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At an early age, Ruth Reichl discovered that "food could be a way of making sense of the world. . . . If you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were." Her deliciously crafted memoir, Tender at the Bone, is the story of a life determined, enhanced, and defined in equal measure by a passion for food, unforgettable people, and the love of tales well told. At an early age, Ruth Reichl discovered that "food could be a way of making sense of the world. . . . If you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were." Her deliciously crafted memoir, Tender at the Bone, is the story of a life determined, enhanced, and defined in equal measure by a passion for food, unforgettable people, and the love of tales well told. Beginning with Reichl's mother, the notorious food-poisoner known as the Queen of Mold, Reichl introduces us to the fascinating characters who shaped her world and her tastes, from the gourmand Monsieur du Croix, who served Reichl her first soufflé , to those at her politically correct table in Berkeley who championed the organic food revolution in the 1970s. Spiced with Reichl's infectious humor and sprinkled with her favorite recipes, Tender at the Bone is a witty and compelling chronicle of a culinary sensualist's coming-of-age.


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At an early age, Ruth Reichl discovered that "food could be a way of making sense of the world. . . . If you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were." Her deliciously crafted memoir, Tender at the Bone, is the story of a life determined, enhanced, and defined in equal measure by a passion for food, unforgettable people, and the love of tales well told. At an early age, Ruth Reichl discovered that "food could be a way of making sense of the world. . . . If you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were." Her deliciously crafted memoir, Tender at the Bone, is the story of a life determined, enhanced, and defined in equal measure by a passion for food, unforgettable people, and the love of tales well told. Beginning with Reichl's mother, the notorious food-poisoner known as the Queen of Mold, Reichl introduces us to the fascinating characters who shaped her world and her tastes, from the gourmand Monsieur du Croix, who served Reichl her first soufflé , to those at her politically correct table in Berkeley who championed the organic food revolution in the 1970s. Spiced with Reichl's infectious humor and sprinkled with her favorite recipes, Tender at the Bone is a witty and compelling chronicle of a culinary sensualist's coming-of-age.

30 review for Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table

  1. 5 out of 5

    Idarah

    I wuv you, Ruthie! The wannabe Bohemian in me avoids national bestsellers. I refuse to be classified as a lemming! I've come to find out that most the time, if a lot of people agree that something is worth reading...it usually is! Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table is one of these books. It was a delectible read, so much so that I greedily scarfed each chapter on my rail commutes to and from work..and then unabashedly licked my fingers afterwards. I had to force myself not to read anyth I wuv you, Ruthie! The wannabe Bohemian in me avoids national bestsellers. I refuse to be classified as a lemming! I've come to find out that most the time, if a lot of people agree that something is worth reading...it usually is! Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table is one of these books. It was a delectible read, so much so that I greedily scarfed each chapter on my rail commutes to and from work..and then unabashedly licked my fingers afterwards. I had to force myself not to read anything at home, and I still finished it in less than a week! Reichl is a great storyteller—that's the barebones truth. I would forget that I was reading a memoir. She lovingly kneads childhood and adolescent anecdotes and then ties them all back to a favorite dish, complete with a detailed recipe. Genius! It doesn't stop there, she takes her audience all over the world in the process, especially when she relates her college years and early married life. Did I mention that she is incredibly funny?! I'd find myself quietly laughing at some of the interesting people she came across and the hilarious situations she would get herself into. It was counter balanced with some sad truths here and there. Whose life isn't, right? But when life hands you lemons, do the Ruthie thing...and make an amazing lemon souffle! Although I'm not much of a baker (cooking is muuuuch more in my line of expertise), I am determined to try my hand at some of the French and Moroccan pastries she shares. It wasn't until the very end when I realized that she is the famous New York Times food critic. Follow up reading about her personal life "around the table" include Comfort Me with Apples and Garlic and Sapphires, which chronicles some of her best restaurant critic adventures. I intend to read both during the course of the summer. There's a French food idiom that encompasses her writing for me: Être comme un coq en pâte. I'm sure you'll agree after you finish reading this book!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Having thoroughly enjoyed Garlic and Sapphires, I was thrilled to find this first of Reichl's memoirs on the 2-for-3 table at Barnes & Noble. In the preface, Reichl admits to modifying certain stories for dramatic effect. But unless she's made entire years out of whole cloth, she's lived one hell of an interesting life. Throughout it all, the power of a meal -- sometimes spectacular, sometimes spectacularly bad -- has been a constant. And to be honest, I don't care if the tale's been embroidered, Having thoroughly enjoyed Garlic and Sapphires, I was thrilled to find this first of Reichl's memoirs on the 2-for-3 table at Barnes & Noble. In the preface, Reichl admits to modifying certain stories for dramatic effect. But unless she's made entire years out of whole cloth, she's lived one hell of an interesting life. Throughout it all, the power of a meal -- sometimes spectacular, sometimes spectacularly bad -- has been a constant. And to be honest, I don't care if the tale's been embroidered, and I don't really care about Reichl's ultimate success as a critic. Growing up in Greenwich Village in the fifties with her loving, but distracted father, her manic-depressive mother, and her not-blood-but-close-enough grandmothers; her wanderings around the Bowery on the edges of the early seventies art scene; her accidental creation of a commune in Berkeley -- it's an entertaining, slow-unfolding story, accentuated by the recipes she encounters along the way.

