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Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table Paperback – March 2, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; Reprint edition (March 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767903382
  • ISBN-13: 978-1865082240
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (240 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #459,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl shares lessons learned at the hands (and kitchen counters) of family members and friends throughout her life, from growing up with her taste-blind mother to the comfort of cream puffs while away at boarding school on "Mars" (Montreal seemed just as far away) to her most memorable meal, taken on a mountainside in Greece.

Her stories shine with the voices and recipes of those she has encountered on the way, such as her Aunt Birdie's maid and companion, Alice, who first taught Reichl both the power of cooking and how to make perfect apple dumplings; the family's mysterious patrician housekeeper, Mrs. Peavey, who always remembered to make extra pastry for the beef Wellington; Serafina, the college roommate with whom Reichl explored a time of protest and political and personal discovery; and, finally, cookbook author Marion Cunningham, who, after tales of her midlife struggles and transformation, gave Reichl the strength to overcome her own anxieties.

Reichl's wry and gentle humor pervades the book, and makes readers feel as if they're right at the table, laughing at one great story after another (and delighting in a gourmet meal at the same time, of course). Reichl's narrative of a life lived and remembered through the palate will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Reichl discovered early on that since she wasn't "pretty or funny or sexy," she could attract friends with food instead. But that initiative isn't likely to secure her an audience for her chaotic, self-satisfied memoirs, although her restaurant reviews in the New York Times are popular. Reichl's knack for describing food gives one a new appreciation for the pleasures of the table, as when she writes here: "There were eggplants the color of amethysts and plates of sliced salami and bresaola that looked like stacks of rose petals left to dry." But when she is recalling her life, she seems unable to judge what's interesting. Raised in Manhattan and Connecticut by a docile father who was a book designer and a mother who suffered from manic depression, Reichl enjoyed such middle-class perks as a Christmas in Paris when she was 13 and high school in Canada to learn French. But her mother was a blight, whom Reichl disdains to the discomfort of the reader who wonders if she exaggerates. The author studied at the University of Michigan, earned a graduate degree in art history, married a sculptor named Doug, lived in a loft in Manhattan's Bowery and then with friends bought a 17-room "cottage" in Berkeley, Calif., which turned into a commune so self-consciously offbeat that their Thanksgiving feast one year was prepared from throwaways found in a supermarket dumpster. Seasoning her memoir with recipes, Reichl takes us only through the 1970s, which seems like an arbitrary cutoff, and one hopes the years that followed were more engaging than the era recreated here.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Ruth Reichl, Gourmet's editor in chief, is the author of the best-selling memoirs Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires, and the forthcoming Not Becoming My Mother and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way. She is executive producer of the two-time James Beard Award-winning Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie, which airs on public television across the country, and the editor of the Modern Library Food Series. Before coming to Gourmet, she was the restaurant critic for the New York Times, receiving two James Beard Awards for her work. She lectures frequently on food and culture.

Customer Reviews

I read this book for bookclub years ago.
Vivian Katz
Ms Reichl writes an easy to read book, she makes you laugh, the portrayals are believable, and it flows very well.
inland sailor
Anyone who loves food and cooking will get great pleasure from this book.
zsuzsanna22

