Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

  • Wrestling with Gravy
  • Written by Jonathan Reynolds
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780812972887
  • Our Price: $16.00
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Wrestling with Gravy

Buy now from Random House

  • Wrestling with Gravy
  • Written by Jonathan Reynolds
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9781588368171
  • Our Price: $2.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Wrestling with Gravy

Wrestling with Gravy

    Select a Format:
  • Book
  • eBook

A Life, with Food

Written by Jonathan ReynoldsAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jonathan Reynolds


List Price: $2.99


On Sale: October 07, 2008
Pages: | ISBN: 978-1-58836-817-1
Published by : Random House Random House Group
Wrestling with Gravy Cover

Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - Wrestling with Gravy
  • Email this page - Wrestling with Gravy
  • Print this page - Wrestling with Gravy


Always absorbing, often very funny, and surprisingly affecting, Wrestling with Gravy is a rich and wry memoir, seasoned with the zest of cooking, family, conversation–and lounging around in tryptophanic stupors. With droll self-effacement and a sharp eye for detail, former New York Times food columnist Jonathan Reynolds shares wonderful characters and anecdotes: He relives the time that his father made a move on his girlfriend during a meal at Maxim’s in Paris; extols the surprising virtues of baseball stadium cuisine (except in 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. Even on a glum Christmas day in New York City, and at the deathbed of his dear cousin the actress Lee Remick, food offers solace and a cathartic sense of home. Like a truly great meal, Wrestling with Gravy will entertain and satisfy any reader’s appetite.

Praise for Wrestling with Gravy:

“Reynolds writes about his rambunctious life with wit and gusto.”
–Entertainment Weekly

“An ingenious, multifaceted memoir, full of food and fury. It’s hilarious, tender, poignant, and tart–as nourishing as it is entertaining.”
–John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

“Picaresque . . . Reynolds is at his best when purposefully entangling libido and linguine. . . . He’s expert at the confessional.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“Fun–and intimate . . . Big-name kitchens and celebrities . . . make appearances, and their recipes do, too.”
–The Washington Post Book World

“Reynolds tells the tale as well as sharing the recipe. Even if we don’t actually make his pissaladière au confit de canard or the simpler sea urchin ceviche, to read through the intricate steps in these preparations reminds readers of the drama and delight of great eating.”
–Publishers Weekly

“Consistently entertaining.”
–The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Cut to the Chase
My parents battled through an acrimonious divorce right at the end of the war that supposedly made their generation the Greatest. They were almost central-castingly perfect opposites: Don Reynolds was short and fat, and at first meeting seemed like a hick from the dustbowls of Oklahoma and Texas; Edith Remick was a tall, dark-haired beauty, a refined and privately schooled graduate of Smith who had been brought up in Quincy, Massachusetts. She was given to upper-middle-class maladies like mild depression, frequently saw doctors for no apparent reason, and spent an inordinate amount of time resting at home. He was a whirlwind, she a lovely and fragile icicle. In the late thirties, he briefly owned part of a Quincy newspaper. One of his biggest advertisers was an upscale department store specializing in men’s clothing, named Remick’s. They met at a company picnic, and he swept her off her feet. She’d never seen anyone like him: such energy, such surprising smarts, such wild visions of the future. And such a sexual drive. I don’t know whether he loosed her panties the very first night or was forced to wait till marriage–but I would bet the ranch, if I had one, that it was on his mind, raging, from the moment they met and every moment thereafter. He told her–and her family–that he intended to live in Quincy for the rest of their lives together. Within a month of their marriage, he sold his interest in the Quincy newspaper and announced that they were moving to Texas. He didn’t ask her and hadn’t forewarned her or anyone in the family; he just announced it, and off they went. Men could get away with things like that then. He then proceeded to hit the road in search of additional businesses. My sister, Nancy, was born in San Antonio in 1938, and the three of them moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he established the Southwestern Publishing Company, a solely-owned enterprise that operated half a dozen small newspapers. I was born in February 1942, barely two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Dad was drafted shortly after that. He grumbled about the army but finagled his way to Europe, where all the glamour was.
He returned home from adventures in London, France, and Australia, restless to continue his empire-building. Despite a wound received while being flown somewhere for Stars and Stripes (the military newspaper), he’d had a great time during the war, traveling everywhere and hobnobbing with bigs. As he was fond of saying, “It was a hell of a war, but better than no war at all!” After about five minutes of peacetime America, he looked at the open landscape and concluded he’d outgrown Mother, and definitely had outgrown children. He hit the road for good in pursuit of new ventures, thinking Mother was living with my sister and me back in Texas because that’s where he’d last left us and that’s where her letters were postmarked. Once Mother decided on a divorce–an iconoclastic choice in those days, unless you were a Hollywood star–all Dad had to do to protect his rapidly increasing wealth was stay out of Texas so he wouldn’t be served with divorce papers.
Or so he thought. But Mother snuck us into Arkansas, where his headquarters was located. To establish residence, we hid out for six dusty months in Blytheville because she might have been recognized in Little Rock or Fort Smith. I remember surviving a tornado, watching Mother alone at an outdoor ironing board, and seeing a dog kill a rabbit. Nothing else.
With the help of a very determined lawyer named Fred Schlater, Mother found out Dad was driving into Arkansas late one night and hired a midnight paper-server to surprise Dad with divorce documents right there on the highway.
Angry? I was only three or four and didn’t see the ambush, but he must have stomped around the countryside kicking up dust and biting dogs for weeks. He was so furious about the trap she’d laid–cop cars! Middle of the night! Those lying postmarks–that he wouldn’t talk to her, except in a court room, for eleven years! Her treachery filled him with such righteous indignation that he felt he didn’t have to see us more than fifteen minutes a year on moral grounds.
He stayed in the Southwest and frequently saw his son by his second marriage, Don Junior (Mother was his third of four wives), while Mother reared Nancy and me in New York. I do remember that once he began rolling in dough, he exaggerated his childhood poverty so as to make his substantial, self-made adult wealth all the more mythic.
The world operated by one set of values, and Dad lived by another, which changed whenever he wanted it to. And he bragged about that set! He believed in his right to complete self-expression regardless of whom it hurt; and he had the vision of an artist. He’s one of the reasons I’ve thought artists are natural Republicans–they have vision and, like the best entrepreneurs, will do anything they must to realize it. Dad benefited thousands of people by employing them and gave everyone good benefits and low-cost loans for education. He was the only stockholder of his company, which meant he had to answer to no one.
I envied his fearlessness, his creativity, and his lack of concern for what others thought of him. I was tugged–yanked–between two radical extremes: on the one hand, a father who lived like a circus acrobat, balancing upside down on one finger atop a unicycle that he pedaled along a tightrope several thousand feet in the air; and on the other, a terrified, cautious, and passive mother who cared excessively what others thought. Envied him, simulated her. Saw no faults in him and in her nothing but. Perhaps it was because I was surrounded by her family and can remember seeing his only once.

From the Hardcover edition.
Jonathan Reynolds

About Jonathan Reynolds

Jonathan Reynolds - Wrestling with Gravy
Jonathan Reynolds is an award-winning playwright, actor, screenwriter (for both film and television), and author. His monthly column on food appears in The New York Times Magazine. His plays include Dinner with Demons, Stonewall Jackson's House, which received a Pulitzer recommendation, and Geniuses, among several others. He received a Guggenheim grant for playwriting in 2004. He is the author of Wrestling with Gravy. Reynolds lives in New York with his wife, the producer and designer Heidi Ettinger, and is distinguished by his two sons, Frank and Edward.

Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: