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Group Read > Tender at the Bone - Sept. 2009

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message 1: by Alias Reader (last edited Aug 19, 2009 07:31AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16975 comments Tender at the Bone Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table
By Ruth Reichl
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Broadway (March 2, 1999)

Our discussion will start Sept. 1.

However, if you happen to start early or find some interesting articles about the author or book I thought I would put up the thread.

Amazon Description:
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

message 2: by Alias Reader (last edited Aug 19, 2009 07:13AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16975 comments Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

About the Author

• Birth—January 16, 1948
• Where—New York City, USA
• Education—B.A., University of Michigan
• Awards—James Beard Award, 1996, 1998.
• Currently—lives in New York City

Ruth Reichl is an American food writer, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, co-producer of PBS's Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie, and culinary editor for the Modern Library. She has written three critically acclaimed, best-selling books of memoirs: Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table, and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.

Born to parents Ernst and Miriam (née Brudno), Reichl was raised in Greenwich Village in New York City and spent time at a boarding school in Montreal as a young girl. She attended the University of Michigan, where she met her first husband, the artist Douglas Hollis. He graduated in 1970 with a M.A. in Art History.

She and Hollis moved to Berkeley, California, where her interest in food led to her joining the collectively-owned Swallow Restaurant as a chef and co-owner from 1973 to 1977, and where she played an important role in the culinary revolution taking place at the time. Reichl began her food-writing career with Mmmmm: A Feastiary, a cookbook, in 1972. She moved on to become food writer and editor of New West magazine from 1973 to 1977, then to the Los Angeles Times as its restaurant editor from 1984 to 1993 and food editor and critic from 1990 to 1993. She returned to her native New York City in 1993 to become the restaurant critic for The New York Times before leaving to assume the editorship of Gourmet in 1999.

She is known for her ability to "make or break" a restaurant with her fierce attention to detail and her adventurous spirit. For Reichl, her mission has been to "demystify the world of fine cuisine" (CBS News Online). She has won acclaim with both readers and writers alike for her honesty about some of the not-so-fabulous aspects of haute-couture cuisine. Though an outsider's perspective, she harshly criticized the sexism prevalent toward women in dine-out experiences, as well as the pretentious nature of the ritziest New York restaurants and restaurateurs alike.

Despite her widely-celebrated success, and hilarious tales of how she used to disguise herself to mask her identity while reviewing, she is quite open about why she stopped. "I really wanted to go home and cook for my family," she says. "I don't think there's one thing more important you can do for your kids than have family dinner" (CBS News Online).

She has been the recipient of four James Beard Awards: in 1996 and 1998 for restaurant criticism, one in 1994 for journalism and in 1984 for Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America; as well as several awards granted by the Association of American Food Journalists. She was also the recipient of the YWCA's Elizabeth Cutter Morrow Award, celebrating the accomplishments of strong, successful women. Reichl served as host for three Food Network Specials titled "Eating Out Loud" which covered cuisine from each coast and corner of the United States, in New York in 2002, and Miami and San Francisco in 2003. She is also frequents Leonard Lopate's monthly food radio show on WNYC in New York. (From the Wikipedia.)

message 3: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16975 comments Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

Book Club Discussion Questions

*****Questions May Contain SPOILERS*****

1. The first two chapters of Tender at the Bone feature the culinary shortcomings of Ruth Reichl’s relatives, particularly her mother. To what do you attribute prowess in the kitchen? Is the ability (or inability) to cook a reflection of other traits? Who are the most notorious cooks in your family?

2. Besides a perfect recipe for Wiener Schnitzel, what other gifts did Mrs. Peavey impart to Reichl?

3. How was Reichl affected by her three years at boarding school in Montreal? What do you think her mother’s true motivation was in enrolling her there?

4. In the absence of parents, what role did cooking take while Reichl was a teenager? Why did feeding her friends become her primary joy? Does chapter 5, “Devil’s Food,” express unique or universal notions about adolescence and self-image?

