Sunday, May 04, 2014

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

Years ago, I stumbled upon Ruth Reichl's essay, "The Queen of Mold," in a college textbook I taught from. It was the perfect example of a personal essay: humorous, thoughtful, vividly described. So why did it take me so long to read the whole collection...Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table? Hell if I know. I'm kind of a slacker that way!

"The Queen of Mold" in particular is about Reichl's first inclinations that it's her calling in life to save people from her mother's cooking. Mom has an iron stomach and isn't afraid of eating the decaying leftovers of a turkey...or anything else other people would willingly pass up. 

In a larger sense, this collection of personal stories is about Reichl's experiences falling in love with food and the relationships she and her family had with food throughout her childhood and into adulthood. She eventually went on to become a food critic for the New York Times and editor of Gourmet magazine. 

While Tender at the Bone is quite funny and ridiculous in spots, there was a darker side. It's revealed that Ruth's mother is bipolar, and their relationship is rocky at best. Her mother lack's boundaries and her erratic behavior damage their relationship in the long term. 

In one such instance, Ruth's mother decides to haul her off to France to boarding school. QUITE LITERALLY. With not a stitch of French in her vocabulary, Ruth is flung into life with her peers and is quite clueless and emotionally disturbed by it all. Luckily, she finds her place and finds French cuisine, thanks to weekend visits to a peer's parents' estate where the father schools the girls in the finer points of foie gras and souffles.

In another essays, Reichl gets a job at a day camp in France for the summer. One day, with not much else to do, she and a friend decide to hitchhike and end up entangled with a foodie couple at a farm that makes cheese. Terrified that they won't make it back to camp in time and might lose their cushy jobs, the girls have to scramble to figure out a solution. And they happen to stumble upon the best berry pie ever in the land. 

I picked this book up when I was slumping, and it was the perfect, quick-reading non-fiction to move my reading mojo right along. If you're into food, family, and the funny, pick it up! 

Pub. Date: March 1999
Publisher: Broadway Books
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 0767903382 
Source: Bought it!

15 comments:

  1. That sounds like my kind of book! What a great cover!

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    1. I think you'd love it! And I do love the cover.

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  2. I've had this on my shelf for a number of years. I think it is time to dust off the cover, as I am in a bit of a reading slump myself

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    1. It's so great. I hope you enjoy it when you get around to it, and I hope it helps bust your slump.

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    1. Me too! They always seem to work well for me.

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  4. I just grabbed a copy of this during a recent better world books sale! Can't wait to pick it up now. Glad you loved it so much!

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    1. Yay! I hope you love it, too!

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  5. I picked this up at a used book sale not too long ago. Sounds like I made a good choice! Now I just have to find the time to read it... ;-)

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    1. Awesome! It was a really fun, quick read, Megan. I hope you like it!

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  6. Sounds a bit like the Julie & Julia movie with Meryl Streep. I always feel like learning to cook better when encountered with such stories. Maybe I should pick it up before moving out haha :p

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  7. I have Reichl's Delicious! in my TBR, and I'm sort of embarrassed to admit I had no idea who she was when I accepted the book. I've only lately learned she's a big deal in the culinary world, soooo . . . joke's on me? I can't wait to read her novel, and it sounds like I need to add this to my list as well!

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  8. Ooh, I picked this up at a library book sale last year and your review makes it sound even better than the favorable impression I had of it already.

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  9. I read this several years ago and as I recall, the first half was extremely funny. Laugh out loud funny. However, I think the second half left me wanting more humor. I enjoyed the book, but overall I was disappointed with the second half. I still plan to pick up a copy of Delicious, as I've heard wonderful things about that novel! Love me some foodie reads!

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  10. I read this years ago and absolutely loved it. While I didn't love her 2nd quite as much the 3rd was great too. Thanks for reminding me how fantastic this book is. I'm going to have to pull this off the shelf for a reread

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