Author: Ruth Reichl
Allen & Unwin RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Author Ruth Reichl entices readers who love their food with a delectable story set in New York’s thriving food scene. Now, I haven’t had the pleasure of being to New York, but while reading this I may just have been transported smack bang into Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, taking in the sights, sounds and tastes. The novel is well named – firstly, it is the name of the magazine that is the novel’s linchpin, secondly, the food descriptions are mouth-watering, and thirdly, well, the story left a good taste in my mouth.
Food, friendship, romance and family ties are the main ingredients of Delicious! and together they fuse to plate up the story of Billie Breslin, a twenty-something woman who needs to let go in order to move on. Gifted with an extraordinary palate, Billie thinks she has her dream job at Delicious! magazine. Chefs concoct and test recipes in a big kitchen where “the scent of baking cakes, roasting meats and caramelizing onions” fills the air; at the word “taste”, they gather around whatever dish is up for testing, and deconstruct the dish. Part of Billie’s job is to fulfill the magazine’s Guarantee, which offers readers their money back if the recipes don’t work, and, of course, leads to some funny conversations as Billie tries to figure out how the readers went wrong. When the magazine is shut down, Billie is kept on to keep the Guarantee alive, and in doing so, makes a fascinating discovery – hidden letters written by 12-year-old Lulu Swan to legendary chef James Beard during World War II. It’s these letters that inspire Billie to face up to some truths, open her heart to love, and embrace the possibilities of life.
I think my response to this novel is clear – I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s of those tasty morsels that’s uplifting and fills the emotional spot within that might just need a bit of attention (chocolate is a good substitute, but words work wonders for me). The descriptive language took me on a food tour I think I might just have to re-visit sooner rather than later, and Lulu’s letters took me on a trip back to a time when people had to be resourceful, inventive and thrifty to feed themselves from rations. The romance was more of a side dish bringing out new flavours in Billie’s character development. The secondary characters were delightful and rounded out a warm, funny and inviting novel. If you like food with books (and you know I do), you’ll love this.
Available from good bookstores and Allen & Unwin. My copy was courtesy of Allen & Unwin.
Bookish treat: Reading this book was treat enough!