What I read
If I ever need a quick pick-me-up, I’ll choose a novel that exalts all things food. And since I read–and loved–Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone, when I saw her debut-novel Delicious! on the shelf, I thought it deserved a chance. I wasn’t disappointed: a food magazine, New York City, an ugly duckling heroine. What’s not to like?
Billie Breslin dropped out of college and ran away from home to conquer the Big Apple. Billie, baker extraordinaire, lands a job at Delicious!, the Grand Dame of food magazines–and as assistant to managing editor Jake Newberry, so less.The test kitchen and offices are housed in Timber Mansion, a Greenwich Village landmark. And, yes, there’s the food: braised duck hearts and cheese souffle and Anzac biscuits and chicory salad and wine, of course. Lots of wine. But there is also a luscious cast of characters. Sal and Rosalie, proprietors of an old-school New York cheese shop where Billie moonlights. Sammy, the magazine’s travel writer, whose arcane diction is as flamboyant as he is dapper. Mr. Complainer, a hunk of a customer who just might steal Billie’s heart. Her dad, who phones her weekly to beg her to come home. Mrs. Cloverly, the reader who calls Delicious! weekly to complain that a recipe is inedible. And Billie’s sister Genie, who never answers the letters Billie writes.
Billie and Sammy discover a secret room in the mansion’s library–and hidden treasure: correspondence from a twelve-year-old fan to the chef James Beard during World War II. First merely captivated by the young girl’s story, they soon realize the historical significance of the correspondence. But the magazine has been shut down, Timber Mansion is on the market, and time (as they say) is running out.
It can be a bit of a gamble to read a non-fiction writer’s first novel, but Delicious! was a pleasant surprise.
What I lived
This much is true. I had a week. A week that involved the city’s tax department, unpaid taxes, and an ex-husband. I’ll leave it at that, except to say that I never imagined a tax bureaucrat could be as sympathetic and understanding as I experienced. But that was the last straw. In the past several weeks, I lost my mom, contracted COVID, and paid a whopping federal tax bill. I needed a distraction. Something far from the madding crowd, but still close enough that I wouldn’t spend an arm and a leg–especially since I had already given one leg to the U.S. Treasury.
Holmes County Ohio–Amish country–was just what I needed.
I slept like a baby. I stayed at a comfy little B&B. I wandered antique stores. Shopped for crafts. Visited a fabric store. And walked through more gift shops than I have in the past several years. (A shopper I am not.) I ate chicken pot pie. Had my first-ever whoopie pie. And went to as many Amish grocery stores as I could fit into my day. You heard that right, dear Reader. This gal brings home groceries as souvenirs. I got pickles and jam and whole wheat flour and raspberry cobbler and barbecue sauce and Trail bologna and snack mix and another whoopie pie, stashed in the freezer for when I need a little bit of escape right at home.
Life is truly delicious, yes?