The latest entry in the memoir-cum-recipes category is truly a mouthful. In Wrestling with Gravy: A Life, with Food playwright and New York Times food columnist Jonathan Reynolds recounts the delights and drama of his remarkable life through meals he's made and ingested. In each chapter, Reynolds offers a recipe or two to go with the narrative of his life. The wonderful thing is that these recipes which are all over the map as far as cuisine and complexity are directly relevant to whatever tale he's telling, and not just tacked on as an afterthought. For example, there's the Tournedos Rossini Reynolds that was served onboard the S.S. France during his college graduation cruise. Then there's the Monterey County Jail Oatmeal, which Reynolds experienced in his 20s after trespassing at Kim Novak's house.

What makes this memoir worth reading is that it offers a peek into a life far different than most, and lived with gusto. Reynolds was raised on Manhattan's Upper East Side, a privileged child who decided to become an actor. His career path was far from straight, and included working on Eugene McCarthy's 1972 presidential campaign, writing a book on location during the filming of Apocalypse Now and producing The Dick Cavett Show. Reynolds has lived on both coasts, traveled extensively, divorced and remarried (to scene designer Heidi Ettinger) and has two sons and three stepsons. It's appropriate that this rich life is filled with rich dishes like Fontainebleau Lobster and Cinderella Truffles.

Lisa Waddle is a pastry baker and food writer in Nashville.


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