Book Review ~ The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel

From ~ Loyalty, loss, and the ties that bind. These are the ingredients of The Recipe Club, a “novel cookbook” that combines an authentic story of friendship with more than 80 delicious recipes.  Lilly and Val are lifelong friends, united as much by their differences as by their similarities. Lilly, dramatic and confident, lives in the shadow of her beautiful, wayward mother and craves the attention of her distant, disapproving father. Val, shy and idealistic—and surprisingly ambitious— struggles with her desire to break free from her demanding housebound mother and a father whose dreams never seem to come true.  In childhood, “LillyPad” and “ValPal” form an exclusive two-person club, writing intimate letters in which they share hopes, fears, deepest secrets—and recipes, from Lilly’s “Lovelorn Lasagna” to Valerie’s “Forgiveness Tapenade.” Readers can cook along as the friends travel through time facing the challenges of independence, the joys and heartbreaks of first love, and the emotional complexities of family relationships, identity, mortality, and goals deferred.  The Recipe Club sustains Lilly and Val’s bond through the decades, regardless of what different paths they take or what misunderstandings threaten to break them apart . . . until the fateful day when an act of kindness becomes an unforgivable betrayal.  Now, years later, while trying to recapture the trust they’ve lost, Lilly and Val reunite once more—only to uncover a shocking secret. Will it destroy their friendship, or bring them ever closer?

The Recipe Club A Tale of Food and Friendship: A Novel by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel is a unique book.  I had first heard about this book either on NPR or in The Washington Post, and though I can’t remember exactly where, I knew I had to own this book (in book form and not on the Kindle) and that I had to have it NOW.  So, thanks to one of my birthday presents from my in-laws (a Barnes & Noble gift card), I bought it last week and finished it last night.  I haven’t had time to make any of the recipes but I promise I will and I will post pics here on Planet Books and tell you how the dishes turn out. 

The Recipe Club is a story about two women, the girls they were and the friendship that helped to make them who they are.  Valerie and Lilly are completely different personalities with very different interests and ways of living their lives but they have one thing in common for sure.  FOOD!  The Recipe Club is a constant part of their childhood written correspondence and though they both live in close vicinity to each other, in New York City/Brooklyn, they do keep up with the letters.  

The book starts with Val and Lilly as adults.  They have reconnected after a devestating fight has kept them apart for many years and e-mail is the new form of letter writing.  Then we get the back story.  Starting in 1963 when the girls are ten, we meet young Val and Lilly.  They have already started The Recipe Club, a two person club just for them.  The first recipe is Chocolate Icebox Cake.  The recipes throughout this book do look great but because there are more than eighty recipes that take up every other page in a good part of the book it moves very quickly.  The story is told through letters but you don’t miss anything because of that.  The flow of the story is quick but detailed and the character development is very good.  I did have a favorite girl, Val, but that is probably because I related to her more than Lilly.  Their parents are prominent characters who help to develop the story even more and give the girls many reasons for grief, even in adulthood. 

There are some great twists in this story and I definitely had a hard time putting it down.  Not only is the story pretty good and the recipes look tasty but the book itself (only available in hardcover now) is beautiful.  The artwork on the recipe pages throughout the book  is cool, retro and colorful and the cover with the egg is such a soothing shade of blue/grey I just loved to hold it.  If you had a childhood friend who has continued to be there in adulthood and knows you better than most, and if you like to cook and/or read recipes, than The Recipe Club is the book for you (and that friend).  If you can wing it, I highly recommend picking up the hardcover edition and when you’re done reading it keeping it with your cookbooks.  There is a nice index of all the recipes in the back of the book for easy reference.

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

5 thoughts on “Book Review ~ The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel

  1. Ooo! So glad you enjoyed this. I’d like to borrow it if no one else is waiting patiently ahead of me =) For some reason it makes me want to make butternut squash/ricotta ravioli w/ a sage brown butter sauce.

  2. You’re a peach! I don’t need it NOW now, just eventually when you’re done cooking from it for a little while, I wanted my request to be known =) I’ve got Keeping The House, Unsweetined, and The Alchemist plus whatever L&TC delight Tiffany presents, all in the immediate hopper 😉

  3. I’m on a self-imposed book buying ban (it’s hard to justify buying more when you have the tbr stacks that I have!) so I need to get to the library for this one.

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