  3. 4 out of 5

    aarya

    More interesting things have happened in one day of Ruth Reichl’s life than my entire existence. Seriously. My life is so boring! Definitely preferred the first half to the second half, but still a very entertaining food memoir.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    The culinary memoirs I've read prior to this one have been written by a different sort of chef. Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, Marcus Samuelsson. With that kind of background, it's probably not too surprising that I feel let down by Reichl's first memoir. The beginnings (of both the book and her life) were pretty good. Interesting, fun, funny, and one anecdote seemed to lead to the next easily. The stories of Alice and Aunt Birdie were the best parts of the book. My main complaint with the early ye The culinary memoirs I've read prior to this one have been written by a different sort of chef. Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, Marcus Samuelsson. With that kind of background, it's probably not too surprising that I feel let down by Reichl's first memoir. The beginnings (of both the book and her life) were pretty good. Interesting, fun, funny, and one anecdote seemed to lead to the next easily. The stories of Alice and Aunt Birdie were the best parts of the book. My main complaint with the early years was a pet peeve of mine: authors who insist on peppering their English writing with non-English conversations that can only be guessed at. Agatha Christie was a big offender in this way with her Poirot novels, but at least the context made it clear what Poirot was saying for those of us who don't speak French. Reichl did not do the reader that favour, and I ended up using the Google Translate app in order to truly understand Reichl's time in Montreal. Otherwise, I found the first part of the book to be enjoyable. Then Reichl returned from Montreal and, frankly, became someone I wouldn't want to know. Throughout the rest of the book she seemed so self-satisfied and arrogant. She also seemed to feel that it was important that she constantly remind the reader that this was the 1960s and while everyone around her was racist, SHE just was NOT! ~rolls eyes~ After all, SHE had a black best friend, and a black close friend who was nearly a boyfriend, and a black family that she welcomed into her house as their social worker, and she visited all sorts of Puerto Rican establishments and and and...blech. Just too proud of herself and not seemingly aware at all of her massive privilege. She grew up in a family that summered in a different home than they wintered. She was sent, impulsively, to a boarding school in another country. She was taken, again impulsively, to Europe. She knew she was headed to college as a matter of course, and was able to do so out-of-state. She vacationed in North Africa. She was able to live in her parents' New York apartment because they lived elsewhere. With that background, a lot of her talk of drunk partying, bohemian lifestyles, and stopping in at filthy neighborhood fishmongers felt like she was slumming self-congratulatorily. I did get a kick out of some of the New York neighborhood bits, in that I recently watched an episode of some Food Network show that visited culinarily-historic NYC businesses, and several of those were places Reichl mentioned. It was funny to read her 1960s memories of those places compared to the public 2012 face of the same spots. I had hopes that the NorCal section would make up for the negative Ann Arbor and post-Masters-degree NYC years, since I'm a Bay Area girl born and raised and Berkeley is a part of me. But no. She seemed to be both full of pride in her crunchy-hippie lifestyle and full of judgment for the crunchy-hippies she lived with. Much of the book was a denouncement of her bi-polar mother, and yeah, life with an undiagnosed "manic-depressive" (as it was still being called at the time) parent is not a picnic. But all sympathy that was built up on that score was lost when Reichl wrote that if her mother had been normal, she (Ruth) wouldn't have been present for the 100th birthday celebration of one of her favourite people. She wrote that her mother's illness was the dysfunctional glue that held them all together. If that's true, and with a "normal" mother she would have just walked away from her family and ignored all holidays, events, etc., then it doesn't say much for Reichl. Even as a married woman of 29 she was presenting herself as a spoiled child, grumpy and snotty when she wasn't getting attention but her husband was, shouting at people who suggested she help her mother, ignoring her father's pleas for assistance, and metaphorically stomping her feet about not getting to just do what she wanted and instead having to go straighten out the mess of a loved one's special day. An impulsive wine-tasting trip to France with a near-stranger was a story that seemed shoehorned in, and the dumpster-diving politically-correct vegetarian bohemian suddenly eating shark's fin soup and sea turtles was a jarring ending. If I didn't know there was a second volume I'd have been very confused at the abrupt finish. Because I enjoyed the beginning of this one, and because I already have it, I'm giving Comfort Me With Apples a try. Here's hoping that she relaxed about herself a bit in the 3 years between writing the two books.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Charming and amusing account of how food critic Reichl got tuned into cooking through her family experiences and explorations in her young adult period. Her manic depressive mother was hopeless as a cook, even dangerous, as when she wasn’t using canned ingredients, she used bargain foods dangerously past their expiration dates. Instead, her inspiration came from an elderly aunt and her maid. What she learned at an early age she used to great advantage in her teen years to draw a good social crow Charming and amusing account of how food critic Reichl got tuned into cooking through her family experiences and explorations in her young adult period. Her manic depressive mother was hopeless as a cook, even dangerous, as when she wasn’t using canned ingredients, she used bargain foods dangerously past their expiration dates. Instead, her inspiration came from an elderly aunt and her maid. What she learned at an early age she used to great advantage in her teen years to draw a good social crowd around food. Experience with French cuisine from a sojourn at a boarding school and with Caribbean food from a college room-mate put her on a path that led to working in an upscale vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco while essentially living in commune with her husband. The book is fun because she places recipes in the context of her life when they had a big impact, from simple potato salad and deviled eggs to Beef Bougoinon. The approach is homey and soothing, although not as exciting as the way sensual dishes are placed in the fictional “Like Water for Chocolate” or as entertaining as the accounts of challenging preparations for Child dishes in the memoir “Julie and Julia”.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Moonkiszt

