Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: Delicious! by Ruth Reichl


Fiction.  This was a wonderful little novel and a definite must for anybody who is a "foodie" of any kind!  I loved the characters, the settings, the author's way with words, and the plot was fantastically interesting too.  The main character is Billie Breslin, who takes a job as an assistant to the editor in NYC at the preeminent food magazine Delicious! (think Gourmet where the author used to work).  The novel follows Billie through the streets of New York as she learns even more about food: she has a perfect palate and can taste almost any ingredient immediately, which helps her land her second job at Fontanellis, a fun and traditional cheese shop, where she is the first non-family member to ever work there (of course they treat her like family though).  The offices of the Delicious! magazine are in a 19th-century mansion, filled with quirky co-workers, beautiful architectural features, and eventually a mystery for Billie to solve.

After the magazine is closed by the owner who wants to focus on their more lucrative magazines put out by Pickwick Publishing, Billie finds herself the only one left behind to answer phone calls, emails, and bizarre letters from people who have utterly destroyed the recipes in the magazine.  Since its inception, the magazine had what is called the "Delicious! Guarantee": try the recipe, if you do not like it we will refund your money for the items you purchased to make it.  A particularly peculiar customer, who calls every single day, does the most disastrous things that you can think of, such as substituting canned oysters for scallops, powdered milk instead of heavy cream, and other comically tragic concoctions.  

As the story continues, Billie and another former employee, Sammy, end up becoming fast friends.  He is at the empty old mansion because Sammy has yet to empty out his office (he was traveling in Marrakesh) and thus he hangs around attempting to help her solve some of the bizarre inquiries from the readers (e.g. requests for recipes dating all the way back to the 1950s).  The two of them end up exploring the library as a result of trying to search for some obscure information, but the library had been locked up for decades, and nobody knew what exactly was inside.  They find themselves trying to solve a mystery related to the correspondence during WWII between a young girl named Lulu and the now infamous James Beard, who worked at the magazine.  I do not want to add more lest I give away any spoilers, so I will say that it is a charming novel, filled with friendships, tragic family histories, mystery, some romance, and of course utter devotion to food which will appeal to gastronomes everywhere.  Give it a read, it will make you smile!

And so it goes...
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