I’ve spoken of devouring books, and that is an apropos way to describe how I consumed Ruth Reichl’s Delicious! A Novel. I wolfed that sucker down. They say write what you know, and when it comes to the food magazine business, Reichl knows from whence she speaks. She edited Gourmet, the much-loved, dearly departed food magazine, for years. Delicious! is the tale of a young girl named Billie at a food magazine that is closing shop, and the mysteries she uncovers in the magazine’s library.
If this book were a cake, it would be half coming-of-age story, half mystery, and. . .oh wait I can’t have a third half? Well then the icing on the top of our cake would be the rich descriptions of food lavished throughout. Fortunately, I am an icing fan—the more the better. The meals that our narrator Billie encounters, and the cheeses she slings for her side-job at the cheese shop will make you ravenous for more.
Reichl was writing what she knows when it comes to the food magazine biz, but one can’t help but wonder if she was writing what she wished she knew when it comes to much of Billie’s life. In the beginning, Billie seems incredibly lucky: landing a dream job, being plied with food left and right, working amongst gorgeous men, living the life of a young Manhattanite who is falling in love—all of it is improbably sexy. Or maybe her life is that sexy, in which case, more power to Ruth! There are, however, some dark secrets surrounding Billie’s sister, the seemingly perfect Genie, and a struggle for self-esteem. I guess it wasn’t all roses. Unless they were on a cake and made of buttercream.
Back to the book-as-cake metaphor—there were some sprinkles and frosted curlicues I could have done without: one too many happy coincidences, and a weird love affair between Billie’s aunt and father. It was not enough to leave me with a bellyache though. Actually, it left me hungry, so let’s get into this week’s recipe, shall we?
The book begins with Billie’s quest to perfect the gingerbread cake that her mother used to make. In the spirit of family recipes I decided to give you a killer ginger-y recipe that my grandmother made. My entire family is rather obsessed with these. If a snicker doodle cookie and a gingerbread cake had a baby, it would be this molasses cookie. Bon appetit!
Molasses Cookies from Grandma Clifford
- 3/4 cup shortening
- 1 cup brown sugar (I use light brown)
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I prefer unbleached)
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
- 1 heaping tsp. ginger
- 1/2 tsp. cloves
- sugar for topping
Beat the shortening and brown sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs and molasses. Mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a separate bowl then sift over the molasses mixture and mix in. Chill dough one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put some sugar (regular granulated) in a small bowl. Lightly grease a baking sheet or coat with with nonstick spray. Break off walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll into balls, then roll in sugar. Bake 9-12 minutes. You want them set, but not hard. Remove from the tray while still warm. Makes 3-4 dozen.