    Of all the Ruth Reichl books I have read, this is my favorite so far! It is full of delightful stories about why she is who she is and who is to blame, or what happened to cause it, or discoveries made while all on her lonesome. Her writing is riddled throughout with humor and her life stories, all with a tie to food. I first read her books as a book club choice, but they didn't hit me as deeply as this one. In our book club discussions I expressed this and basically said I was probably not going Of all the Ruth Reichl books I have read, this is my favorite so far! It is full of delightful stories about why she is who she is and who is to blame, or what happened to cause it, or discoveries made while all on her lonesome. Her writing is riddled throughout with humor and her life stories, all with a tie to food. I first read her books as a book club choice, but they didn't hit me as deeply as this one. In our book club discussions I expressed this and basically said I was probably not going to read any more of her work as I am just not a "foodie." There was one friend who kept saying, ". . .but there is another one, her first I think, I liked best. . ." She couldn't remember the name, and I forgot and moved on. This last holiday season a friend gave me a copy of J. Mustich's book of 1000 books to read before you die, and there, right under the "R"s you will find this book listed. I finally found it, have now read it, and yes. I agree - best of all her books! Stocked with yummy recipes, we've started going through them, the ones that apply to us (we are not big meat eaters . . .although the first we tried was Claritha's Fried Chicken recipe and it was a big hit! Devil's food cake is on this week's list. 4 stars, bring your own napkins and silverware.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    I’m not normally a big fan of books about food. They always leave me cursing my limited culinary abilities and hungry for foods that are far outside of my price range, not to mention excluded by various personal dietary choices. I likely never would have picked up anything by Ruth Reichl had I not found myself uncharacteristically bookless while lounging in the park this past weekend and in need of diversion. Fortunately a friend had a copy of this deep in the bottom of her bag and I was able to I’m not normally a big fan of books about food. They always leave me cursing my limited culinary abilities and hungry for foods that are far outside of my price range, not to mention excluded by various personal dietary choices. I likely never would have picked up anything by Ruth Reichl had I not found myself uncharacteristically bookless while lounging in the park this past weekend and in need of diversion. Fortunately a friend had a copy of this deep in the bottom of her bag and I was able to while away an afternoon in my preferred manner. A book that is part biography, part paean to the glory of the kitchen, and part cookbook, Tender At The Bone is one of the quickest reads I’ve had all year. Ruth Reichl is editor of Gourmet magazine and her long years in the magazine industry are evident in her writing style. Chapters are short and to the point (no frippery for her) and punctuated by a recipe of whatever delicious creation she has been reminiscing about. These vignettes follow Ruth and her lifelong relationship with food- from her mother’s inability to tell when food has spoiled to her first gig waitressing to her membership in a Berkeley restaurant collective to a delicious and educational trip through French wine country. Initially I was put off by the early scenes of her learning to cook from her family’s servants (scenarios of privilege such as these always tend to fan the flames of my class resentment) but I can get over the fact that, trite though they are, this is life as this woman has experienced it. On the whole the story is better off when Ruth allows herself to be overcome with the delight she feels in food, several descriptions had me salivating like some Pavlovian pooch and wishing I knew people who could cook these fantastic confections for me. Like I said, it is a quick read that won’t stick with you long (though the recipes may), but enjoyable in a pinch. I doubt I’ll rush out and buy the rest of her books, but should one fall into my hands on a plane ride or another sunny day, I wouldn’t complain.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kiwi Begs2Differ ✎

    I like reading challenges because, every now and then, you get lucky and you stumble on something you would never read otherwise. This book is the perfect example, if you, like me, thought that food memoirs would be boring and uninspiring, try this book. It’s a delicious memoirs sprinkled with exquisite travel memories and a handful of recipes. What an unexpected delight! Recommended.

  9. 5 out of 5

    PorshaJo

    I really enjoy reading about food and Ruth Reichl never disappoints. Though not so much about food as other books I have read, but more of a story of her life and how food played a role in it. I enjoyed the different recipes that she added to the book and have marked a few to make for my husband. I always find recipes interesting and enjoy them even more when there is a story that comes along with them. I loved Reichl's book Garlic and Sapphires and now might have to re-read it. Both a must read I really enjoy reading about food and Ruth Reichl never disappoints. Though not so much about food as other books I have read, but more of a story of her life and how food played a role in it. I enjoyed the different recipes that she added to the book and have marked a few to make for my husband. I always find recipes interesting and enjoy them even more when there is a story that comes along with them. I loved Reichl's book Garlic and Sapphires and now might have to re-read it. Both a must read for any food lover.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I had a whole review written and ready to be posted when I accidentally trashed it. Grrr.... Just let it be known, Reichl is one of my all-time favorite food writers. She could write the telephone book and it would be wonderful!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    This is a memoir built around food--and as Reichl put it, she decided that instead of pictures she'd give recipes throughout to paint a picture of her relationships. The Author's Note tells us, "Everything here is true, but it may not be entirely factual. In some cases I have compressed events; in others I have made two people into one. I have occasionally embroidered." That sort of thing usually bugs the hell out of me. It didn't here. Maybe because Reichl was open about it from the beginning-- This is a memoir built around food--and as Reichl put it, she decided that instead of pictures she'd give recipes throughout to paint a picture of her relationships. The Author's Note tells us, "Everything here is true, but it may not be entirely factual. In some cases I have compressed events; in others I have made two people into one. I have occasionally embroidered." That sort of thing usually bugs the hell out of me. It didn't here. Maybe because Reichl was open about it from the beginning--maybe just because she's such an engaging writer and personality. She said she didn't want to get in the way of a good story, and she's a good enough storyteller and more that I forgive her. The book wasn't found in the biography section of my neighborhood bookstore, but rather in the cookbook section, in "food writing." So, you might expect you have to be a real foodie to love this--yet I'm not really and yet did love it. Part of that is that this is a lot more than an ode to food. A lot more. It's about growing up in New York City's Washington Heights in the early 60s, and a boarding school in Montreal, and coming to adulthood in Michigan in late sixties and early seventies Berkeley California. It's about travels to Tunisia and Greece, Italy and France. It's about dealing with a crazy mother, the deterioration of a cherished friendship and love. It's tender, yes--in more than one sense. And often quite funny. I found myself very much amused at the picture of the very hippie era. Oh, and there is the food. And she has a gift in describing it and connecting it to her life. Here's her description of her first taste of Brie: "I felt Monsieur du Croix watching as I ate the strong, slippery cheese. It was so powerful I felt the tips of my ears go pink." She gives us not just the taste, but the colors, the sensations. This was just so fun to read on several different levels. Highly recommended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This was a really well written food memoir from a time when food memoirs weren’t really a thing. I felt it was a bit of a cross between “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel and “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel for the family antics mixed with recipes from the narration. I didn’t really know anything about the author, so I found the bits about her family or personally life more interesting than how she wound up in her career of food writer, but they are all tied together. The only recipe I mi This was a really well written food memoir from a time when food memoirs weren’t really a thing. I felt it was a bit of a cross between “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel and “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel for the family antics mixed with recipes from the narration. I didn’t really know anything about the author, so I found the bits about her family or personally life more interesting than how she wound up in her career of food writer, but they are all tied together. The only recipe I might make is for the brownies :P Overall, I really enjoyed it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Roberta

