Saturday, May 17, 2014

Delicious! By Ruth Reichl

I've been anticipating this book for months and luckily its release happened just as I was finishing my first year of grad school.  Surely that meant I was supposed to drop everything after my final this week and devour this book.  

Delicious is Ruth Reichl's first novel.  She's well known for her books about food and worked as a food critic in New York City for years.  She's a talented writer and I hope this isn't her only novel.  

Billie Breslin arrives in New York and lands a job at Delicious, a food magazine that's been around for 100  years.  Billie has an incredible gift: the ability to eat anything and discern every flavor note in it.  I for one would love to have this gift--can you imagine being able to eat anything and know all the flavors you're tasting?  While Billie is working at Delicious, she meets Sal, who owns the most incredible cheese shop.  Seriously--I hope and pray a place like this really does exist somewhere in this world.  I would set up a tent and live there if I could.  Fontanari's shop is a character that is one of my favorites; I can smell the cheese and salami from here.  Billie begins working there on weekends and quickly becomes part of the family.

Delicious is housed in a beautiful old mansion in New York City; it's one of the few remaining survivors from the grand old days.  On the top floor is a locked room; it's the magazine's library.  Billie and Sammy, the world traveler for Delicious, find themselves in the library after a particularly distressing time at Delicious.  In that library, they find Lulu's letters.  Lulu was a young girl who wrote James Beard letters during the 1940's.  James Beard!  Yes, he worked at Delicious.  And following the clues, Billie and Sammy hunt down Lulu's letters, savoring each wonderful glimpse into a special relationship set against a nation fighting World War 2.  

There's much more to this story.  I can't give it all away.  You have to discover it yourself, and it won't be hard to do because you won't be able to put this novel down.  I love food.  I am a modest cook, I have a tiny kitchen, but I sure do like to read about food and try my hand at making memorable meals for me and my boyfriend.  I watched Julia Child on public television years ago and liked to watch my mom cook for my huge family.  I have overstuffed folders full of recipes that I haven't tried just yet, but don't want to throw away.  My idea of a perfect wedding reception would be one where I make all the food.  

Yes, I love food.  And I loved this novel.  Perfect summer read.  Billie's a young woman running from a painful past; all of the characters in this novel have a history that is delightful to explore.  Incredible descriptions of food, wine, and New York City.  This is one of my favorite reads of 2014.  

Rating:  9/10 for incredible descriptions of food, New York City, and an intriguing library full of surprises.  

Available in hardcover, e-book, and audio.