You are what you eat (and read)

Delicious! is a novel by Ruth Reichl, a former editor for Gourmet Magazine. AP photo

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Avery Canapini/Columnist

I should preface this article by reminding everyone that Valentine’s Day is coming up in a few weeks. (As if you could forget “¦ hearts and tiny, cherubic figures are everywhere).

I should also mention that, as an Italian-Canadian, I was brought up with the notion that all big life events and holidays can, and should, be celebrated with food. With that particular thought in mind, I’d like to introduce some of my favourite romantic, food-centered novels to peruse as we move closer and closer to Valentine’s Day.

– Delicious! by Ruth Reichl, a former editor for Gourmet Magazine. The story is about Billie Breslin, who has taken a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, Billie feels like a fish out of water — until she is welcomed by the magazine’s colourful staff. When Delicious! is abruptly shut down, Billie agrees to stay on, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints.

“‹To Billie’s surprise, she finds a cache of letters written during the Second World War by 12-year-old Lulu Swan to the legendary chef, James Beard. Lulu’s letters provide Billie with a richer understanding of history, and the young writer inspires Billie to come to terms with her fears, her big sister and her ability to open her heart to love.

– The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, and its sequel, The Lost Art of Mixing. Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian’s restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect “¦

The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian’s dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each is searching for something beyond the kitchen.

The sequel revisits Lillian and her restaurant, with a host of new characters. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t recovered after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect “¦

Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given.

– The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. Emily Benedict has come to Mullaby, N.C., hoping to solve some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbour, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, not only wishing to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth, but also dreaming of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever.

Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

I hope these books inspire you to create your own culinary masterpieces. We’d love it if you posted them to our social media, on Facebook or Instagram, tag @GSPLibrary with #youarewhatyouread.

— Avery Canapini is a citizen service representative at the Lively Public Library.

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