Delicious! A Novel

Delicious!: A Novel cover art

Memoirist and food journalist, Ruth Reichl's first  contemporary novel takes us into the world of a long-standing food  magazine.  The former Gourmet editor knows this setting and its inhabitants well.  The heroine, Billie Breslin, has left college and moved from California to New York City to work for Delicious! an iconic  culinary magazine as the editor's assistant.  With her impecible palate and interest in writing, this is the perfect job for her.

Soon Billie is responding to reader's complaints when recipes fail them.  She starts to work at a family run, Italian cheese shop to fill her lonely weekends.  She develops friendships with her colleagues at both the magazine and shop and is given the chance to write her first article.  Then when a major change affects her workplace, she and Sammy, an elderly travel writer, start to hunt down letters from an ongoing correspondance between an adolescent girl in Ohio and the famous chef, James Beard during World War II.  They are led on a chase through the magazine's library's catalog following obscure clues left by a former librarian, and in the end try to locate the now octogenarian correspondant.

This book is a coming of age story with a dash of mystery (why does this former bakery owner now get panic attacks when asked to cook) and history (information on food rationing and innovative recipes from the war) thrown in for good measure.  Reichl's descriptions of NYC, especially the neighborhood food shops, restaurants, and the magazine's test kitchen leaves one feeling you can taste the dishes and wares she is describing. 

You can find this feel-good read in the Hatcher Library.