Hardcover, 400 pages
Billie Breslin has traveled far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, particularly her older sister, Genie, Billie feels like a fish out of water—until she is welcomed by the magazine’s colorful staff. She is also seduced by the vibrant downtown food scene, especially by Fontanari’s, the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends. Then Delicious! is abruptly shut down, but Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills.My Thoughts:
To Billie’s surprise, the lonely job becomes the portal to a miraculous discovery. In a hidden room in the magazine’s library, Billie finds a cache of letters written during World War II by Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, to the legendary chef James Beard. Lulu’s letters provide Billie with a richer understanding of history, and a feeling of deep connection to the young writer whose courage in the face of hardship inspires Billie to comes to terms with her fears, her big sister and her ability to open her heart to love.
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl is a highly recommended novel for foodies who enjoy a little mystery, history, and romance in the mix.
In Delicious!, a first novel by restaurant reviewer Ruth Reichl, Billie (Wilhelmina) Breslin has taken a job in NYC as an editor's assistant at the magazine Delicious! "the one place on earth where recipes were taken... seriously. The cooks tested these dishes almost to absurdity, redoing them again and again, using a pinch more of this or a tiny bit less heat, trying to make each dish as perfect as possible. They were all dedicated to getting it right..." She also starts working part time at a cheese shop, Fontanari’s.
Billie has left California and her family behind, but included in the novel are letters Billie writes to her older sister, Genie. They used to own a bakery together called Cake Sisters, which closed, although Billie is reluctant to share the whole story until midway through the novel. Billie is blessed with an ability to identify almost any ingredient in a dish.
When the magazine is suddenly closed, Billie is kept on to honor "the Guarantee" which is a promise the Delicious will cover the costs of any recipe that doesn't work. While doing this she finds a cache of letters written by a young girl, Lulu, during WWII to James Beard. The search for the letters becomes a mystery to unravel. And the real identity of the attractive "Mr. Complainer" is another mystery that is revealed.
This is a sweet uncomplicated novel that should appeal to a large variety of people, but especially foodies. While it does tackle some heavy issues set during WWII, it doesn't have a depressing, heavy weight to it. The search for Lulu's letters and the letters included in Delicious! will have an immediate enticement for those interested in recipes during rationing. Although it is a long novel, it really is a quick read.
There is a recipe included at the end of the novel for Billie's gingerbread cake in the story.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes.