Delancey (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch

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Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage
Molly Wizenberg, 2014
256 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
September 2014

Molly Wizenberg is an accomplished woman: a successful food blogger and published book author. Yet here she is at one in the morning sobbing into salad greens and mopping the floor. She's exhausted beyond measure.

Her problem is that she's co-owner of a restaurant—one she doesn't like and doesn't want. The other problem is that the success of the restaurant is intimately bound up with the success of her marriage—the co-owner being her husband. This is Molly's memoir, and it's delightful.

Molly and Brandon shared a mutual passion for cooking and good food right from the start; it's what brought them together. The restaurant, however, is Brandon's idea. It's a passing whim, Molly figures, just like all his other wacky ideas—the violin-making, boat-building, and ice cream shop. Except Molly figures wrong: this whim is for keeps.

It takes them nearly two years to find a locale, rehab it, equip it, staff it, create menus, figure out food amounts, find vendors, learn bookkeeping...and run out of money. All of it involves back-breaking work with plenty of sleepless nights.

But eventually Brandon and Molly get Delancey up and running, and how that transpires makes up the bulk of Wizenberg's book. Still, even once the restaurant opens, the nonstop work...and the flour dust...take their toll. Here's that one-in-the-morning crying jag:

I can't believe I have to mop this stupid, stupid stupid floor. Why does pizza have to be so messy? Why is pizza so STUPID? Maybe if I impale myself on this broom handle, I can go to the hospital, and MAYBE THERE I CAN ACTUALLY GET SOME SLEEP.

Molly's worst fear is that the restaurant won't succeed; her very worst fear is that it will. And that's the critical juncture at which she begins to understand something about herself—what she is good at, what she isn't, the kind of person she is, and the kind she wants to be. Lessons for life.

Wizenberg manages to be funny, tender, and informative. Her account may be overly detailed for some, but I love process—learning, step by step, how things work, how things get done. For me that's much of this book's draw. But even it's not your thing, there's still the absolutely charming, funny voice of Molly Wizenberg.

Oh, and did I mention the recipes? Twenty or so are interspersed throughout, making the entire book a real treat.

See our Reading Guide for Delancey.

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