5. In what way does the topic of mental illness shape the memoir overall, particularly the bipolar disorder that afflicted Reichl’s mother? What do the book’s images evoke regarding the psychology of indulgence and hunger?

6. How does the tenderness mentioned in the title manifest itself throughout the book? How do Reichl’s sense of humor and her wry honesty play off one another?

7. What were Reichl’s early impressions of France, including her summer on the Île d’Oléron? How did her casual immersions in French cooking shape her attitudes toward cuisine in general? How did they help her on the job at L’Escargot and when she later embarked on the vineyard tour?

8. At the end of chapter 7, Serafina writes “I hope you find your Africa” in a note to Reichl. How was Reichl’s view of humanity being transformed by Serafina and Mac?

9. Did traveling in North Africa bring Reichl closer to or farther from a sense of fulfillment? How did this travel experience compare to her previous ones?

10. As Reichl watched Doug bond with her parents (he even elicited previously unknown details about her father’s life) she felt a new level of exasperation with her family. What models for marriage did she have? Was winter in Europe, with Milton often at the helm, a good antidote?

11. Reichl writes that in 1971, lower Manhattan was a cook’s paradise. What did life on the Lower East Side, from the gefilte fish episode to Mr. Bergamini’s Veal Breast recommendation, teach Reichl about how she would define a successful meal? Why was the Superstar so insistent that great cooking was the sure way to seduce a man? With Mr. Izzy T. as navigator, what did the Superstar and Reichl both learn about themselves?

12. How does the idealism of Channing Way compare to the organic food movement of today? Have any of Nick’s tenets become part of mainstream life in the 21st century?

13. The now-legendary Swallow Collective was as innovative in its management style as in its menus. What chapters in culinary history are captured in Reichl’s recollections of working there?

14. Tender at the Bone ends with an image of Reichl conquering her bridge phobia while accompanied by Marion Cunningham, who says, “Nobody knows why some of us get better and others don’t.” What ingredients in Reichl’s life may have helped her to “get better” and achieve such tremendous success in the years that would follow this scene?

15. Food writing presents the unusual challenge of conveying distinct, intangible flavors through mere words. How would you characterize Reichl’s approach to the task? Does she approach haute cuisine and comfort food in the same way? How would you have responded to her mother’s comment that by developing a career as a food writer Reichl was “wasting her life”?

16. How would you characterize the recipes Reichl selected for Tender at the Bone? Do they possess a common “personality”? What recipes represent the most significant turning points in your life?

(Questions issued by publishers.)

message 4: by Traveler (new)

Traveler | 42 comments Alias.. I've only read the first few questions b/c I haven't picked up the book from the library yet. But it is funny how differently people relate to food. And how "social" it is. I really enjoy feeding people. lol We have cook outs all the time. And when I have my wine tastings the food is just as important as the wine to me.
And people always talk about the food at a wedding. Why?
Just some thoughts. I hope to pick up the book this week.

message 5: by Alias Reader (last edited Aug 19, 2009 04:35PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16975 comments One thing I noticed is people get very defensive about my food choices. For example, if they bring up the topic of food and I say I try to eat little meat, low fat, low sodium, no caffeine, low sugar for some reason they take it as a personal attack on them. Even if I don't comment on their food choices. It's very odd. Frequently, someone will try to get me to eat something that I say I rather not because it isn't on my diet (soda, cake, ice-cream, cookies, coffee) Or if I say while on vacation or a holiday, I want to stay on my diet, people try to talk you out of it. It's a very emotional hot button issue for a lot of people. I don't really know why anyone would care what I ate or didn't eat. (I'm not talking about being invited to dinner at someone's home and making a list of unreasonable demands.)

message 6: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie (bobbie572002) | 1084 comments Alias,
Your post reminded me that years ago I would encounter people who maybe had brought candy or cookies or in any case food to share to work that I really didn't want to eat. And would not take "No, thanks" for an answer. I did have some times when it got to a point of my saying -- look I'm sorry but I think I should be able to say Thanks, but No thanks.


message 7: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16975 comments BARBARA: I did have some times when it got to a point of my saying -- look I'm sorry but I think I should be able to say Thanks, but No thanks.


