For The Someday Book

Book Review: Tender at the Bone

Posted on: May 13, 2012

Ruth Reichl, Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, Broadway Books, New York, 1998, 282 pp.

When I saw the description on the back of the book about a memoir based on a life of food—complete with recipes—I imagined beautiful stories of mothers and grandmothers cooking up a host of delicious dishes and passing on family wisdom along with secret ingredients. Imagine my surprise when the opening chapter was all about how Reichl grew up rescuing her mother’s party guests from food poisoning by altering her dangerous recipes, removing moldy ingredients and making things disappear from the table. This was not the memoir I expected, and it was a delightful surprise.

After the chapter about her mother and mold, Reichl opens the second chapter with “I had three grandmothers and none of them could cook.” (20) Nevertheless, she falls in love with food, and learns how to cook and prepare and appreciate it from odd sources—maids, classmates’ parents, a co-op in Berkeley and more. She cooks up all kinds of recipes to entertain her teenage friends, encounters the world through recipes in college, travels North Africa, works in restaurants and eventually evolves into a professional gourmet travelling across Europe drinking wine and sampling cuisine.

From a family food culture that was bizarre at best, Reichl grew into Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine. The story of how that happens is fascinating and unique, and beautifully written in Tender at the Bone. I devoured it in just a few days, and you will too.

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About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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