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Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  34,352 ratings  ·  2,554 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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Dec 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
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,
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.
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
Mar 19, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foodies, memoirs
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table was a beautiful memoir by Ruth Reichl who we all may know as a New York food critic and later the editor of Gourmet Magazine for over ten years. I anxiously awaited my copy each month and enjoying all of the rich commentary and lovely recipes, probably few that I actually tried, but oh how I loved to savor the recipe, someday right?

This memoir was delightful as Ruth Reichl regaled us with her raucous and often unconventional childhood but where food wa
Jul 31, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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
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
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.
Apr 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: foodie
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 ...more
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 rated it really liked it
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
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
May 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
(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 ...more
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
Dec 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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!
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
John Turner
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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
Jul 21, 2009 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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. ...more
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cookbooks
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). ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Nov 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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" ...more
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
Nov 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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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

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