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Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  22,791 ratings  ·  1,727 reviews
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. ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 2nd 1999 by Broadway Books (first published February 17th 1998)
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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 embroider
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Feb 24, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyeone
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Ultimate Reading List - Biography
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-- ...more
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
...more
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 ...more
Margaret
Sep 12, 2014 Margaret rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Almost everyone.
Recommended to Margaret by: My daughters most of all.
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
...more
Eve
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
...more
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. ...more
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 ...more
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.
Jeanette (jema)
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!
Marsha
“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Ruth Reichl was Editor-in-chief of “Gourmet” magazine. Bringing her writing skills to novelistic form, she makes her eccentric mother, long-suffering but oblivious father, knowing stepbrother and the various personalities she encountered in her existence live in this tale about food, family and obsessions.

Ms. Reichl realized quite young that you can learn a lot about people from watching how and what they a
...more
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 ...more
Rebecca
Jul 31, 2008 Rebecca rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: food lovers
Shelves: food
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
...more
Margaret
As in Garlic and Sapphires, Reichl combines memoir and food writing beautifully, with mouthwatering recipes and descriptions along with witty, often poignant reminiscences. I especially loved the part where she goes to girls' school in Montreal and visits a friend's family, where the friend's father discovers Reichl's taste for good food and offers her all sorts of fabulous food.
Poiema
This book was interesting to me on two levels: first, because I enjoy foodie memoirs, and second, because I am interested in the culture and history of the 1960s and 1970s. Rachel Reichl handles both subjects nicely---although "nice" is not the adjective to use in regard to her lifestyle! Born to a German American father and a manic-depressive mother, Rachel had a most unusual upbringing, rich in diversity of experience but poor in moral underpinnings. She develops wings rather than roots and ra ...more
Cindy
Usually I don't like to read memoirs as I find them extremely boring and uninteresting but Tender at the Bone is a very easy and likable read. Ruth Reichl is a food critic and tells her story about growing up in a dysfunctional family, her high school and college years, traveling, and experiencing all kinds of foods. She tells the story with humor and honesty. The book also includes many recipes that sound delicious! 3.5 stars
MaryJo
This was enjoyable, a quick read, and it kept me interested. I was acquainted with Reichl's memoirs because my niece Poulami gave me her favorite, Garlic and Sapphires for xmas in 2008, and then Not Becoming My Mother in 2009. Those books are all similar in several ways. Like Diamonds and Sapphires, it has lots of recipes, and it is also a story of "not becoming my mother" although the latter from an older and more sympathetic standpoint.I think those are both stronger books. Still, is a romp to ...more
John Marco
I really enjoyed this book much more than I expected. I've seen Ruth Reichl on TV for years and was always a bit put off by her for some reason. But I read a sample of this book and was hooked immediately. She's a fantastic storyteller and a gifted writer and really brings the past to vivid life. My quibbles are small ones--I hated all the untranslated French (I don't speak French, for crying out loud!) and I was a little bothered by the level of detail sometimes, because no one could possibly r ...more
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 ...more
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
...more
Sherry (sethurner)
"Storytelling, in my family, was highly prized. While my father walked home from work he rearranged the events of his day to make them more entertaining, and my mother could make a trip to the supermarket sound like an adventure. If this required minor adjustments of fact, nobody much minded: it was certainly preferable to boring your audience."

I have friends who will not read memoirs, because they are sure that the authors have manipulated the truth, even made things up to be more entertaining.
...more
Chana
I read this before, quite a few years ago now, but someone borrowed my copy and never returned it. When I saw this copy at the Library Sale I was happy to be able to buy it and read it again.
Ruth Reichl is (or was at the time the book was published) the restaurant critic for the NY Times. In this book she chronicles growing up with her bipolar mother who often serves food that is going or is bad and Ruth takes on the role of protecting the guests. Ruth has some good role models for cooking thou
...more
Cindy
I liked Garlic and Sapphires better, but, I truly enjoyed reading this food memoir. It helped me understand and appreciate Garlic and Sapphires even better! The fragile poignant moments of self discovery through cooking were delicious. The recipes, caused me to become prolific in the kitchen...I couldn't resist the veal, and Gary and I supped divinely on chicken, potato salad and other delights. I think this would be a fun Book club read, if everyone brought one of their favorite recipes and we ...more
Derek
The memoirs of food writers have a particular poignancy, for the child really is father to the man. The tale of the growth and development of appetite, while always personal and specific, is universally interesting -- as is proved by the work of writers as various as Jeffrey Steingarten, A. J. Liebling, Barbara Kafka and M. F. K. Fisher. But while all good food writers are humorous -- it's a feature of the genre -- few are so riotously, effortlessly entertaining as Ruth Reichl.

