Ask any television ratings analyst, foodie, or cult follower of today's celebuchefs: Cooking shows mean real big business. They are constantly shifting formats to adapt to trends, and a new personality to front an empire of food synergy is sometimes just a YouTube clip or Today Show segment away. This is the world of Kate Jacobs's second novel, Comfort Food, which follows a Barefoot Contessa/Julia Child-type cooking-show mainstay, Augusta "Gus" Simpson, as she warily approaches her 50th birthday. Faced with low ratings and the threat of fresh faces like Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, and the Naked Chef, Gus is forced to change her show's format to a live program co-hosted by an ambitious former Miss Spain, Carmen Vega. Relationships are examined and strengthened as Gus invites friends onto her show, including her reclusive neighbor and her two adult daughters, air-headed Sabrina and intellectual Aimee. Jacobs's first novel, Friday Night Knitting Club, was a hit, and will probably be a smash on the big screen as well—Julia Roberts is set to star—and it's easy to imagine rom-com celebs like Cameron Diaz or Kate Hudson playing parts in Comfort as well. The playful, summer reading feel of Jacobs's second novel should make it as popular with insatiable consumers of cooking shows as her first was with knitting circles and book clubs.
Sat., May 10, 3 p.m., 2008