    Let me say first of all that this book made me realize (sadly) just how dull my own life has been. Ruth Reichl has certainly had an interesting and rather bohemian lifestyle, picking up and traveling here and there without much deliberation and tasting all manner of exotic dishes. There's a real sense of joy in that. The freedom! The unconventionality! Since cooking is most definitely NOT my thing, the recipes were incidental to me. It was Ruth's lifestyle and relationships that interested me muc Let me say first of all that this book made me realize (sadly) just how dull my own life has been. Ruth Reichl has certainly had an interesting and rather bohemian lifestyle, picking up and traveling here and there without much deliberation and tasting all manner of exotic dishes. There's a real sense of joy in that. The freedom! The unconventionality! Since cooking is most definitely NOT my thing, the recipes were incidental to me. It was Ruth's lifestyle and relationships that interested me much more than her recipes. And she had a way dropping names that was not offensive.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.5) I’ve read Reichl’s memoirs out of order, starting with Garlic and Sapphires, about her time as a New York Times food critic, and moving on to Comfort Me with Apples, about her involvement in California foodie culture in the 1970s–80s. Whether because I’d been primed by the disclaimer in the author’s note (“I have occasionally embroidered. I learned early that the most important thing in life is a good story”) or not, I sensed that certain characters and scenes were exaggerated here. Althou (3.5) I’ve read Reichl’s memoirs out of order, starting with Garlic and Sapphires, about her time as a New York Times food critic, and moving on to Comfort Me with Apples, about her involvement in California foodie culture in the 1970s–80s. Whether because I’d been primed by the disclaimer in the author’s note (“I have occasionally embroidered. I learned early that the most important thing in life is a good story”) or not, I sensed that certain characters and scenes were exaggerated here. Although I didn’t enjoy her memoir of her first 30 years as much as either of the other two I’d read, it was still worth reading. The cover image is a genuine photograph taken by Reichl’s German immigrant father, book designer Ernst Reichl, in 1955. Early on, Reichl had to fend for herself in the kitchen: her bipolar mother hoarded discount food even it was moldy, so the family quickly learned to avoid her dishes made with ingredients that were well past their best. Like Eric Asimov and Anthony Bourdain, whose memoirs I’ve also reviewed this summer, Reichl got turned on to food by a top-notch meal in France. Food was a form of self-expression as well as an emotional crutch in many situations to come: during boarding school in Montreal, her rebellious high school years, and while living off of trendy grains and Dumpster finds at a co-op in Berkeley. Reichl worked with food in many ways during her twenties. She was a waitress during college in Michigan, and a restaurant collective co-owner in California; she gave cooking lessons; she catered parties; and she finally embarked on a career as a restaurant critic. Her travels took her to France (summer camp counselor; later, wine aficionado), Morocco (with her college roommate), and Crete (a honeymoon visit to her favorite professor). Raised in New York City, she makes her way back there frequently, too. Overall, the book felt a bit scattered to me, with few if any recipes that I would choose to make, and the relationship with a mentally ill mother was so fraught that I will probably avoid Reichl’s two later books focusing on her mother. Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kats

    This is a truly wonderful food memoir I got to enjoy during my weeks of "detoxing". As I wasn't allowed to eat sugar, wheat, fish, meat, or dairy, I ate vicariously through Ruth Reichl's delicious sounding recipes that she used to take us through the various decades and destinations of her rich life to date. I so enjoyed "getting to know" her, her friends, her mild-mannered father, her highly strung (to put it mildly) mother, and her husband. I am full of admiration for this talented woman; some This is a truly wonderful food memoir I got to enjoy during my weeks of "detoxing". As I wasn't allowed to eat sugar, wheat, fish, meat, or dairy, I ate vicariously through Ruth Reichl's delicious sounding recipes that she used to take us through the various decades and destinations of her rich life to date. I so enjoyed "getting to know" her, her friends, her mild-mannered father, her highly strung (to put it mildly) mother, and her husband. I am full of admiration for this talented woman; someone who clearly is not only an amazing cook, but also a gifted writer, a brilliant organiser, a loyal, kind friend and a supportive wife and daughter. I can't wait to read another one of her books, but I especially can't wait to try out her recipe for the Lemon Soufflé now that my detox diet is over. :-)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pixelina

    Nice read about a food critic growing up with a bi-polar mom and how she came to love food. Interesting when she writes on living in Berkeley in the 70:ies. Might try and find some more of her books. Oh and I will try some of the recipes too!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)

