So many times I have finished a book long after I thought it should have ended. You know what I mean, right? You get about 4/5s through a book and are longing for it to be over. That was NOT the case with Ruth Reichl’s first novel – DELICIOUS! I did not want it to end. I was so into the characters and the duel story line that I am now ready for a sequel although I know there won’t be one.
This was the story of Wilhelmina “Billie” Breslin and her journey. Not in the physical sense but in the personal sense. Billie has an awesome gift of a fine palate and the ability to devise a dish just from the tastes and smells. But she doesn’t cook. Not any more. One of the big questions throughout the book is WHY?
After working at DELICIOUS!, a foodie magazine, for just one year the magazine goes out of business and her job flies out the window. Or at least so she thought. She is kept on to answer questions and consider refunds on complaints regarding the recipes in the ‘book’. Her daily phone calls from Mrs. Cloverly,who constantly complains about how the recipes in DELICIOUS! don’t work:
‘…the large sea scallops or the little bay kind?”
“Oh, really! I would never purchase scallops. They are far too expensive. I substituted canned clams.”
“Any other substitutions? Perhaps you used 1/2 and 1/2 in place of heavy cream?”
“Don’t be rediculous? I never have cream in the house; it is far too rich. I always use powdered milk.”
I don’t imagine you had any wine on hand?”
“I used water but I did add a bit of lemon juice for zip.”
And she wonders why the recipe was ‘simply vile’
…and her hunt for the illusive Lulu,whose wartime letters to James Beard are found in the library in a hidden room, keep her life on a constant merry-go-round..
Dear Mr. Beard,
So when Mother says it is wrong for us to eat better than our brave men overseas, I tell her that I don’t see how eating disgusting stuff helps them in the lest. But Mr. Beard, it is very hard to cook good food when you’re only a beginner!…I’m going to try again; I have my eye on the Peanut Butter and Lima Bean Loaf from a cookbook Mrs. Davis gave me,….
She definitely needed help and he gave her much for several years.
Through the letters, the friendships, and her family she finally learns the truth about events in her life her entire perspective about herself, her family, and her friends change.
The story is about people but it is also about food. Food that keeps people entertained, keeps people wanting more, keeps people alive, keeps people with family and friends. There are no recipes in the book just snatches of conversations about food, people intimately connected with food, and incidents involving the food industry. It is not an expose. It is a story. A life. A meal.
The Main Characters:
Billie Breslin, the Heroine!
Sal and Rosalie, owners of Fontanari’s Italian Food Shop
Mr. Complainer, the picky Customer
Lulu, the Letter Writer
Mrs. Cloverly, the Complainer
Genie, the Sister
All affected her life. And helped her come to terms with her fears – including cooking.
Through out the book different dishes are mentioned: souffle, gingerbread, pumpkin ravioli, Yorkshire pudding, panettone. So many dishes I could make to ‘celebrate’ the book. I did so want to make her gingerbread but just ran out of time. It will be made.
No earthquakes now….
This is the JULY selection for The Kitchen Reader an online food related book club with members around the world.