, burgers, and I’ll probably have made a pie — this summer it’s been sour cherry or apricot.
“MAD MEN” AND BED I have to watch “Mad Men” at 10 — I’ve been a fan since the beginning — and then I go to bed and read for an hour. My day’s over at midnight.
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