    I'm sorry I couldn't enjoy this book more. The writing is good, with flashes of brilliance. The recipes sound luscious, though so calorie-laden (and in some cases so expensive) that I'd never think of preparing them. The title phrase "tender at the bone" is never incorporated into any of the cooking anecdotes that are interwoven into the memoir, but that's just by the way. I was expecting a warm, tender memoir on how food had shaped her life, and in part that's what it is, so that's not the prob I'm sorry I couldn't enjoy this book more. The writing is good, with flashes of brilliance. The recipes sound luscious, though so calorie-laden (and in some cases so expensive) that I'd never think of preparing them. The title phrase "tender at the bone" is never incorporated into any of the cooking anecdotes that are interwoven into the memoir, but that's just by the way. I was expecting a warm, tender memoir on how food had shaped her life, and in part that's what it is, so that's not the problem. No, my problem is with the enormous bitterness that threads the narrative. OK, her mother was bipolar, and for many years undiagnosed and untreated. I've lived with a bipolar person, and I know it can be hell on earth. Even after they get treatment, you can't be sure they'll take their medication: when they're in a depressive phase, they can honestly forget, and when they go manic, they're convinced that "they don't need that stuff." But why use the cooking memoir as an excuse to air one's family issues and repeatedly castigate the "guilty" one over 200 pages? (As if bipolar people do it in purpose just to hassle ya. I'm sure that's what it felt like before diagnosis, but after, perhaps her daughter should have got some therapy to deal with her own issues.) If it helps, I guess...but it made for painful reading. So her mother was a rotten cook--literally, as she often tried to feed her family and guests spoiled food. Dressing that up with "humour" about how the authoress "saved" others is revealing. So it led to Ms Reichl's lifelong love affair with food (particularly the heavy, calorie-rich comforting kind)--but apparently it also led to an adolescent drinking problem that she refers to as...what? Certainly not as what it was. But honey, if you're drinking up your parents' supply of liquor while still in highschool, and you think that filling the bottles up with water will keep them from noticing? You've got a problem. The authoress' issues come to a head toward the end of the book as she repeatedly flees the entire east coast (when not overjoyed to find an apartment in a neighbourhood that is "so dangerous her mother would never visit") to put as much space between them as possible. Hey, I can relate, I changed continents to get away from the various forms of craziness in my own family. But I also got some professional help to deal with my personal issues, traumas and scars, and I avoided the temptation of published payback. We are led to believe, however, that Ms Reichl was simply "cured" of her growing phobias and panic attacks by one conversation in which a friend did most of the talking, and one meal in a very exclusive restaurant halfway through the final anecdote. Well, I certainly hope so, though I doubt it. I wish Ms Reichl well, but I doubt I'll be reading For You Mom, Finally even though I was offered it by the same person who lent me this one. PS: And I'm sorry, I don't care in which decade she had her wonderful, exclusive Chinese restaurant meal with the ivory and sterling silver tipped chopsticks. Using ivory to eat sea turtle, and enthusing over shark's fin soup...how many endangered species can you cram into a single meal?

