Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
In Delicious!, Billie Breslin gets a job at a prestigious food magazine, makes friends with Minorities, and uncovers a not-very-interesting mystery, all while dealing with sister issues and being unaware of her own devastating beauty, intelligence, amazing fashion sense and culinary genius.
I haven’t read any of Reichl’s memoirs but I saw so many great reviews of her first foray into fiction that I gave it a try. It’s a Mary Sue/Cinderella story with a bunch of food porn and a young heroine who needs a man to guide her through everything. Daddy paid her rent, Jake told her what to write about, Sal taught her about cheese and all things Italian-American, Sammy guided her through the card catalog and a makeover, and then Daddy facilitated the ending.
There is also, literally, a lose-the-eyeglasses-and-cut-your-hair subplot that results in omgRomance! The dialogue is continuously broken up by long passages about historical events.
Sammy’s dialogue was so stilted, that it seemed like every line was a result of a program that did a search/replace function with a thesaurus. Example: “Dare I conjecture… that you have not plummeted into this slough of despond merely because of Lulu?” Seriously?
It’s one gigantic after school special. All that’s missing is an accidental pregnancy. I’m going to read one of Reichl’s memoir to cleanse my palate.
I was inspired write my own (slightly spoilery, sorry) alternate endings.
Alternate ending 1
Flanked by a nurse, Lulu Swan burst out of her room and into the visitor’s area of the facility, a shriveled sight with a head of white matted hair and a nightgown that risked falling off of her bony frame with every gesture.
“Lulu Swan?” Billie asked, naively, as the scent of bleach three corridors away assaulted her preternatural senses. “I thought – I thought you would be a major figure in the elite cooking world of Akron, Ohio!”
“I was once, Lulu cackled! I was a cooking marvel – a girl with the perfect palate!”
“Like me?” Billie adjusted the sleeve of the haute military-style jacket she was wearing. She wore it with a thrifted prom dress, mohair legwarmers, a pair of Toms and a feather boa. The outfit was so perfect that Sammy sent a picture of it to Anna Wintour and she was pondering whether or not to feature Billie in the next Vogue.
“Could you tell what a spice was by one speck of it on your tongue?” she shrieked. “Then yes, like you!” Lulu swatted at the imaginary bugs. “James Beard called me a prodigy! My milkweed brought all the boys to the yard. BUT THEN!”
“What happened, Lulu?” Billie asked, unaware of her naturally trim figure, bewitching eyes and amazing hair.
“I GOT A MAKEOVER! I cut my hair and bought modern clothes. I became desired by men but the curse fell upon me and my golden palate was gone. GONE!! And yours will be too, Bobbie! The best souffle on earth will taste like a communion wafer!”
“Hm, that sounds Catholic,” Billie thought as a nurse swooned at her from across the room. “I’ll have to ask my Italian-American friends Sal and Rosalie about that.”
Lulu pulled a handful of plastic leaves from the fake plant nearby and threw them at Billie. “EAT MY PUMPKIN LEAVES!”
“That’ll be all,” the nurse said as she took Lulu by the upper arm and pulled her away.
“STOP CRYING MOTHER!” Lulu hollered as she was restrained to her bed. “FATHER’S EATING ICE CREAM IN FRANCE!”
Alternate ending #2
The moonlight shone on Billie Breslin as she stood calf-deep in the hole she was digging next to Lulu Swan’s grave. Her hair bounced gorgeously everytime the spade hit the dirt.
“Oh, I’ll find you, Lulu Swan. I’ll find you tonight.”
Billie reached down, grabbed a handful of dirt and put it in her mouth. “Coriander,” she said aloud to nobody. “From the great Coriander Disaster of 1992, no doubt. It nearly wiped out all of Akron, and the spice workers were placed in internment camps. A tragedy that should never again happen in America.”
Wearing a dress made of Lulu’s letters crudely taped together, Billie continued to dig. Her naturally toned arms and upper body strength made the chore an easy one. An hour later, she tasted another mouthful of dirt. She recalled the metallic tang from when she licked Genie’s casket at the service and knew she was finally close to meeting Lulu.
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