The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship
by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel
Recipes in collaboration with Melissa Clark
Polhemus Press, 2009
My Rating: B+
I’m calling this book a food novel about two friends Valerie and Lilly. They’ve been friends since childhood. As young girls they created a club-for-two in which they exchanged recipes, hence the name, The Recipe Club.
The novel opens when they are both adults. They have not spoken to each other in decades due to some misunderstanding initially unknown to the reader. But Val’s mother has died and, as she goes through her mother’s papers, Val discovers all the letters and the recipes the girls exchanged. The letters and recipes bring back fond memories and Val sends an email to Lilly hoping to re-establish contact. They begin a guarded, written conversation with each other until one of them breaks off contact again.
At this point the novel flashes back to the childhood years. The reader is treated to the childhood letters outlining each girls experiences with camp and school. It then goes on into the teenage and young adult years. We read of their first loves and other things that happened in their lives. We also learn about the parents of the two girls. The reader, at least this reader, suspects that whatever is wrong between the two friends has something to do with the parents.
The remarkable thing about the novel is that it is told almost completely via emails and letters interspersed with their recipes. I say remarkable because I could understand everything that happened just from their letters and emails. This well-written story shows the spirit and character of their lives and the heart of their friendship.
The recipes added throughout the novel are all original. They fit the different ages at which they are exchanged. Some recipes rang a bell for me. For example, the recipe for Dorm Room Oatmeal reminded me of my own experience cooking oatmeal on a one-burner hot plate. There are lots of desserts in here that look so yummy, but you’ll also find meats, fish, poultry, vegetables, soups and drinks. The recipes are not the focal point of the story but they do help to tie it together.
Here’s a review blurb from someone whose radio show I love to listen to:
“Food and love without the schmaltz and warm fuzzies is what kept me turning the pages of this book. Yes, there are recipes, nostalgic and good ones, but the fascination is in how they mark the years of a childhood friendship struggling to become a life long one. If you’re lucky enough to have that one true best friend, you’ll find all the love, prickliness, laughter, blood curdling honesty, and joy here.” –Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of “The Splendid Table®,” National Public Radio’s food show from American Public Media
I recommend this book for readers who like to read about the anatomy of a friendship with the fun of good food added to it.
I received this book from the publicist, FSB Associates.
You can purchase The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship at Amazon.