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Turner

    Thus book was an absolutely delightful read. The writing was gay and refreshing, humorous and sarcastic, subtle, but at times, brutally honest and critical. So many memoirs chronicle "I did this, then I did thus-and-such, then this happened" and are about as entertaining as a car mechanic narrating an engine tune-up. Boring! Not "Tender at the Bone." Reichl is a magnificent storyteller, growing up around a household of storytellers: Alice, the black nanny and family cook who had a yarn to tell wi Thus book was an absolutely delightful read. The writing was gay and refreshing, humorous and sarcastic, subtle, but at times, brutally honest and critical. So many memoirs chronicle "I did this, then I did thus-and-such, then this happened" and are about as entertaining as a car mechanic narrating an engine tune-up. Boring! Not "Tender at the Bone." Reichl is a magnificent storyteller, growing up around a household of storytellers: Alice, the black nanny and family cook who had a yarn to tell with every lovingly prepared meal; and Aunt Birdie who knew all the family secrets . . . and only reluctantly relinquished them to Ruth over time. And the irascible Mrs. Peavey who refuses to be fired, but never "follows the rules." Ruth would go on later to share some of these food and family stories as a syndicated columnist and restaurant critic for both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, as well as the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. As a long-time subscriber, that's where I "discovered" her, anxiously looking forward to reading her delightfully entertaining editorials in the front of the magazine each month. They prompted me to seek out her other writings, thus I had read a couple of her books before finding Tender at the Bone. Praise for Tender at the Bone -- "Reichl's style is open and funny, and her love of a good meal -- and a good story -- is evident." Library Journal "While all good food writers are humorous . . . few are riotously, effortlessly entertaining as Ruth Reichl." The New York Time Book Review Reichl takes on her journey and struggle through her mother's manic depression, bipolar attacks and prescription for lithium and later, chronicles her own later-in-life panic attacks. We meet her black friend and boarding school roommate, the exotic looking Serafina, as they adventure through Tunisia and North Africa, because "its cheap and no one else goes there." She is mentored by Kermit Lynch, a wine merchant in Berkeley, who takes her on a tour of the wine country in France. She introduces us to Jame Beard, The Who's Who of cooking, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse (Berkeley), and Marion "Fanny Farmer" Cunningham. Ruth paints with words, as the masters of the craft dictate, "Show, don't tell." While discussing one of her students, she elaborated, "She stood there watching for so long that her makeup started melting off . . . By the time I had taught her how to cook pasta . . . her curls had gone straight and her mascara was running down her cheeks." And this: "The night was very black and filled with stars and the air so brittle it felt as if it might shatter into icy shards around us." "We passed through the bar on the way in; it was cold and dark, filled with ham-fisted men clutching tall glasses of frosty beer." "We went to Dad's favorite restaurant, an ancient place with wooden floors worn to velvety grey . . . He liked to eat crab-stuffed shrimp and Key lime pie while waitresses in crepe-soled shoes teased him." The Kirkus Review says, "A savory memoir of Reichl's apprentice years . . . A perfectly balanced screw of memories." Added "bonus:" each chapter ends with one of Reichl's favored recipes. I'm anxious to try the recipe for Con Queso Rice, a savory dish with green chiles, jalapeños, black beans and Jack cheese.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    This is the first of Reichl’s rightly acclaimed memoirs of her life as a foodie. I had long been encouraged to read these books by friends and most of all by both of my daughters. But I was reading other things, and it took years for me to finally get to this book. You should not make this same mistake. The first chapter opens with these words: “This is a true story.” Reichl then proceeds to tell us of a time her mother woke up her father to come into the kitchen taste a spoonful of something. Ev This is the first of Reichl’s rightly acclaimed memoirs of her life as a foodie. I had long been encouraged to read these books by friends and most of all by both of my daughters. But I was reading other things, and it took years for me to finally get to this book. You should not make this same mistake. The first chapter opens with these words: “This is a true story.” Reichl then proceeds to tell us of a time her mother woke up her father to come into the kitchen taste a spoonful of something. Ever agreeable, he did, but then spit the entire mouthful back into the sink. Her mother, feeling justified for having wakened her sleeping husband, said, “Just as I thought. Spoiled!” Reichl then proceeds to tell us that her family seemed to have an innate tolerance for spoiled foods that made other people sick and that her mother frequently cooked with what the rest of us would see as poison. (Thus the title of the first chapter: “Queen of Mold.”) Young Ruth decided it was her mission to save the lives and health of their many dinner guests by steering them away from foods containing questionable ingredients. Okay, not at all the beginning I expected, and I was hooked. Despite being the daughter of a woman who was a lethal (yet joyous) cook, Ruth describes her growing up as a series of discrete episodes, all involving food. Even during the most ill-considered of escapades, Ruth always seem to land on her feet and discover both adventure and mentors everywhere. This book turned out to be as much of a page-turner as the best suspense stories; I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. The book is larded with recipes (as many recipes as there are chapters) learned from her various mentors, including her mother’s recipe for Corned Beef Ham. (Don’t ask.) If having a great story to tell and lots of recipes to share isn’t enough for you, just know that Reichl is one of the better memoir writers out there. Brighten your day: read and enjoy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I can't resist memoirs about foodies. I