A food writer’s memoir

Ever since I read Anne Patchett’s The Getaway Car, a short memoir on writing, I’ve wanted to write my own Kindle Single, a venue for fiction and nonfiction that’s longer than a magazine story but shorter than a book. (The NYTimes reviewed the singles here.)

Any device running Android or iTunes can read Kindle books and Kindle Singles by downloading the free Kindle app. I’ve bought more Kindle books this year for my iPad than I have in the past five years in hardcover or paperback. I love to read on my iPad, and on my iPhone.

So here’s my entree into exclusively digital space. I hope you’ll have a look. It’s a short memoir (10K words or about 35 manuscript pages), on how I got to where I am, a writer of food and cooking who never set out to do this work.

I’ll let Jim Chambers, a Top 50 Amazon reviewer (retired engineer for Georgia’s department of transportation, according to his bio), describe The Main Dish; his review, which he posted on Amazon, is a lot more interesting than anything I could come up with!

Would love to know your thoughts on Kindle Singles generally and on my nonlinear narrative on becoming a food writer.

by Jim Chambers

Author Michael Ruhlman begins this fascinating mini-memoir with the words “I never intended to be a food writer.” But a food writer he is, after following a very rocky road to success, being on the verge of bankruptcy several times while struggling to stay afloat and keep his marriage alive.

Today it’s hard to remember when Food Network, the Cooking Channel, and cooking shows all across cable TV weren’t so wildly popular. But Ruhlman began his writing career before all this, when it wasn’t so easy to sell another cooking show on TV, much less a book about cooking. Trying to get permission to attend the Culinary Institute of America school in New York, and his harrowing drives through winter blizzards to get there were excruciatingly painful. Fortunately for all the foodies out there, he persevered and made it, with first The Making of a Chef (the CIA book that began as a book about cooking and morphed into the story of what you had to know to become a chef), followed by The French Laundry Cookbook, about cooking at a famous Napa Valley restaurant.

Along the way, Ruhlman left intriguing little tidbits about his life:

* At Duke University, in a writing course under celebrated author Reynolds Price, he learned about the key to home security systems (and no, I can’t repeat it here!).

* As a 16-year-old, food had everything to do with losing his virginity.

* The part of a tuna you absolutely don’t want to eat.

Today, with more than a dozen books about food to his credit, Ruhlman is at the top of his game, one of the best-known food writers in the world, and it’s hard to believe that he never intended to be a food writer.

Kudos for a fascinating account of a food writer’s long journey.

See also on The Huffington Post, my article “Is Food Writing Important?”

Other links you may like:

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


16 Wonderful responses to “The Main Dish—My Kindle Single”

  • john v phipps

    Are these only available through Kindle? I searched for “the main dish” on Nook library and got a “Gay Erotic Romance” by N.S. Charles. Probably a little different than your writing! Will check kindle store.

    • joellaco

      Why does all this remind me of the line in Men in Black about buying the White Album again. 🙂

      Luckily I own a Fire.

  • Carolyn Z

    Wow surprisingly compelling. How he did it not in a straight line. This shows that you and Donna are quite a team. I never read anything from cover to cover like I did this. Thanks for sharing life with us.

  • John K.

    Just finished reading it, not at all surprised at how compelling it is. You demonstrate well a point you make — to be a food writer, first work at being a writer. Enjoyed it very much — thanks for sharing your story Michael.

    John K.
    Akron, OH

  • Cheryl

    I’m a huge fan of Kindle Singles and thrilled to have bought yours. Of course, I knew it would be good before I even started it as I already own most of your other works. Now I’m tapping my foot waiting for your fiction novel, please. : )

  • Witloof

    Downloaded it this afternoon and eally enjoyed it. I LOVED those chef books — did indeed find them total page turners — so it was fun to peek behind the scenes.

  • Victoria

    I’m in the middle of a huge work product that I hope to wrap up this afternoon. My treat tonight will be having a quiet dinner at home and then going to bed with The Main Dish. I too read books on my Kindle and my iPhone. Since I live in NYC and take subways and busses all over the place, I enjoy having my library in my pocket to retrieve at all times. I have, however, ordered House:A Memoir in book form from Amazon because it’s not available on Kindle, and my good friend, originally from Cleveland, highly recommended it – another little treat waiting in the wings.

  • Nina

    I hate reading on my iPad (in fact, I hate using the iPad. I used it away from home ONCE and was quickly hacked on all accounts and what a PITA that was, so I only use it at home, and at home I want to sit and read a book), and thus have yet to download the app, but I will do it to read the single. Loved the HuffPo article.

  • Natalie Luffer Sztern

    I still don’t understand why the PBS show 86’d didn’t make it. At the time who would have been better to host such a show as Tsai, you and Todd English…I think a re-pitch somewhere is in order

  • Ed Tiesse

    You make an insightful and powerful point about showing up and being persistent. I think it was Woody Allen who said, “90% of success is just showing up.” (or something like this) I got my first job out of college by continuing to show up where I wanted to work. My boss later told me that the only reason he hired me, even though there were others more qualified, was that I kept showing up outside his office. Your “showing up” is a great example of doing what you want to do in the face of great odds. Your story of this is very inspiring. Thanks.

  • Mary

    Hi. I really enjoyed your kindle single. It was inspiring and a fun read. I was having a really bad day and it cheered me up a great deal. Thank you for that. Wishing you a lovely day.

  • Frank

    I’m about halfway through your Kindle single. I really enjoy it. I kind of enjoy the non-linear approach you took. Overall, it’s a great insight into where you came from with your food writing, and how you progressed.

    Speaking on Kindle singles, I really enjoy the format. I think they are a great way to get ideas and stories out to the public, or in your case, your readers. It’s not lost in a magazine somewhere, as the work can stand on its own; but you don’t have to have an entire book to be able to share. I think it can be a very useful tool for many different subjects.


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