Book Review: The Recipe Club

RecipeClubThe 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.

This entry was posted in 100+ Book Challenge, Book Challenges, Books, Books About Food, Read and Review Book Challenge, Spice of Life Challenge and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Book Review: The Recipe Club

  1. Hi Margot — I see you are getting closer to Oregon. I’ve put this book on my TBR list, sounds great. I get a weekly e-mail from Lynn @ The Splendid Table. Have gotten some great recipes there; I don’t always find her program as we travel, but enjoy it when I can find it.

    Safe travels and happy reading

  2. Molly says:

    OH – this sounds like a wonderful little story. I am intrigued that the author can write from so many different age ranges. I also enjoy the epistolary novel as a different writing style.

  3. Beth F says:

    I love The Splendid Table! Anyway, I have this book here and now you’ve made me bump it up in the list. Hummm. I wonder if I should add it to the Readathon pile.

  4. No matter what the plot, I think it’s fun to read recipes!

  5. kaye says:

    nice review. I’ve seen this book on a lot of blogs. I’m feeling the need to read.

  6. Ti says:

    I’ve always loved books that center around cooking or food but as I get older, I find myself gravitating towards them more. I’m sure it’s a comfort thing as I am usually so busy that cooking a meal is a luxury these days. So if I can combine reading with reading about food…then I am happy. I don’t necessarily even need to eat the food! Reading about it seems to be enough.

  7. Kathy says:

    Friends and food? Sounds like a book for me. I love the way the story is told through letters, emails and recipes.

  8. Belle says:

    Food, friendship, told through emails and letters? I’m adding this to my list right away – it sounds perfect for me.

  9. Stacy says:

    Ooh, this is going on my list right now! This sounds wonderful, Margot. Thanks for recommending it.

  10. Rebecca Reid says:

    This sounds like fun! I love it when books have recipes in it and it sounds like it was really well done.

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