don't have to even know who they are - if they write about their life with key moments charmed by cooking and good food, I want to read it. Tender at the Bone is the memoir of New York Times food critic, Ruth Reichl. I knew from the first few pages that I would love this book. She immediately relates a highly improbable story told by her father about her childhood, with the message that a good story is far more important than a true story. She confesses tha I can't resist memoirs about foodies. I don't have to even know who they are - if they write about their life with key moments charmed by cooking and good food, I want to read it. Tender at the Bone is the memoir of New York Times food critic, Ruth Reichl. I knew from the first few pages that I would love this book. She immediately relates a highly improbable story told by her father about her childhood, with the message that a good story is far more important than a true story. She confesses that she embellishes some of the stories in her book, and honestly, it's so entertaining I don't mind in the least. You would think a food critic grew up either a) surrounded by great cooks or b) being served great dishes because their family was rich enough to care about food. But Reichl's case had neither. She admits her mother was a terrible cook, always throwing dinner parties with "bargain" foods that were more likely to poison her guests than leave them wanting more. But Reichl cared about food, and when any opportunity presented itself to learn about cooking, selecting or eating fine food, Ruth Reichl grabbed on with both hands. Reichl has obviously lived a remarkable life (even sans embellishments), and that shines in this memoir. I highly recommend Tender at the Bone!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I liked this book but didn't love it. This is a memoir written by a NY Times food critic that manages to intermingle her relationship with food throughout different phases of her life and growing up with a manic-depressive mother. There were recipes interspersed throughout that were relevent to the experience she was talking about. (They were sometimes oddly thrown in, not quite at the right places, which was a little weird.) The book had a binding theme (food) that worked and was well-written. I liked this book but didn't love it. This is a memoir written by a NY Times food critic that manages to intermingle her relationship with food throughout different phases of her life and growing up with a manic-depressive mother. There were recipes interspersed throughout that were relevent to the experience she was talking about. (They were sometimes oddly thrown in, not quite at the right places, which was a little weird.) The book had a binding theme (food) that worked and was well-written. I attribute my luke-warmness on this book as much to a phase I'm in as to the book itself. I guess I'm getting tired of memoirs. They are so self-centered and self-indulgent. (Duh! Isn't that the point?) Memoirs often show who the author thinks she is, but sometimes the audience sees a different person. For example, in this book so many of her mother's strange choices for her actually ended up working out quite well, whereas the author's own choices were often haphazard and short-sighted. I'm not sure that the author actually saw that about herself. Enough rambling... it was a good book. Interesting recipes. Interesting to see how food touched so many aspects of her life. But, I don't think the author did enough soul-searching to make this a truly moving memoir.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Reichl is the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, and this is her memoir about "Growing up at the table." As she tells the stories of her life, growing up with a manic depressive mother, going to boarding school in Montreal, and surviving in a commune in Berkeley, she includes recipes she loves and describes her unique and constant connection with food. Reichl is a good story-teller, and I look forward to trying some of her recipes. I was, however, deeply disturbed by the portrayal of her mothe Reichl is the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, and this is her memoir about "Growing up at the table." As she tells the stories of her life, growing up with a manic depressive mother, going to boarding school in Montreal, and surviving in a commune in Berkeley, she includes recipes she loves and describes her unique and constant connection with food. Reichl is a good story-teller, and I look forward to trying some of her recipes. I was, however, deeply disturbed by the portrayal of her mother in the book. Her mother does have a very interesting relationship with food that clearly affects Reichl (and these are some of the best stories in the book). But, like any dysfunctional family, I suppose, she and her father seemed to live in constant denial of her mother's mental illness. Reichl addresses the difficulties of living with her mother repeatedly, but her solution was usually to run away (as her brother did) and leave her father to pick up the pieces. It is a really tragic background to Reichl's life which I would have liked to see developed a bit more - but perhaps this was not necessarily the point of the book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    What a life! Being banished to learn French at a boarding school in Montreal? Lunatic New York mother fixing spoiled sea urchin and suckling pig? Traipsing through Morocco? Working and living in lunatic communes in Berkeley? And all the while eating, eating, eating. Ruth Reichl lives to cook and eat and feed people. Not a shabby life! I liked this MUCH better than her [Comfort Me With Apples] by the way. Call me wimpy but... coming of age, getting married, finding your life passion-- that's a muc What a life! Being banished to learn French at a boarding school in Montreal? Lunatic New York mother fixing spoiled sea urchin and suckling pig? Traipsing through Morocco? Working and living in lunatic communes in Berkeley? And all the while eating, eating, eating. Ruth Reichl lives to cook and eat and feed people. Not a shabby life! I liked this MUCH better than her [Comfort Me With Apples] by the way. Call me wimpy but... coming of age, getting married, finding your life passion-- that's a much more comforting story than having affairs, getting divorced, losing a child but then overcoming all odds and making do...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marieke

