Here's an unintended consequence of the proliferation of memoirs from “ordinary” people: We now run into characters from our favorite books in our own everyday lives. Last week, for instance, we had dinner at Delancey, a new Seattle restaurant with wood-fired pizzas, salads fresh from the farmers markets, and raspberry popsicles so bright and pretty my toddler cried when his was gone. The man behind the lovely little place is Brandon Pettit. We know and like him, in the same two-degrees-of-separation way we know a lot of Seattle's food community. But we know him on a far different level - how he met his wife, the details of their first kiss, that he snores when he has a cold – through the eyes of wife Molly Wizenberg, chronicled in her bestselling memoir, “A Homemade Life.”
Most hotly awaited restaurants have a hard time when they first open. Expectations are at their highest in those early days, exactly when the staff and kitchen are working out last-minute kinks. And Delancey seems bound to have doubly-steep expectations dogging it from its crossover literary fandom. People will be eager not just to sample a promising-sounding pizza place, but to see the people and taste the foods they already know and love on the page, between Wizenberg’s book and “Orangette” blog.
The difficulty of drawing a line between an author’s fans and friends isn’t new to the Internet age. (Check out chapter three of Louisa May Alcott’s “Jo’s Boys,” published in 1886, for a fabulous fictionalized description of the same.) But a restaurant, by its nature, issues an invitation to the public, to come inside and get friendly.
Delancey, I think from our stop at a “pre-opening” dinner, will be good enough to be a destination on its own merits. But the fact that its glorious chocolate chip cookies, topped with salt, were made by book heroine Molly, the fact that true love Brandon was manning the wood-fired oven, is bound to make the restaurant a literary pilgrimage as well.
This way, at least in one way, readers get to be part of the story too.