by Edith Cody-Rice
Here is a summer read for Almonte foodies:a novel with descriptions of food so lush you can taste your way through the pages. The author Ruth Reichl has a history as a food critic and writer and was editor in chief of Gourmet magazine until it closed in 2009.
This is her fifth book and first novel. Her other books Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic and Sapphires, and For You Mom, Finally were best sellers.
The story follows Billie Breslin, a California girl with a perfect palate. She can dream up recipes just by tasting the ingredients in her head and can identify the most mysterious of flavours. She comes to New York to work at the food magazine Delicious as a personal assistant to the editor. After a long and distinguished history, the magazine fails, closed by the son of the original owner who has inherited it, but Billie is kept on to answer the phones and honour the Delicious guarantee (payment of a small sum to complainers for whom a recipe did not work).
She is housed alone in the old Delicious offices in a federalist mansion in New York and on her prowls through the mansion discovers a secret room in the library where a treasure trove of letters between a sassy 12 year old Lulu Swan and famous chef James Beard, written during World War II, survive.
The characters in the book are all huge appreciators of good food – Jake the erstwhile editor; Thursday, a woman who makes the perfect chicken-liver toasts, Rosalie and Sal, owners of the insanely popular Fontanari’s Italian grocery, Sammy the wandering food critic and they consort together like a cabal. There are many secrets in the book; the secret room, the series of clues to the location of the precious letters left by a librarian trained in cryptography, Billie’s own secret. The mystery of the letters occupies a large space in the book, perhaps a little too much, but gradually all secrets are revealed and situations resolved in a story awash in descriptions of mozzarella, souffles, chocolate, and gingerbread.
Delicious is a light read, rather frothy and predictable but in the best Shakespearean comedy style, all ends happily. Take this book to the beach or to Palms on Mill Street in Almonte for a good uncomplicated read.
Delicious is published by appetite, a lifestyle imprint of Random Books