The reading gods are continuing to smile upon me as I work through a trove of novels that are absolutely wonderful! I don’t often get a streak like this, and many times so-called must reads don’t flip my button at all.
This week’s selection is Delicious! A Novel by Ruth Reichl. This is her first novel, but she’s written a lot about food in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and more. She’s published non-fiction books as well, and I’m now eager to read all of them! So it makes sense that her first novel would be about, well, food.
Billie Breslin is a young woman with a perfect palette who doesn’t cook. We don’t know why, though I promise, all will be revealed. She has dropped out of college to take a job at Delicious!, a food magazine.
As Billie struggles to create a life for herself far from family, she builds a friendship with Sal and his wife Rosalie, making his cheese shop her second home. Then there’s Sammy, the eccentric and fabulous travel writer, and Jake, the owner of the magazine. Oh, and let’s not forget Mr. Complainer, a regular customer of Sal’s!
It’s hard to write more without adding a lot of spoilers, so I’ll just add that there’s a whole subplot devoted to certain letters addressed to James Beard, who in this novel once ran Delicious!. These letters, and the story that is revealed from them, are in my opinion the meat of the book.
Billie’s past will break your heart. But along the way, there is a lot of joy, friendship, and community, plus the smells and tastes of food that will make you hungry while you read. Yes, there are recipes at the end.