I don't have the greatest will power to begin with, so when people keep pushing foods I rather not eat I do find it annoying. But I've gotten better at just sticking to my guns.

Traveler hits on a good point, some view it as a social thing and refusing to eat certain foods is anti-social. But I don't think it's very friendly to make a big deal out of it, if I don't want to eat something. It can get quite awkward.

message 8: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9483 comments Alias Reader wrote: "One thing I noticed is people get very defensive about my food choices. For example, if they bring up the topic of food and I say I try to eat little meat, low fat, low sodium, no caffeine, low ..."

I can see how this would be irritating and Barbara's comment covers their sins. ;-)

I suspect people reply defensively because they know the facts but haven't adjusted their lives to it. When confronted with a working model, it's easy to feel backed into a corner. It's a shame but also very human.

There are social aspects of it, as mentioned. In this day & age, i might also be offended, imagining that the person refusing is thinking i didn't cook the food properly. It's always something & we can find offense everywhere, if we look.

I smiled at Traveler's post re. wedding food. Several years ago i read Being Dead is No Excuse The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral It was amusing & had some good recipes, to boot! Previously i had no idea so much thought went into funeral food.


message 9: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie (bobbie572002) | 1084 comments Hey just yesterday I walked around with a plate full (well, not so full) of chicken and rice that somebody had brought to our hq. I put as little as possible on the plate so I wasn't wasting too much food when they left and I threw it out.


message 10: by Traveler (new)

Traveler | 42 comments Alias.. I remember WW talking about the people who will try to sabotage you. I'm not sure its even a conscious thing. Our society seems so surrounded by food. Tell someone you went on vacation and instead of asking about what you saw they ask about what you ate. Or cruises.. OMG.. it's gluttonous. People talk about the food more than the stops along the way. lol

I'm not sure why people want you to eat when they know you are dieting. As for talking about your personal restrictions it may just make them feel guilty about their choices (their problem..not yours).

And then there are some that really don't want you to be thin. But I guess they are the least in number. (or would like to think that.)

Have you ever had a friend offer you something they don't wear anymore or don't use anymore. And you don't think you'd use it either but when you turn down their offer they seem offended? Why? Sometimes it's easy to just take it than say no

My bf's mom likes this local chicken place that I just do not like; she always wants to get Zesto's chicken for gatherings; I've never told her I don't like it b/c it would probably hurt her feelings? WHY? who the heck knows.. its not like she cooked it.
BF finally told her husband I didn't like it and that was bad enough. So Alias you're right .. food triggers strange behavior.

message 11: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9483 comments Interesting behaviors, Traveler. I think you are right, although i've been comfortable in the past telling someone i don't like the restaurant they like. For some reason some people take that personally.

One point i'd add, is that the behavior Alias mentioned happens even (especially?) if the change in diet isn't about losing weight. If you want a healthier sour cream & use yogurt, people want to push THEIR brand of sc on you.

It's one thing if you want to share something new & different but quite another if you state it's for health/ecological reasons you have altered your diet. Either way, people doth protest, in their fashion.


message 12: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie (bobbie572002) | 1084 comments Does anyone find this kind of behavior when it comes to exercise? As I tend to walk to the supermarket for example (a good hike, but then I will have done shopping and done my exercise too so I think it is a good idea) and people look at me as if there is totally something wrong with me if I refuse a ride.
And when I refuse I usually say something like I really wanted to get out for a walk. So here I am the little nutty white haired lady who walks every place. Oh well.


Donna in Southern Maryland (cedarville922) | 207 comments Interesting discussion. Since I have fought the weight fight my entire, I can identify with what you're saying. It's almost a no win situation. My mother was ALWAYS on me about my weight, but she would always make and serve some of the most fattening things she could think of when I went for a visit! Go figure!

