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Ruth Reichl Recharges in the Kitchen

SPENCERTOWN, N.Y. — Ruth Reichl was in the kitchen she designed as both command center and comfort station, making a salami sandwich for her husband, Michael Singer, 75, a former CBS News producer who has been recovering from back surgery.
“He has this thing from his childhood about salami,” she said, smearing a slice of ciabatta bread with Dijon mustard.
“It’s not a Freudian issue,” he shouted from the Danish-modern kitchen table, where his head was buried in his laptop. “I just like salami.”
This, now, is life for Ms. Reichl. At 67, she is softer, less anxious and, her friends say, a happier version of the cautious workaholic who was the food editor at The Los Angeles Times, the restaurant critic at The New York Times, a best-selling memoirist and, for a decade, the editor of Gourmet, the oldest food and wine magazine in America.
She makes her husband three meals a day when she is not traveling. She writes in a little cabin set a few dozen paces behind the sleek house with glass walls that the couple built 11 years ago here on a shale plateau between the Hudson River and the Berkshires. And she cooks for just about anyone who walks in the door.
“At this point in your life,” she said, “you have to have as much fun as you can because you don’t know what’s coming down the road.”

In 2009, while she was in Seattle promoting a Gourmet cookbook, her horse was shot out from under her. Without warning, Condé Nast closed Gourmet, after 69 years, on her watch.
(She said she still doesn’t know why, although luxury advertising was in a slump and not all readers responded favorably to articles in which writers like David Foster Wallace were given 7,500 words to explore the moral implications of killing lobsters. Her memoir about her years at Condé Nastis in the works.)
In as much time as it takes to peel a peach, she went from the top of the heap into free fall. No more Condé Nast salary, black cars at her beckoning and $30,000 budgets to shoot a Thanksgiving spread. Her carefully curated team of writers, designers and cooks, many of them close friends, were gone, off to find work elsewhere with varying degrees of success.

Ms. Reichl, who often invokes her hippie bona fides, said she always knew she was a visitor in that world. It didn’t take her long to remember that one can get by just fine without those trappings.

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