Bibliophile reviews Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the table by Ruth Reichl

Year published: 1999
Genre: Memoir, food, recipes
Setting & time: USA 1950s to 1970s.

I got this book on some solid recommendations from the foodies in my online reading group, and I am not sorry.

Reichl writes about growing up in New York with a caring but rather distant father and a bipolar mother and some of the characters, many of them wonderfully eccentric, who contributed to her education about food. She becomes a rebel, but only when her parents can't catch her at it, has friendships, travels, falls in love and marries, and lives in a commune in California and works in a cooperative restaurant. All of this contributes to her wide knowledge of food that would later lead her to become a restaurant critic, and throughout the book food is a constant theme.

Reichl writes an easy and light style and her prose is entertaining but without ever being fluffy. The book is a collection of episodes from Reichl's early life rather than being one story told straight through, probably because it is supposed to be food themed. These episodes show us how she grows into a person who knows enough about food and cooking to be a good restaurant critic, so it might be said that the book is basically about how to educate a food writer.

I have been unable to get the second volume of Reichl's memoirs, but I am now reading the third part, about her stint as the restaurant critic for the New York Times, and am enjoying it very much.

Rating: An entertaining account of a woman's food education that led her to getting to eat for a living. 4 stars.


jenclair said…
I read this last year and enjoyed it, although it was not what I expected. I want to read some of her others as well. Birdie was my favorite character, and she really was a character, even if the book is nonfiction. Glad you liked it, too.
Bibliophile said…
I agree, Birdie was such a wonderful character.

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