Now, I just do the best I can each day, and try to eat less and move more.

I started reading the book, and so far I am enjoying it. It's written in an easy style, and the stories are amusing as well as amazing. Imagine Ruth's mother being so clueless as to keep serving all that spoiled food!

Donna in Southern Maryland

message 14: by Carol/Bonadie (new)

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 60 comments I eat beef and pork, and am surrounded by folks who also do and folks who are on any number of different restrictions. I confess to initially feeling chastized when someone announced what they no longer ate, but I realize that mostly people are simply stating their preferences, not insisting I follow suit. Most folks, anyway.
Like some of you I've struggled with weight all my life and have been through all the "helpful" folks telling me it was alright to eat... whatever. I don't find that happens so much with the folks I'm usually around, but I also wonder if some of that isn't generational, geographical, socioeconomic. If I had a dollar for every one of my friends grandmothers or mothers (back in the day, not so much now I guess) who told me I shouldn't worry about what I ate I'd be a rich woman. At my work it seems like everyone I know (we're 70% female) is on some sort of diet or is verbal about their food restrictions and food allergies, so I don't get so much criticizing about what I do or don't want to eat.

message 15: by Traveler (new)

Traveler | 42 comments I always love when people bite into something and say "oh this is horrible, here, taste it"...
What? Why do I want to taste it if its so bad. lol

There are also different personalities that effect me as far as food. I have a friend who is a vegetarian. He's been one for 15 years now. You would never know it. He hardly talks about it. We tailgate for all the games and I bet most people there don't realize he doesn't eat meat or fish.

But when I was in college my best friend had a friend who was vegetarian and she got on my last nerve. It was all she talked about... I think it was the only thing she talked about... and if you ate with her you heard MORE about it. I would order veal just to get under her skin. lol

I fogot to pick up the book Friday so hope to get it Monday.

message 16: by kate/Edukate12 (new)

kate/Edukate12 | 183 comments Trav said: I fogot to pick up the book Friday so hope to get it Monday.

I have the book, but won't be starting it until Sept. 1. I'm looking forward to it!!

As for food restrictions, I'm Type 2 diabetic, but I rarely make that info known when eating with friends. I find that I can eat most anything they serve in moderation. I can load up on salad and veggies, eat some protein, skip the bread. If it is a big gooey dessert that they've spent hours making I'll ask for a teensy piece. If I'm in a restaurant, I just order sensibly, no dessert.


Donna in Southern Maryland (cedarville922) | 207 comments I'm about three quarters through the book, and I"m enjoying it very much. I like the way she writes, although a couple of times, she has told the end of a story -- like with her girlfriend Serafina -- and then goes back and starts telling about things that happened earlier.

I find that the book is as much about her mother's Bi Polar disorder as it is about food.

Donna in SOuthern MAryland

message 18: by Donnajo (new)

Donnajo | 1 comments I hope to be able to pick up the book, not saying if I'll have a signal to connect. It has been the last week or two a signal but it wouldn't let me connect to anything. Hopefully in Sept I'll will finally get a connection myself. But until then it's off and on. Today I have one yippy. When I do go out with the mac and try and find a place it's just to do emails same at the shore since I come on late at night when I go upstairs. That was why I couldn't get on to vote. When I was on while out I couldn't remember a few passwords same with down the shore. I didn't have them with me. But I have the Nov. book and the Oct. book sounds good too.

message 19: by Traveler (new)

Traveler | 42 comments I picked it up today.

message 20: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9483 comments In a stunning turn of events my local library had the book! Still, i'm waiting until next week to begin reading it. Given the fact we have a bi-polar member in our family, it will be interesting to read the experiences of Reichl. I read her Garlic and Sapphires The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise a couple of years ago & found it entertaining.


message 21: by Traveler (new)

Traveler | 42 comments LOL Deb. Glad you were able to get the book.

