Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

Delicious! is a delicious read. You may know Ruth Reichl as the author of several food memoirs and the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. In Delicious! she has combined her writing skills and knowledge of the world of food (cookbooks, magazines, food shops, restaurants, chefs, specialty foods).

The story in the novel is multifaceted.  Billie Breslin has quit college and moved from her home in California to New York city to take a job at Delicious!, a famous food magazine. Billie is a talented cook who has stopped cooking and will not tell anyone why. She is lonely, missing her family, especially her older sister, Genie. But, she is welcomed and befriended by the staff of the magazine, by New York chefs, and by proprietors of many of the New York food shops and restaurants. She takes a weekend job at Fontanari's, a famous Italian food shop where she is treated as if she were a member of the family. Just as Billie is beginning to feel at home, the magazine is shut down.

Billie is fortunate to have her weekend job and to be able to continue, alone in the large mansion where the magazine had been produced, to maintain the hotline for reader complaints. While exploring the mansion and the magazine's library, Billie finds letters written during World War II by twelve-year-old Lulu Swan to James Beard, who had worked for Delicious! at the beginning of his career. The letters are a multi-layered mystery, each one hidden individually in a filing system devised by a former librarian, who placed clues in the card catalog (yes, a card catalog!). The clues need to be found and then deciphered and then each letter has to be located.  After finding the letters, Billie wants to find the librarian who placed the clues and she wants to find Lulu, if she is still alive.

The layers of cooking lore and mystery are enhanced by interesting characters and by more than one delightful romance. There is a lot to be digested in this book, including a single recipe at the end of the volume. 

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