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 78 people found the following review helpful By K. Schwarting on July 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
In this autobiography, Ruth Reichl, the longtime food critic for the NY Times, now the editor in chief at Gourmet, explains how she came to love food. The book weaves a tapestry of stories, including some about her mother (dubbed the Queen of Mold for serving completely unpalatable dishes) and her early childhood (how an early trip to Paris and her time spent at a French-Canadian boarding school influenced her tastes) to her adulthood, working in a collaborative kitchen and becoming friends with influential foodies.
The stories are often laugh out loud funny, and some are very touching (her mother's manic behavior is explained later in the book). The book allows the reader to see Reichl's influences and her deep love of food through the stories, without Reichl ever coming out and saying "these are my influences."
Food lovers in particular will probably adore this book, but lovers of autobiographies will probably also enjoy it. The book is not about food, exactly, but about a woman's coming of age (and part of that coming of age is that she simply loves food and the art of its creation).
A delicious read--I couldn't put it down.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Wendy E. Cowling on November 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a very enjoyable autobiographical account of a foodie discovering a range of cooking and eating possibilities way beyond her first, rather ghastly, home experiences. Reichl introduces us to memorable characters who accidentally or deliberately guided the development of her taste/s. I read it through at a sitting the first time. Now I am reading it more slowly and photocopying some of the recipes because I don't want to cover the book in grease. Highly recommended as a story of a personal "getting of wisdom", as well as a narrative which is crowded with memorable characters. P.S. I ordered as a companion, and am still reading, the 1998 compilation of essays about food, We are What we Ate, edited by Mark Winegardner.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By debvh on May 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Light, yet rich and tasty. Restaurant critic Ruth Reichl's memoir is all of these. Easy to read, yet filled with insight and well-rounded characters. The author's mother suffered from manic depression, and one way it manifested itself was in bizarre - and often downright poisonous - culinary creations. The author describes herself as having been shaped by her mother's handicap, beginning at an early age to use food as a way of making sense of the world. She effectively conveys this food-sense in a series of funny and poignant tales that take us from her childhood in New York up through young adulthood in California. She lovingly introduces the significant people in her life, revealing them to us in how and what they cooked. Her stories are punctuated by recipes (I didn't cook any of them, but they look like they should work).
The author is equally effective when she moves away from the table to tell more directly of her relationships with friends and family. She describes some episodes that could be seen as time-bound clichés - living in a commune, working in a collectively managed restaurant - with a perspective sometimes lacking in baby-boom memoirs. She brings similar good-humored perspective to her mother's mental illness and her own struggle with anxiety attacks, never wallowing in graphic description of symptoms. You don't have to be a "foodie" to enjoy TENDER AT THE BONE, just a lover of warm, tender memoirs.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ruth A. Caldwell on July 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
The friend that I borrowed this book from was devastated when I returned it and she (subsequently) couldn't find it. Synchronously, I received it in a recycling effort from one of her dear friends. Imagine how excited she's going to be to receive it back!

With good-humored perspective, Ruth Reichl, NY Times Food Editor, lovingly introduces the significant people in her life and the way she managed to find a path for herself and build a wonderful life in spite of a tumultuous childhood. A childhood that was filled with emotional trauma and rather ghastly home experiences, (imagine) Ruth's Mother picks her up from middle school, and without any preparation or explanation, drives to Canada, where she deposits Ruth in a Catholic boarding school where only French is spoken. When Ruth begs not to be left there, her Mother reminds her that she is the one that wants to learn French!
Reichl introduces us to quirky, memorable characters that thankfully guided the development of her love of fine food. A story filled with wit, sadness, resourcefulness and occasional mishap, Ruth will tell you she learned early in life that the most important thing in life is a good story!
You will be as amazed as I by the life Reichl led and discover a range of cooking and eating possibilities way beyond today's lifestyle. Excellent!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By P. Lozar on March 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Why I like this book can be best summed up by the beginning of the second-to-last chapter: After reading Reichl's first restaurant review, her editor remarks that she was born to do this, and she replies softly, "No, but I was very well trained." Although she was gifted with an appreciative palate and a knack for cooking, Reichl acquired her knowledge of foods from a series of good teachers, ranging from the eccentric quilt-maker Mr. Izzy T to exacting French winegrowers and tart-makers. Her ease with a wide variety of people, and her willingness to learn, were as crucial to her success as her way with words. She's a good storyteller, but there's genuine warmth beneath the engaging (and sometimes scary) portraits of her friends, family, and mentors. (I was a graduate student at Berkeley during some of the time she lived there, and her picture of commune living and the restaurant business was dead on -- but, unlike many other writers who came out of the same milieu, she neither romanticizes the hippie lifestyle nor sneers at the political mind-set.) The book is like having lunch with a friend who's knowledgeable about food and wine, but not pretentious or smug, and I found it perfectly delightful.
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