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Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  28,341 Ratings  ·  2,071 Reviews
"Tender at the Bone" is the story of a life determined, enhanced, and defined in equal measure by unforgettable people, the love of tales well told, and a passion for food. In other words, the stuff of the best literature. The journey begins with Reichl's mother, the notorious food-poisoner known forevermore as the Queen of Mold, and moves on to the fabled Mrs. Peavey, one ...more
Hardcover, 282 pages
Published February 24th 1998 by Random House Inc (T) (first published February 17th 1998)
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Feb 12, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
Dec 11, 2010 Eve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, read-2011
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 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
Feb 04, 2016 Kiwi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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!
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
May 17, 2011 Roberta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Jun 20, 2014 Margaret rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 21, 2009 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 03, 2007 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 17, 2015 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
According to Ruth Reichl, American chef, food critic, and former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, food defines us. In this savory memoir, Ruth gives us an insight about how her love affair with food began. The way that Ruth Reichl weaves her story with recipes and food anecdotes was very entertaining. I enjoyed this book, and have read two other books by Reichl, "Comfort Me With Apples," in which she continues her life and food journey, from New York to the West Coast, and "Delicious!" in wh ...more
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.
Jan 01, 2017 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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).
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!
Nov 13, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 01, 2014 Poiema rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 29, 2015 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Note that for me, a four-star rating is pretty darn good, so three stars is still pretty good.

I have an informal book group with my dental hygenist; it meets four times a year and most of the conversation is one-sided. She has recommended Ruth Reichl's books to me, so I decided to start with this one, which is a personal memoir of how Reichl got started as a cook and food critic. It's pretty good.

Using recipes the way someone else might use photographs, Reichl tells the story of her life in rela
Apr 28, 2012 Marsha rated it it was amazing
“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
May 25, 2016 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, 2016
I wouldn't describe myself as a foodie, and I don't love to cook (unless it's cookies or pie) so I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy a memoir written by a famous (but unknown to me) food critic. Fortunately one does not need to be a foodie to enjoy this book. This is one of the most delightful memoirs I have read. The storytelling was so good and interesting that I often felt like I was reading a novel rather than a memoir. My favorite part was the section about the Berkley commune days and the ...more
Mar 04, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nancy Brady
Ruth Reichl's memoir of her life as a foodie. From learning to cook from her grandmothers, dealing with her mother's manic-depression, growing up and discovering friends who appreciated her cooking, and learning from others about the good life of food and wine, Reichl enhances and seasons her stories from her life.

Some of the stories are lighthearted; some are less so, but all show a progression to the life she leads today as a restaurant critic. Added to those stories are recipes from each cha
Feb 11, 2016 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sbc
I am not familiar with Ruth Reichl so this memoir turned out to be a first person novel instead.
Still, the book had 2 things I love - food and travel that kept it interesting for me and her opportunities, were that of great childhood and a privileged life. I just couldn't stand her mom who was so spendthrift on food but a very good side story. On a different note, this book also showed me how waaaaay different parenting and growing up was almost 50 years ago. Its like time was so slow. A great d
Sep 13, 2015 Patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love reading memoirs, and this one certainly did not disappoint. Each chapter included a recipe reflective of the era, the story, and the personalities that the author wrote about. Because I love food and cooking, too, for me this was such a treat.

It took me a while to complete this book because I paused for a few months when I was a few chapters in. Once I picked it up again, though, I was pulled back in, and couldn't put it down. This was definitely one of my favorite book club reading assi
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
Aug 16, 2016 Florence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruth Reichl may be a good cook and a food critic. She is also a story teller extraordinaire. The tales of her early life, her bipolar mother, boarding school days, and later the period of hippiedom, living in a commune and working in a restaurant collective in Berkeley, kept me turning pages and failing to start dinner on time! Most of the recipes she included seemed to start with melting a couple of sticks of butter. Still, they made me hungry.
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.
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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 about Ruth Reichl...

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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.” 12 likes
“It was Mac who first made me think about the way food brought people together — and kept them apart.” 1 likes
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