Yep, there’s life outside the NYC limits. A simpler one. You’ll find it upstate, where rambling horse farms and stately center-hall colonials pepper the rolling countryside. Think: Hollywood western meets Norman Rockwell.
**Spoiler alert: I owe you ♥ Ruth Reichl ♥ Best Food Writer Of All Time ♥. You are the Delicious reason I came to Chatham.
I used to think the only Chatham worth its sea salt was on Cape Cod until my quest for Delicious landed me in a pastoral village at the northern edge of the Hudson Valley. Railroad tracks slice through this town, a place with a gritty blue-collar history and a restored Richardson-inspired railroad station.
Chatham, NY isn’t gentrified or touristy. Miles of unpaved road wind through town. The Borden’s Pond Preserve, a 62-acre woodland paradise, is a few steps from Main St.
There’s a little bit of magic here, in this down-to-earth village. Art galleries, yoga studios, coffee shops and restaurants, a bookstore and a brewery coexist with the industrial-revolution past. This little burg serves up Delicious at every turn. Like here, at Ralph’s pretty good Café.
The Crandell Theatre, an old-style movie house still in operation, shows first-run films. Wooden chairs, lantern lights and a balcony make the theater a true landmark, and at $5 a ticket, an inconceivable bargain.
My search for Delicious takes me down streets lined with Victorian houses……
…to the historic village library.
There, in plain sight, is a wall-sized window, a Tiffany treasure amid the stacks.
The Chatham Public Library, built in 1905, was funded by financier Andrew Carnegie.
(For you history buffs, a note: When the Carnegie Foundation gave funds for the library in the early 1900s, officials pledged that they would furnish the site and support the place forever. Now that’s a gift that keeps on giving.)
Carnegie had a knack for being very productive, talented, and finding himself in the right place and time.
So does Ruth Reichl. And she’s gracious to boot.
Reichl has a knack for cooking and gathers her knowledge of food from teachers and tart-makers. Delicious, her first novel, is light, but, oh, so rich and satisfying. Chatham was the last stop on her book tour. Lucky me, I had a front row seat inside Carnegie’s gift to the locals.
I savor every generous serving of Ruth Reichl’s food-writing ~ her tweets, essays, memoirs, grocery lists, what she eats. Especially about what she eats.
“I had this wonderful steamed dim sum that was fantastic. My favorite thing was this kind of lamb sandwich. It was a flat, sesame-crusted bread and it had this wonderful, really cumin-y lamb inside. The textures were really nice. The bread was really crusty and then yielded to softness, and then you’ve got the meat in the middle.…It was totally irresistible.”
Ruth Reichel can make my mouth water in less than 140 characters.
But I’m glad she chose a longer form.
Delicious is her first novel.
It’s totally irresistible.
Prefer memoir? Ruth Reichl’s are flesh-and-blood priceless.