Unlike her counter
...more
Josephine
I think I love Ruth Reichl — and yes, I’m saying this in a completely gushy way.

Yes, she’s one of the most influential food critics of our time, but what I like best about her is her writing.

In her memoir, “Tender at the Bone,” she describes how “food could be a way of making sense of the world” and you’re introduced to the characters in her life — and how, they in turn, introduced her to her love of cooking.

Beginning with her mother, the Queen of Mold — a manic depressive who refused to think a
...more
Emily
Ah Ruth. Like Kim Severson (See my last review), I have a total girlcrush on Ruth Reichl. It goes back to when I was in the Columbia Publishing Course, and my magazine project team made a food magazine called "ginger" that was about bringing Asian cuisine into the american home kitchen, in an authentic way. (I think we phrased this worse back then, if you can believe it.) And the head of the CPC took our mockup and showed it to Ruth, and said she LOVED it. Sadly, never verified this and never go ...more
Morgan Williams
Ms. Reichl isn't really a bad writer. She has some nice descriptions in her book, and she is easy enough to read. But this book seems to mostly be a kind of brag fest about how she learned to cook, and about all the wonderful things that happened to her as she grew up. Obviously a memoir is not the same as a piece of fiction, but there isn't really any conflict or tension in the book. The worst problems she describes are her mother's eccentricity with serving half-spoiled food, even at major soc ...more
Jennyb
A friend who clearly loved this book lent it to me, which makes me particularly sorry to say that I did not enjoy it all that much. Reichl has a distinguished food career, which I am not entirely familiar with: maybe she is or was the editor of Gourmet Magazine; maybe she is or was a New York Times restaurant critic. Whatever the specifics, she clearly has a storied past in writing about food. Fine, except this book, despite the inclusion of a recipe in every chapter, isn’t about that. Or, not j ...more
Mo
I started to read ‘Garlic and Sapphires’ by Ruth Reichl, but didn’t have time to finish it before it was due back to the library. I was really enjoying it, but unfortunately there was not another copy available and I had to go on the wait list. In the meantime, 'Tender at the Bone' WAS available, so I checked it out and started to read.

I enjoyed the first few chapters of the book, the ones about Ruth’s childhood. But as she grew out of adolescence, it went south for me. I just didn’t like her AT
...more
snackywombat (v.m.)
Mar 04, 2008 snackywombat (v.m.) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People that like to eat
Recommended to snackywombat by: Colleen Clark
I was hesitant to pick this book because I thought it might be overindulgent. I imagined an "Eat, Pray, Love" type of healing through food or even an over-indulgent memoir of why it's so great to be the foremost food critic, Ruth Reichl. But I had forgotten what a great writer she is. Reichl takes the reader through her quirky childhood during which her obsession with food begins as a method of controlling the chaotic environment created by her bipolar mother. The book follows her through a tumu ...more
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Ruth Reichl is an American food writer, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and culinary editor for the Modern Library.
Born to parents Ernst and Miriam (née Brudno), she was raised in New York City and spent time at a boarding school in Montreal. She attended the University of Michigan, where she met her first husband, the artist Douglas Hollis. She graduated in 1970 with a M.A. in art history
...more
More about Ruth Reichl...
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table Delicious! The Gourmet Cookbook: More than 1000 recipes Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way

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“She was a great cook, but she cooked more for herself than for other people, not because she was hungry but because she was comforted by the rituals of the kitchen.” 8 likes
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