    I really, really enjoyed this. I did not know about her mother's illness, so that added an interesting layer for me. I was really impressed with how Reichl wrote about the unhappy and negative stories in her life. I think that must be the hardest part of writing memoirs...I want to think Reichl wrote honestly because that is how it felt to me. Also, it read so smoothly I couldn't put it down. 4.5 stars, actually. I really, really enjoyed this. I did not know about her mother's illness, so that added an interesting layer for me. I was really impressed with how Reichl wrote about the unhappy and negative stories in her life. I think that must be the hardest part of writing memoirs...I want to think Reichl wrote honestly because that is how it felt to me. Also, it read so smoothly I couldn't put it down. 4.5 stars, actually.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Fantastic memoir of Reichl's early life and the experiences that lead her to become a food critic. She has had such a different life than my own that it was absorbing and ultimately tied together beautifully. My favorite by her to date (I've read Garlic & Sapphires, My Kitchen Year). Fantastic memoir of Reichl's early life and the experiences that lead her to become a food critic. She has had such a different life than my own that it was absorbing and ultimately tied together beautifully. My favorite by her to date (I've read Garlic & Sapphires, My Kitchen Year).

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sian Lile-Pastore

    Love this kind of book - a memoir revolving around food! Tells of Ruth's childhood, college, working in restaurants, getting married and family life. All her stories have food at the heart of them, and it's all pretty cute and cosy. Love this kind of book - a memoir revolving around food! Tells of Ruth's childhood, college, working in restaurants, getting married and family life. All her stories have food at the heart of them, and it's all pretty cute and cosy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    To hear Ruth Reichl tell it, she had no more intention of becoming a food writer than a snowball rolling down hill, and yet she spent her entire life collecting culinary experiences...like a snowball rolling down hill. She followed her mother's whims and eventually her own, gathering flavorful encounters that always seemed to counterbalance eachother. Her mother's terrible and dangerous cooking was as fundamental to building her palate as were her years at French school in Canada, her "bargain" To hear Ruth Reichl tell it, she had no more intention of becoming a food writer than a snowball rolling down hill, and yet she spent her entire life collecting culinary experiences...like a snowball rolling down hill. She followed her mother's whims and eventually her own, gathering flavorful encounters that always seemed to counterbalance eachother. Her mother's terrible and dangerous cooking was as fundamental to building her palate as were her years at French school in Canada, her "bargain" trips to Europe, and her years living in what was essentially a commune in California. It's no wonder she ended up writing about food for a living. I'd never heard of Ruth Reichl before I read this, but I was completely taken with her colorful mid-century adventures. I've never tried one of her recipes, but judging by the way she retells her stories with just the perfect dashes of description, I know she has excellent taste. I'll queue up the rest of her memoirs to read eventually.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    More reviews available at my blog, Beauty and the Bookworm. I live in a magic neighborhood where people leave books out on their yard walls for passerby to take. While heading to the convenience store for a sugar fix this weekend, I stumbled across a house that had so many books out! Among them were a bunch of food memoirs, including this one. I love books, I love food, I love books about food, so of course it found its way into my bag, along with about fifteen other ones. How lucky that I took t More reviews available at my blog, Beauty and the Bookworm. I live in a magic neighborhood where people leave books out on their yard walls for passerby to take. While heading to the convenience store for a sugar fix this weekend, I stumbled across a house that had so many books out! Among them were a bunch of food memoirs, including this one. I love books, I love food, I love books about food, so of course it found its way into my bag, along with about fifteen other ones. How lucky that I took the bag with me! I've come to the decision that I really like Ruth Reichl. While her memoir about her time as a food critic at the New York Times, Garlic and Sapphires, wasn't a home run, it was still good, and her novel Delicious! was, in fact, delicious. Now, I've moved on to Tender at the Bone, which is basically a memoir (albeit an embroidered one) about how Reichl grew up to love food and managed her crazy family. Born in New York City, Reichl's mother suffered from bipolar disorder (though they didn't know this when Reichl was young) and went through manic stages that turned Reichl's life upside down. Her mother was also a terrible cook. However, Reichl loved food and found good food in plenty of other places, and came to learn to cook first as a necessity and then as a passion. Watching this journey as she grows was fascinating, and I would have never thought that Reichl had such a tumultuous past! From being shipped off to a boarding school in Montreal because of a passing comment about how she wished she spoke French to essentially living on her own when she was in high school to living in what was basically a hippie commune, it was all fascinating. Was it all true? Well... Reichl states in the preface to the book that embroidering, reordering, and sometimes just making up stories is a family tradition, and that she's done some altering to this memoir in order to make it flow better as a solid narrative. I do appreciate that this one was in chronological order; if I recall correctly, Garlic and Sapphires jumped around a bit, which was disorientating. But embroidered or not, I think this is a good memoir that makes the author more of a real person. She suffered from imposter syndrome at various points, feeling like she was a fake, which is something I think we all struggle with sometimes. And while I appreciated that her mother had a mental illness, I could also empathize with Reichl's yearning to sometimes just slap her mother upside the head and tell her to get over it; no matter how much you tell yourself it's not their fault, sometimes it just grates on your nerves. The memoir is also interspersed with recipes that Reichl encountered for developed throughout her life. These are at the beginnings of chapters, which is a little weird and led to some whacky formatting in the book, but I still appreciated them. I might even try my hand at a lemon souffle someday. Overall, this was a poignant and mouth-watering memoir, even embroidered as it is--and honestly, I don't mind a little embroidering as long as the author owns up to it, which Reichl did before she even got started. I can't wait to read her other memoir, Comfort Me With Apples. 4 stars out of 5.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I have to admit I read Ruth Reichl's books backwards. I started with Garlic and Sapphires and then I read Comfort Me With Apples. So to the beginning we go . . . how does one become SO interested in food and cooking? Where does the passion come from? In the first chapter, she sets the stage - the Queen of Mold, her mother: "She liked to brag about "Everything Stew," a dish invented while she was concocting a casserole out of a two-week-old turkey carcass. (The very fact that my mother confessed I have to admit I read Ruth Reichl's books backwards. I started with Garlic and Sapphires and then I read Comfort Me With Apples. So to the beginning we go . . . how does one become SO interested in food and cooking? Where does the passion come from? In the first chapter, she sets the stage - the Queen of Mold, her mother: "She liked to brag about "Everything Stew," a dish invented while she was concocting a casserole out of a two-week-old turkey carcass. (The very fact that my mother confessed to cooking with a two-week-old turkey says a lot about her.) She put the turkey and a half can of mushroom soup into the pot. Then she began rummaging around in the refrigerator. She found some leftover broccoli and added that. A few carrots went in, and then a half carton of sour cream. In a hurry, as usual, she added green beans and cranberry sauce. And then, somehow, half an apple pie slipped into the dish. Mom looked momentarily horrified. Then she shrugged and said, "Who knows? Maybe it will be good." And she began throwing everything in the refrigerator in along with it - leftover pate, some cheese ends, a few squishy tomatoes." [pg 5:] They say from the day we are born, the people we meet - actively or passively - shape our lives. Ruth writes about all the people she meets and how they shape her taste of food and of life: In Ottawa, she is introduced to french delicacies by Monsieu du Croix - souffle, brie, foie gras, and a chartreuse of partridge; she goes to France (a scheme planned by her mother) to be a counselor in a camp on a small island of the Atlantic Coast and tastes tarte aux framboises made with "good butter from fat cows and wild berries grown in the island air." [pg 102:]; she attends the University of Michigan to "get out of New England, to get as far as [she:] could from the person [she:] had become." [pg 88:]; she travels to North Africa with her friend, Serafina; and with Doug (her eventual first husband), she lives in a commune in Berkeley, California, where they grew their own food, baked bread every day and where Ruth learned how to "stretch a single chicken to feed fifteen." [pg 218:]. As with her other two books (Garlic and Sapphires and Comfort Me With Apples), Ruth is a very witty writer, as well as forthcoming with her feelings. It should be noted that her memory may be a little embellished; but if you think about it . . . what do we remember of our younger years? As we hear stories from grandparents, parents, other relatives . . . are certain facts altered? With this aside, through these various passages of life we learn about this girl who follows her stomach and grows up.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rachelle

    I'm disappointed. I really wanted to enjoy this book, and it started strong, but Reichl lost me by the halfway point. I finished it anyway, but the second half was a struggle. It's difficult for me to put into words exactly what about the book didn't work for me. I think part of it is that even though I was reading what was supposed to be her autobiography, almost every story she tells is that of the people around her. She seems to be a distant character in the play that is her family and friend I'm disappointed. I really wanted to enjoy this book, and it started strong, but Reichl lost me by the halfway point. I finished it anyway, but the second half was a struggle. It's difficult for me to put into words exactly what about the book didn't work for me. I think part of it is that even though I was reading what was supposed to be her autobiography, almost every story she tells is that of the people around her. She seems to be a distant character in the play that is her family and friends' crazy antics/lives--even in first person I didn't get very much about her or her love affair with food or how and why she happened into her happy marriage (it is almost an aside that she marries even though she spends the rest of the book referencing her husband constantly), etc. What I did get was a hodge-podge of tales of going to parties with hippie friends, living in a sort of commune, traveling aimlessly in various foreign countries just because (in one of these instances she goes only because the girlfriend of hers she desperately wants to like her wants to go). She stops eating meat (which she loves) for several years just because someone tells her to; she starts eating from dumpsters for the same reason. While one might expect these to be fascinating stories, I found them to be rather flat and unappealing. I didn't grow up in the '60s and '70s, so perhaps not being alive during that period in history is part of the issue (because I fail to view it in the romanticized way Reichl does). Unlike her book Garlic and Sapphires (which I read first, and now I wonder if I had read this first if I would have given that one a chance), I think Tender at the Bone is a rather mediocre glance at the people surrounding Reichl rather than insight into who she is as a person and how she became the successful food critic and writer she is today.

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