Donna in Southern Maryland (cedarville922) | 207 comments I'm almost to the end. I'm enjoying her stories, but one thing vexes me a little -- I don't speak French! It would have been nice if she had somehow translated more of th e French phrases she uses.

Donna in Southern Maryland

message 23: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie (bobbie572002) | 1084 comments Donna -- I agree about the French.


Lynne in PA/Lineepinee (lineepineeaolcom) | 22 comments I read this book when it was first published. I remember it being amusing, but I mostly remember her Mother being bi-polar. I don't really remember specific incidents. I have read her other books as well and find them to be entertaining.

Lynne in PA/Lineepinee (lineepineeaolcom) | 22 comments And I agree about the French. In this book or any other that throw foreign phrases or words at you without translation automatically gives it a bad mark in my rating.

message 26: by Traveler (new)

Traveler | 42 comments I've read the first few pages and like the way she writes. It flows well.
I don't understand why an author would use foreign phrases without explanation. Kinda stupid.

message 27: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16975 comments I know it can be a hassle, but you can google the phrases to get a translation. They will also list various French to English web sites.

I usually keep a paper in the book I am reading for use if am not near dictionary/encyclopedia /Internet.

On it I list page # and words, people, topics or other info I want to look up that the author mentions.

If it is a book I own, I write symbols in the margin: i= Internet, LU = look up in dictionary/encyclopedia .

I am so accustomed to doing this it's automatic and not such a big deal to me.

I am not going to be able to start the book before the 1st.

message 28: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16975 comments Sorry I'm tardy in starting TATB. I have a head cold with burning aching eyes that make reading or even watching TV unpleasant.

I feel a bit better today, so I hope to finish up Olive Kitteridge today. Then on to TATB !

Speaking of "food" books. I saw Julie & Julia is the book store and almost bought it. I think I'll request it from the library. Has anyone read it or Julia Childs memoir, My Life in France? I seem to recall something about Child being a spy.

Julie and Julia 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

My Life in France by Julia Child

message 29: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9483 comments I haven't read her book but in Sisterhood of Spies by Elizabeth MacIntosh i learned Child worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was a forerunner of the CIA. Beginning as a sort of file clerk, she also worked on other projects in DC. Then she was moved to the Asian front, where she worked. How much of a spy she was there, i don't know. It may depend on your definition of "spy." Her work was clandestine but, iirc, it was more coordinating communications.


message 30: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16975 comments That's where I heard it. From you, Deb. :)

I recall now when you read the book on the Odyssey board.

message 31: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9483 comments I finished the book, finding it quick and easy to read. Did we know there were recipes in it? The other book by her that i read had recipes but they seemed more complicated than these, which almost seemed too breezy.


Should i be ashamed of the fact that i found the mother's molding food amusing? I can imagine the stress it put on a young daughter, though. I've been known to scrape mold off some foods & serve it to my family. Mostly cheese, of course.

I was amused by the way the family (&Ruth) noted wedding courses. I've never attended a fully catered wedding, so maybe this is why it strikes me as odd that they'd want to replicate parts of it. Don't get me wrong, it's charming, i've just never heard of such a thing previously.

One more comment now. What did you think of the immersion schooling in Canada? I felt for the child and was dismayed her mother did that without informing her first. The fact that her mom wanted verification over the years that Ruth was glad she knew French tells us she knew it was the wrong way to go about it. And yet, that dining experience with the classmate's father was when i felt a real appreciation for food from RR. She would have missed that & maybe ended up somewhere else. Maybe not.


message 32: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16975 comments I just started it today and read 30 pages or so. As you note deb, it seems to be a quick easy read.

Did anyone try any of the recipes?

One small "bone" to pick. :)
My hardcover copy has next to the ISBN Memoir/food

The author states right up front in a note that she is embellishing the stories for entertainment value.
If I had bought the book, thinking it's a memoir, I think I would be put off. I have no problem with the author embellishing, and appreciate her saying so, but I don't think the book should be sold with "memoir" on the cover. Maybe there needs to be another category below autobiography, biography, memoir and then.... ?

