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I started my career at Condé Nast working at a magazine, so books set in the magazine world always capture my attention, as I like to see how authentic they are. With Ruth Reichl, I did not expect to be let down, as she was the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine before it folded, so her stories about Delicious! the magazine are spot on. Many know Reichl for her memoirs and her food writing, but she takes a new direction here with her debut novel, DELICIOUS!
Billie, who has cultivated a palate that has her able to dissect the ingredients in food by mere taste, has just gotten her foot in the door when the magazine folds. She is kept on to answer reader mail about the “Delicious!Guarantee,” which allows readers to be refunded the cost of the ingredients if a Delicious! recipe does not work. This will sound incredulous unless you have worked at a magazine and see how many people write in with questions and requests years after an issue is published. She is left to work in the mansion where the magazine was housed and where there are glorious test kitchens as well as offices. (Last week, when I heard Reichl talk about DELICIOUS!, I saw her eyes light up at the word taste, spoken like a command, which would happen in the test kitchens whenever the staff there had finished testing a recipe.)
Off limits for years is the library housed on one of the upper floors, but once the offices are vacated, Billie gets a look inside. She comes across letters written during World War II from a young girl in Akron to the legendary James Beard. Those readers who were not around during the war will get an education in what rationing entailed, and those who lived through it will revive memories of how inventive folks were in those days. Layer in Billie’s part-time job at Fontanari’s, a fabulous cheese and delicacy shop downtown, and I felt like I dove into culinary heaven turning the pages. It’s the kind of book I devoured, and it made me want to cook and try new flavors. Right after finishing it, I made a very complicated rice pudding recipe, savoring the moments of pulling the vanilla beans from their pod and blending the spices together.
Billie also has a secret. While she can detect flavors and tastes like a savant, she does not cook or bake. Something from her past stonewalls her wanting to do this again. This final storyline weaves through the book and laces it together.
Food in this book --- and to Reichl --- is about the experience of preparing it and sharing it with those you love. DELICIOUS! is the same thing. Reading it you will savor the story, which is made all the richer for the details, but then you will want to talk about it and share it with those you know. If you end up in the kitchen later, share what you cook and spread the good cheer.
- Publication Date: May 12, 2015
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
- ISBN-10: 0812982029
- ISBN-13: 9780812982022