"In her New York Times bestselling memoirs Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples, Ruth Reichl has brilliantly illuminated how food defines us. Now she celebrates this theme in her dazzling fiction debut—a novel of sisters, family ties, and a young woman who must find the courage to let go of the past in order to embrace her own true gifts.
Billie Breslin has traveled far from her California home to take a job at Delicious!, the most iconic food magazine in New York and, thus, the world. When the publication is summarily shut down, the colorful staff, who have become an extended family for Billie, must pick up their lives and move on. Not Billie, though. She is offered a new job: staying behind in the magazine’s deserted downtown mansion offices to uphold the “Delicious Guarantee” –a public relations hotline for complaints and recipe inquiries–until further notice. What she doesn’t know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery."
Delicious is an apt title for this novel, Reichl's vivid writing makes food front and center of this book, but it also has a sweet and interesting story to go along with it. There is a lot going on in the story. Along with the food, food writing, and the folding food magazine, there is the mystery around the files and letters Billie stumbles across in a hidden room in the magazine's locked library, what war time was like for a young girl, and Billie's own struggles to find her way in the world and come out from behind the shadow of her 'perfect' older sister. There are plenty of eccentric characters to keep track of, a romance, American history, and even some architectural facts and tidbits about old New York thrown in. It is ambitious, but Reichl manages to keep it all together and to create characters that were likable and easy to root for (even if I was a bit jealous about Billie's amazing palate and her ability to guess the obscure ingredients in every dish). Lulu's letters were a joy to read and I also especially liked Billie's 'adventures' manning the complaint line for the magazine (funny) and learning about the treatment and discrimination of Italian-Americans during WWII (sad, and something I had never really heard or thought about before). Reichl mentions in the afterward of the book that she spent a long time writing it and you can see the amount of research she put into this novel. A Reichl fan already, I found myself charmed by the story and looking forward to her next book--in any genre she wants to write it in. My fellow Reichl fans, foodies, and lovers of foodie fiction and history will enjoy this book (And you can enter to win a copy of your own below!)
Author Notes: Ruth Reichl was born and raised in Greenwich Village. She wrote her first cookbook at twenty-one, and went on to be the restaurant critic of both the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. She was editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine for ten years. She now lives with her husband in upstate New York.
Obviously finding food inspiration for a dish representing the book was not difficult--there is a constant parade of mouthwatering dishes and interesting ingredients. From Billie's Gingerbread Cake (the recipe is included at the back of the book) to Sal's meats and cheeses and Rosalie homemade mozzarella at Fontanari's, to the Italian food and wartime ration-friendly recipes described in Lulu's letters, to the various concoctions Billie's friends and Delicious co-workers whip up, food is like its own character in this book. In the end, I went with a simple kale salad, made by Thursday at The Pig, a hangout for Billie and the others after reading the description.
"Maggie had eaten most of the oysters, and now she moved on to the salad, one of Thursday's more inspired creations. She'd shredded kale into confetti and tossed it with sweet little currants and richly toasted pine nuts. Mixed with lemon juice and oil, and laced with grated Parmesan, it was an incredible concoction. Maggie put a forkful in her mouth and paused to appreciate it." --Delicious, Ruth Reichl
I love a good kale salad and this one sounded like an excellent combination. It didn't say that Thursday 'massaged' her kale, but to me it is what turns a good kale salad into a great one--working the dressing into the kale, softening the harder leaves and filling them with flavor. My take on Thursday's kale salad is below.
Massaged Kale Salad with Currants, Pine Nuts & Parmesan
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen Inspired/Adapted from Delicious by Ruth Reichel
(Serves 2--or 1 person who can't stop eating it!)
2 medium bunches kale (I used 1 bunch local lacinato kale + a small bag of baby kale), washed, dried, leaves stripped from stems and cut into thin ribbons
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced/crushed
a pinch of sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup currants
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
Place kale ribbons in a large bowl. Mix together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt & pepper and pour over kale. Using clean hands, gently but firmly massage and crush the greens to work in the dressing for about 5 minutes or until the volume of the kale is reduced by about half and greens are dark and shiny. Toss massaged kale with toasted pine nuts, currants and cheese. Serve and enjoy!
Notes/Results: This was just a scrumptious salad--tender ribbons of massaged kale with little bursts of the sweet currants, the buttery crunch of the pine nuts, and the slightly salty Parmesan shreds. To tell you how much I liked it, I intended to eat just a serving with a leftover slice of spinach-mushroom-garlic pizza leftover from lunch but instead, I ended up eating a big bowl of the salad and ignoring the pizza. This one is a keeper--I'll definitely make it again.
The only thing better than reading a great foodie book is being able to give a copy to someone else to enjoy! The publisher is giving me the opportunity to give a copy of Delicious to one lucky reader.
To enter to win--just leave a comment on this post telling me about your favorite (or a favorite) spice and why you love it. Leave your comment (+ a way to contact you please) no later than 11:59 PM (Hawaii Time) on Tuesday, May 6th. One winner will be drawn from all applicable entries and announced on this blog. You must be in the U.S. or Canada to win.
(Update: The giveaway is now closed and the winner is Debra of Eliot's Eats. Congrats Debra!)
Note: A review copy of "Delicious" and a copy to give away to one of my blog readers were provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of the Book Tour and what other readers thought about the book here.