Ruth Reichl Talks New Novel at Books & Books
Ruth Reichl has a résumé any food writer would envy. As a national bestselling author, restaurant critic for both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, and editor-in-chief of Condé Nast's former Gourmet magazine, she has made her mark in the culinary world. Now, she is dipping her toes in the fiction literary pool, a genre she considers the "most important thing in life."
Photo by Cassie Glenn
On Mother's Day, Reichl spoke at Books & Books in Coral Gables about today's food-obsessed generation, the inspiration behind her new novel, and what she has to say to critics.
After working at Gourmet, Reichl went on to head the editorial side of the short-lived division of The Gilt Groupe, Gilt Taste. There, she worked closely with recent college grads and realized just how different the new generation was from her own.
"My generation had it easy," Reichl said. "This generation, there aren't jobs. These kids were grateful to have a job, are unbelievably hardworking and saw each setback as an opportunity. They don't expect everything to come to them and when it does, they're ready to absorb it."
It was these kids, who also happened to be entrenched in food, that inspired the main character in her new book, Delicious!: A Novel. Protagonist Bille Breslin leaves California to take a job at Delicious!, NYC's most iconic (fictional) food magazine. When the publication is abruptly shuttered, Billie discovers letters in the abandoned office written during World War II by 12-year-old Lulu Swan to renowned chef James Beard. Through these exchanges, the story unfolds in a manner that labels this piece under "coming of age" and "family saga."
Reichl was inspired to write this story after finding real letters in the old Gourmet office. While those she found were general office mail like recipe requests and complaints sent to the magazine, she decided to write some of her own; ones that she would actually find interesting from the perspective of a curious little girl. She compares herself most to the character of Lulu.