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Who could better tell this tale of food fascination, magazine doings (and undoings) and reinvention than Ruth Reichl, the former editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, and the author of several yummy foodie memoirs? In the story, Billie Breslin has left her home and her family in California to live in New York, where she is thrilled to be interviewed by Jake Newberry, the editor at the influential food and cooking magazine Delicious! However, her delight fizzles when Jake insists that she cook for him, as he asks every promising future employee to do. Billie tries everything she can to get out of cooking, but as she realizes that either she cooks for Jake or she can kiss the job opportunity of her dreams goodbye, her heart slides into her shoes and she breaks out in a cold clammy sweat.

"DELICIOUS! is pure pleasure --- a beautifully penned page-turner filled with delights, including a few fascinating mysteries... This satisfying novel about food, family and second chances certainly lives up to its title."

Billie follows Jake into the magazine's test kitchen, trying not to panic as she meets the  food editor, Maggie. As Jake vanishes, Maggie scowls and announces that Jake will never hire Billie, so why is he wasting her time? This pronouncement is like a pail of ice water in Billie's face; she snaps out of her panic and starts asking for the ingredients of the special gingerbread recipe she knows by heart. As she works, readers are cooking with her, thanks to Reichl's lyrical descriptions:

"I grated orange peel, concentrating on the way the cool oil felt on my fingertips. I picked up a knob of ginger, losing myself to the rain-forest fragrance as I slowly shredded it with my knife. The scents swirled around me: cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, and clove."

When the gingerbread is done, even Maggie must admit that Jake will love it. Billie writes a joyous letter to Genie, her beloved older sister, to announce her new job and her new life. On her first day of work, she enters the mansion in which the magazine offices are located. Jake shows her around, introducing her to her colorful co-workers before sending her on an important errand. She must retrieve good anchovies from a woman named Thursday, a famous chef working at a restaurant called The Pig. Billie immediately impresses Thursday with her ability to taste a dish and announce every ingredient in it. The chef introduces Billie to Sal, the owner of a wonderful old-fashioned shop, Fontanari's. Sal immediately whisks Billie to Fontanari's, popping into a butcher shop and a chocolatier along the way.

As Billie settles in, working at Delicious! and also part-time at Fontanari's, she continues to chronicle her adventures through letters to Genie. Little does she realize how truly happy she is until her new life collapses like yesterday's soufflé. The owners abruptly shut down the magazine, leaving the employees devastated. Billie is offered a unique job, however, which ultimately will lead her to a discovery that will change her life forever.

DELICIOUS! is pure pleasure --- a beautifully penned page-turner filled with delights, including a few fascinating mysteries, such as Billie's extreme aversion to cooking. The mouth-watering descriptions of food are sure to either inspire readers to cook or to eat, but they don't overpower the plot. It's impossible not to sympathize with Billie, a down-to-earth character with layers that form her into a ready-to-walk-off-the-page person. This satisfying novel about food, family and second chances certainly lives up to its title.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on May 22, 2014

by Ruth Reichl

  • Publication Date: May 12, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0812982029
  • ISBN-13: 9780812982022