I can't say that I've every scraped off mold and ate the food or served it to anyone else. There are a few foods that I will eat past the sell by date. Yogurt comes to mind. In fact, I mentioned this to my sister recently. Her daughters won't touch food past the SBD. I showed her an article in a recent Prevention magazine issue, that said it's ok to eat yogurt past the SBD.

I will also eat bread that is past the SBD. As long as no mold is on it. I find bread lasts a long time in my refrigerator.

Any other food confessions ? :)

Deb, I too laughed at the mom's antics, but I also felt sorry for the daughter. Young kids are often embarrassed by their parents. She must have been mortified. I felt for her and the anxiety it must have created.

message 33: by kate/Edukate12 (new)

kate/Edukate12 | 183 comments Deborah said: One more comment now. What did you think of the immersion schooling in Canada? I felt for the child and was dismayed her mother did that without informing her first. The fact that her mom wanted verification over the years that Ruth was glad she knew French tells us she knew it was the wrong way to go about it. And yet, that dining experience with the classmate's father was when i felt a real appreciation for food from RR. She would have missed that & maybe ended up somewhere else. Maybe not.

Initially my heart ached for Ruth when her mother left her behind at the school, but she made the best of it so quickly that I was more ok with the situation than I might have been. It didnt' seem to be much of an adversity for long. I enjoyed the stories about the meals with her friend's father. I can't imagine such a developed palate in a young child, and it left me wishing mine was more discerning. I think some people naturally have a heightened palate and I envy that. I appreciate good food and can sometimes recognize fairly obscure ingredients, but I'm nothing like RR describes. Anthony Bourdain has remarked often about his first taste of raw oysters as a young child and how that set him on his journey through the world of food. I suspect you can train your palate to a certain point, but RR's description of the early meals makes me think it must have been a true delight to feed her.


message 34: by kate/Edukate12 (new)

kate/Edukate12 | 183 comments Though I laughed at many of the stories of Ruth's mom and the food she served, I also cringed. I'm surprised the family wasn't sick more often. I don't eat food past the SBD and I'm particualy vigilant about milk. I don't like milk all that much anyway, and if it tastes even slightly less than fresh I just can't do it. I will cut mold off cheese, but that is about it.


message 35: by Debbie/GA (new)

Debbie/GA | 8 comments I just picked up Tender at the Bone yesterday from the library. I had never heard of the book, but, when I mentioned it to my SIL, it was on her list to read! Now, if I can only get into the mood to read!

Debbie of GA

Sherry (sethurner) (sthurner) Debbie, if you end up liking this one there are two more! I listened to at least one on audio - maybe Garlic and Sapphires. I liked all of them.

message 37: by Traveler (new)

Traveler | 42 comments Deb.. If I saw mold on bread I would throw those pieces away and use the other bread in the loaf. Then I read that by the time you see "green" mold there is already white mold. And if a loaf of bread has mold then you should throw it all away or you'll be eating white mold. YUCK!! I toss it all now.

Yeah, you can't help but laugh at somethings this mother does. But I'm only up to the part where everyone got sick from the son's engagement party.

As for Julia Childs she always down played her OSS role. I've heard different stories. She is in the SPY MUSEUM in DC.

The library notified me that Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was ready for me. I had to cancel the request. I reserve it again later. That was quick.. I was 22 on the list when I reserved it. Hopefully that a sign that its a good book and people are reading it quickly. lol

message 38: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9483 comments kate/Edukate12 wrote: "I can't imagine such a developed palate in a young child, and it left me wishing mine was more discerning. I think some people naturally have a heightened palate and I envy that. ..."

