She has written cookbooks. She has owned restaurants. She was editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Gourmet Magazine. And most enviably, she was the restaurant critic for the New York Times. Can you imagine a better gig?
Reichl has also authored a trilogy of memoirs, including one about growing up loving food but being the daughter of a mother who absolutely couldn’t cook. Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table is the story of Reichl’s food journey.
Delicious! Is her first novel, and I absolutely loved it. If she continues to write fiction, Delicious! probably won’t end up being her best. Nevertheless, it had everything I enjoy in a book – a good storyline, a mystery, an interesting main character and quirky side characters, some romance, and, best of all, lots of talk about food.
The novel’s main character, Billie Breslin, has the ability to not only identify – through one taste – every ingredient in a recipe, but to also be able to figure out what ingredient(s) are necessary to improve the dish. An impeccable palate.
Billie goes to work as an executive assistant at a magazine – Delicious! – where part of her job is to answer the telephone calls from those folks taking advantage of the magazine’s guarantee that all recipes will work or the cook gets his/her money back. Through this aspect of her job, she meets interesting characters.
The magazine goes belly-up, but Billie is kept on to continue to honor the magazine’s guarantee, at least for a while. She has lots of time on her hands, and in the process of exploring the magazine’s library, she comes across some letters from a young girl written to real-life cookbook author James Beard. Billie is caught up in the mystery the letters present. The result is a lovely story.
I say this won’t be her best novel because much of the story is very predictable. For example, the “mystery” of Billie’s sister is really no mystery at all. But I felt as though Reichl did a good job of creating appealing characters and an interesting story to drive the novel.
Because almost all of the characters are involved in the food industry, there is a lot of conversation about food and cooking, which I loved. One of Billie’s friends owns a wonderful food market, and the descriptions of the things he sells made my mouth water. I want to visit that market.
The food industry is enormous, but pure in New York City. Lots of farmers’ markets, real butcher shops, many locally-owned restaurants, cheese-makers, and so forth abound. It is the perfect setting for the novel, and a natural locale since Reichl is a New York City native.
Delicious! is a wonderful book for anyone who enjoys reading about food and likes a uncomplicated storyline. I hope Reichl undertakes another novel.
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