Author: Ruth Reichl
Publisher: Random House, May 6, 2014
Genre: Literary/Food Fiction
Source: The publisher via TLC Book Tours
I’ve been anticipating this book for a long time. I knew I would love it before I even had it in my hands. There was, however, one question: after decades of nonfiction writing, could the author create credible characters?
I was pretty sure she could, especially when I thought back to Garlic and Saffires. In that memoir Ms. Reichl told of all the personal “characters” she had created just so she could visit leading New York City restaurants without getting the star NY Times Food Critic treatment. For each one of her disguises she had a different name and story, as well as clothing, wigs, make-up and even a way of talking. That’s not too much of a stretch over to the fictional world.
Before I continue, let me share the basic plot of Delicious! (from the publisher):
Billie Breslin has traveled far from her California home to take a job at Delicious!, the most iconic food magazine in New York and, thus, the world. When the publication is summarily shut down, the colorful staff, who have become an extended family for Billie, must pick up their lives and move on. Not Billie, though. She is offered a new job: staying behind in the magazine’s deserted downtown mansion offices to uphold the “Delicious Guarantee” –a public relations hotline for complaints and recipe inquiries–until further notice. What she doesn’t know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery.
In Billie Breslin, Ruth Reichl created a young woman anyone can identify with. Although she is an adult, she’s hesitant about moving forward with her life. Ms. Reichl created a wonderful cast of characters that surround Billie and serve as a surrogate family that helped support her maturation process. My favorites are Sal and Rosalie, owners of a specialty cheese shop.
A creative plot also makes this novel a real winner. Billie was born with the amazing ability to distinguish the most minute flavors in foods. This meant that, even as a girl, she was able to fine-tune and create fabulous dishes and baked goods. Billie endeared herself to Sal, the cheese-maker, with this skill when she was able to tell the difference between Spring and Autumn mozzarella. Alhough now, Billie no longer wants to cook (you’ll have to read to find out why), she was a good fit as the assistant to the Editors-in-Chief at Delicious magazine.
After the magazine closed, Billie stayed on. This is when the most exciting part of the story is told. Billie discovered a secret room in the old mansion. She also discovered a set of letters written to James Beard by a young girl back in the 1940s. Each letter was in a different part of the magazine’s library and it took a great deal of creative searching and puzzle solving to find each one. And then, Billie decided she wanted to find the girl who wrote the letters. This takes a bit of detective work but makes for a satisfying conclusion.
Delicious!, of course, would not be complete without the food. After all, the author is the ultimate Foodie. I’m sure most of you know her credentials, and the fact that she’s spent her whole life in the food world. In this, her first novel, Ms. Reichl infused her characters with the same passion for food as she possesses. Food is a big part of the character’s lives, from a trendy Manhattan chef, to a small family dumpling shop and the family cheese shop I mentioned earlier. It made for wonderful reading. Overall, for me, it was a cosy read with me sitting in a charming kitchen, feeling the warmth of the big stove, hearing the sounds of knives chopping, and the aromas of spices and exotic foods. I wanted to stay there forever.
Bonus Freature: there is one recipe in the back of the book: Gingerbread. Of course its loaded with wonderful spices, but not the kind that come pre-ground. Oh no, this requires whole peppercorns, whole cloves, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, and so forth. The baker must grind these ingredients to achieve the perfect blend for this spicy cake. I can’t wait to gather them all together and give it a try. (Hint, hint to book clubs.)
Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of it all. To see other stops on the book tour, visit the schedule here: TLC Book Tours
This post is linked to Weekend Cooking found at Beth Fish Reads. Be sure to visit for other good food posts.