Our daughter developed such a palate after leaving home. It may be those years as a vegan helped hone her palate. All i know is she couldn't afford to have discriminating taste & live with me as cook. LOL! The fact that she has taken some cooking classes in NYC helped enormously but her palate was on its way during her college years. When she went to Vietnam she ate all sorts of stuff i'd never touch...and took photos of the food. If anyone's interested in seeing those photos, email me & i'll send you a link. Particularly revolting to my bland palate was the idea of eating Hot Vin Lon, which is an egg with a half-hatched duck in it. She reports that she didn't realize that until she tasted the feathers & beak. YUK!!!!!

deborah, thinking it was FAR TOO EARLY in the morning to think of that dish!

message 39: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16975 comments Deb-- eating Hot Vin Lon, which is an egg with a half-hatched duck in it.


I guess your daughter is not a vegan anymore ! :O

I have to say that sounded pretty gross, Deb. If I tasted feathers and beak in my food, I would become sick. Sometimes eating eggs upsets me. It's the smell or something.

I have to say when Ruth goes on about the taste in her mouth, I can't relate at all. I guess I am not a foodie. If it taste ok and it's healthy that's really all I'm concerned about. I know a lot of people really are into food and talk and think about it a lot. That's just not me. What is that saying... some live to eat, I eat to live.

As for the recipes, I won't be trying any of them. I eat very basic unadorned foods. I eat low fat, low sugar/salt and vegetarian most of the time, so it's not my type of food.

message 40: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9483 comments I don't know where my brain is but i just returned Reichl's book, even though we've barely begun discussing it. Can we say duh?

I've forgotten what the recipes were but several seemed rather simple. In fact i remember thinking some seemed too simple. It's probably the details missing. I'm not sure whether it's a good idea or not to make a recipe seem simpler than it is. Perhaps they presume more knowledge of skills than i have but the long ones deter me.


message 41: by Kriverbend (new)

Kriverbend | 28 comments Sherry (sethurner) wrote: "Debbie, if you end up liking this one there are two more! I listened to at least one on audio - maybe Garlic and Sapphires. I liked all of them."

Sherry, Garlic and Sapphires was my favorite. I was reading late at night and woke DH up by laughing at Reichl's disguises in her attempt not to get special treatment at the restaurants she was critiquing.


Sherry (sethurner) (sthurner) Forgive me, this is only related a little. Our local public radio station has a midday quiz, and recently the question was about songwriter Paul Simon. What song title was inspired by his visited to a New York City Chinese restaurant, and a dish that featured both chicken and egg?

Mother and Child Reunion! No kidding.

Donna in Southern Maryland (cedarville922) | 207 comments I'm glad I read this and have had some time to 'cogitate' over it awhile. Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep -- often when I do my best thinking -- I was struck by a parellel to my own life.

From the perspective that everything we go through makes us who we are today, this little girl was really robbed of her childhood by her mother's bi-polar disorder. What was she? Eight? And she's trying to keep her mother from making all these people at her borther's engagement party from getting sick? So many other times where she's having to be the adult and outsmart her mother.

Now I'll share something from my own childhood that I've written about to a friend.....
"Now, jumping ahead, Mama left on February 2nd, 1967, I was in the 8th grade.
There was never any question but that I would stay with Daddy. Mama worked
at Systems Command at Andrews. Her boyfriend's name was RG. To say Daddy went crazy is an
understatement. He stalked them. One day, I came home from school, and in the kitchen
window, in front of where he sat, were three 44 magnum bullets. He told me that
one was for RG, one was for Mama, the last was for him. Imagine what
that did to me, and how old I had to become, an instant adult. Eighth grade. I
begged him not to, asked him what would become of me? That went on for a few
days, I would be afraid to leave in the morning, to come home in the
afternoons. I asked him again, what would become of ME? We cried, oh how we cried, I
remember him crying in my arms, a broken, sad man. When it was over, I picked
up those bullets, and threw them away. He told me later that he had actually
followed them with a gun, but at the critical moment, he saw my face, and
knew it wasn't worth it. To this day, I hate guns."

Now, I know this is deeply personal, and I hope I have not offended anyone by sharing this. It just made me realize once again that many children have to deal with very adult issues at an early age. And yes, I do know if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger. As time went on, Daddy became himself again, and we had a very close relationship for the rest of his life.

