DELICIOUS: A Reflection and a Review

It is interesting to discover how life often comes full circle. Starting this blog is an example. I had a few pieces from an autobiography class taken in a small town college. Time for that huge final project rolled around and I was compelled by the image of a young girl, busy in a kitchen plastered on one of the books my professor held out towards me after I was informed that what I had chosen to base my final autobiographical piece on wasn’t going to work. And so began my induction into the world of Ruth Reichl’s books as I picked up Tender at the Bone that day hoping for a fresh and better start.

I couldn’t read the entire book before graduation and my attempt to persuade the professor to gift her copy to me as a didn’t work, Then, Amazon came to the rescue and I purchased it a couple of months later. It was a bittersweet moment when I read the last words, the last recipe, and closed the book, but then being the curious child I am, I scoured the web for other material Reichl had written. Thus, began the readathon of Comfort me with Apples, Garlics and Sapphires, and For You Mom, Finally. Having exhausted all published options, I unearthed the discovery that there was another book in the works, a novel, Delicious.

Ruth Reichl transports her readers to restaurants many can only dream about, describing exotic tastes, food textures, and dishes in ways that make you want to invite her on a first class ticket to recreate the same experience in your kitchen, but alas you remember you are of humble means. I was excited about the title Delicious and marked its release date in my calendar, eager to start another amazing journey of the senses. I had now moved from small town college student Reichl fan to unemployed graduate in a big city.

Months later, I found the most unlikely of jobs in the city’s library and volunteered to seat guests during its monthly author events. Then, Amazon sent me a “we-are tracking-your-calendar” reminder that Delicious was due for release in a couple of weeks.  After lamenting over what a monitored world we live and what else do these web information spiders know about my life, an idea was born.

Dear A.K,

 I trust your judgment in all things books and authors, but I was hoping that a particularly noteworthy release scheduled for this month hadn’t escaped your notice. Ruth Reichl, author of all things palate appealing and pleasantly entertaining is about to release a novel, Delicious. Please could she be invited for one of the upcoming author events?

I received a one liner reply that basically said, I am aware of the author’s fabulousness, but she wouldn’t be coming. Her schedule is over booked.  Weeks went by and life continued until the email.

You know those announcements you get every week from work when you secretly wish for an autodelete email function for some particular senders? Well, this was similar. Another routine email for the line-up of authors coming up this week at the library. Please ignore that this is the 7th reminder. Except this time, I noticed nestled in an innocuous Monday event, 3 days away, was Delicious with author Ruth…What!!! I flew off the handle, text my friends, screamed some more, and tweeted with trembling fingers about the event.

Reichl et Moi

And what is better than taking a picture to cement the fact that you heard an author talk about an upcoming novel?

Writing a review.

To be honest, as I listened to Reichl usher us into Billie and Lulu’s worlds, it was a confusing jumble of characters. Things got worse for me when Ruth threw in the mixer, her inspiration for taking this route of storytelling. It must have been all that extra adrenaline pumping into my brain from being overly excited. So who worked at a magazine again? Billie? Lulu? Ruth. All that confusion was dispelled when I received my Kindle copy of Delicious.

The title is not just a tribute to the effect produced by the culinary exercises Ruth Reichl takes her readers through, it is actually a magazine with so much eccentricity on board. Only that there is a twist. The magazine is closing and only one person gets to stay on the staff to honor the famous, “Delicious Guarantee”. If you were newly hired, have an impeccable palate, a California girl, and ready for an adventure, you and Billie have a whole lot in common. Or you may be Billie, the lead female in this novel, who unearths letters written to a James Beard double during World War II by a young girl, named Lulu.

Lulu is seeking to find solace amid despair in a fickle era where nothing seems certain. So is Billie. Thus, it is a perfect match when these two find each other through the written world of letters. As one of my favorite quotes from Delicious explains the beauty of this form, “That’s one of the best things about writing letters, you know. You get to be the person you wish you were”.’ Both Lulu and Billie grow up in so many ways during the course of this novel, but believe me there is more to Delicious than these two. You have Sammy, Jake, Maggie, Thursday, Diana, Richard, The team at Fontanari’s, and Mr. Complainer turned into the dreamy Mitch Hammond.

As you read Delicious as with all Reichl’s books, you will feel like that “more family than friend” invited to dinner, listening to anecdotes about her characters. By the end of the evening, you would heartily agree that she dished out on a plate more than you asked for and honoring the invitation was indeed “an experience that nourished more than your body”.

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