So my Dad 'got better,' but Ruth's whole life was colored and shaped by her mother's illness. I guess it was just fated that she would become a 'foodie.'

Donna in Southern Maryland

message 44: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie (bobbie572002) | 1084 comments I love the taste of different foods and although I have learned to be someone who eats to live, I can only control my bad habits and my portions by making sure that I really enjoy the food that I do eat. Boredom leads me to overindulgence eventually.

I don't think I would be quite so adventurous as some of the travelers I see on TV, but I am more inclined to at least try new things.

Some of the simple recipes in the book are in fact simple. I don't recall any details missing unless I am used to certain skills and didn't think about them.


message 45: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9483 comments Donna, you've given a good example of how parental behavior can turn a child into "instant adult", a phrase i like. And it isn't as though when things go back to "normal" the child can revert. The incidents are always in the brain, whether on top or not. I'm sad you experienced these events with your father but i'm sure it helped make you a better parent. When we are young i don't think we realize that our parents are people in the same way they are. Shouldn't they have all the answers?


message 46: by Kriverbend (new)

Kriverbend | 28 comments

I can't imagine anyone being offended by your post. I am so sorry that you had such an truly saddens me to think of children who have to find inner strength at an early age in order to cope with such situations. I applaud you for the kind, compassionate person you seem to be, and am happy that you were able to save your dad and can now think of him in the close relationship you subsequently had.


message 47: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie (bobbie572002) | 1084 comments I couldn't word it any better than Lois. And I totally agree -- I cannot imagine anyone being offended.

Many hugs from me to you Donna.


message 48: by kate/Edukate12 (new)

kate/Edukate12 | 183 comments Oh Donna, my heart aches for the eigth grade you. How frightened you must have been. So many children who seem to be suffering from separation anxiety are not so much afraid to be separated as they are afraid what will happen if they aren't at home to guard the situation. I don't think anyone could be offended by your story. Thanks for sharing.


message 49: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16975 comments Donna in Southern Maryland --Now I'll share something from my own childhood


message 50: by kate/Edukate12 (new)

kate/Edukate12 | 183 comments Ok, I did some scrolling back, but I'm too lazy to be thorough. Someone asked if anyone was going to try any of the recipes and also mentioned that they seemed really simple. That was my impression too, though maybe that is the secret. I won't try any of them, but I was tempted by the Con Queso Rice in the Berkeley section. It's the cheese that attracts me, but I'm trying to limit my cheese. It's a weakness for me.

Then I also looked back at the questions Alias posted before we started the book. LOL, that was easier to find. One of the questions interested me. The first two chapters of Tender at the Bone feature the culinary shortcomings of Ruth Reichl’s relatives, particularly her mother. To what do you attribute prowess in the kitchen? Is the ability (or inability) to cook a reflection of other traits? Who are the most notorious cooks in your family? I dont' think my family has any notorious cooks. My grandmother made a good ham dinner, but that's all that stands out in my memory. Growing up I thought my mother was a good cook, but once I began cooking I realized she was average at best. I can make a nice roast beef now, but I'm not using the method my mom used. I'll never forget using her method early in my marriage when my parents were visiting. My dad took me aside and said "You mother is a terrible cook. For heavens sake, learn on your own." Terrible seems strong, but I'll stand by mediocre. I did eventually teach myself, and I'm not bad. At least that's what I think, though my son did tell me that he only likes salmon now that his fiance cooks it since I didnt' knwo how. Uh this my mom's roast beef haunting me? I am a recipe follower, and not inventive at all. I love to read recipes and food magazines and I love good restaurants. This answers the first part of the question Alias posted. I think prowress in the kitchen comes from a basic love of food and an understanding of things that complement each other. I'll never have "prowress" because I depend on recipes. The person who can jsut whip up a fabulous meal without a cookbook is the ultimate cook in my opinion.


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