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Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table [Hardcover]

Ruth Reichl
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 July 2000
This memoir 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, Reichl introduces us to the fascinating characters who shaped her world and her tastes.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press (6 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091875056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091875053
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 14 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 565,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon 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 humour 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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Author’s Note

Storytelling, in my family, was highly prized. While my father walked home from work he rearranged the events of his day to make them more entertaining, and my mother could make a trip to the supermarket sound like an adventure. If this required minor adjustments of fact, nobody much minded: it was certainly preferable to boring your audience.

The good stories, of course, were repeated endlessly until they took on a life of their own. One of these stories I grew up on was a family legend about myself. Its point was to demonstrate my extraordinary maturity, even at the age of two. This is how my father told it:

“One Sunday in early fall we were sitting in our house in the country admiring the leaves outside the picture window. Suddenly the telephone rang: it was Miriam’s mother in Cleveland, saying that her father was gravely ill. She had to go immediately leaving me alone with Ruthie, who was to start nursery school the next day.

“I, of course, had to be in the office Monday morning. Worse, I had an appointment I could not cancel; I simply had to catch the 7:07 to New York. But the school didn’t open until eight, and although I phoned and phoned, I was unable to reach any of the teachers. I just didn’t know what to do.

“In the end, I did the only thing I could think of. At seven I took Ruthie to the school, sat her on a swing outside and told her to tell the teachers when they came that she was Ruthie Reichl and she had come to go to school. She sat there, waving bravely as I drove off. I knew she’d be fine; even then she was very responsible.” He always ended up smiling proudly in my direction.

Nobody ever challenged this story. I certainly didn’t. I was not until I had a child of my own that I realised that nobody, not even my father, would leave a two-year-old alone on a swing in a strange place for an hour. Did he exaggerate my age? The length of time? Both? By then my father was no longer available for questions, but I am sure that if he had been he would have insisted that the story was true. For him it was.

This book is absolutely in the family tradition. 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.

I learned early that the most important thing in life is a good story. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Once again ....delicious! 7 Dec 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first read Ruth Reichl's 'Garlic and Sapphires' and loved her writing style and passion for food so much that I bought her earlier books!

I wasn't disappointed. This is another beautiful memoir describing Reichl's early years and experiences with food. It will be a while before I forget Alice's apple dumplings, her mother's totally orange Halloween dinner or her travels through Tunisia. The book also includes a smattering of recipes.

Absolutely delicious, a must for foodies!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good luck, Ruthie 16 July 1998
By A Customer
I first heard of Ruth Reichl during her radio interview on "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross. Later, a friend told me that Reichl also has a radio show in New York. Ah, those lucky New Yorkers...
In this book, Ruth Reichl's stories cut across the many planes of her world: food, family, self, cities, friends, and last but definitely not least -- mental illness.
Though each story in this set of memoirs is nominally "complete" with a starting and ending point that lets it stand on its own, there is nonetheless a sense of skittishness and patchiness that permeates the collection. Characters enter and exit the book with scarce, absent, or post-facto introduction. Episodes end abruptly, and suddenly Ruth is somewhere else -- in a different place and time.
These effects are surely intentional. Because they are a part of how Ruth has lived and continues to live in a life influenced by her mother's manic depression, her own emerging mental crises which! ! are mentioned in the closing chapters, and the places and times within which she lives.
Most of the stories-with-crises that Riechl tells from childhood through adulthood end on hopeful notes, but you often don't find out what happens afterward. The same with the greater story of Riechl's life -- we are hopeful that she will come out of this ok, but we can't be sure.
Readers of this book may also be interested in Ron Suskind's _A Hope in the Unseen_ (also reviewed by a few folks on this website) which ends in a similar way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book! 6 Sep 1999
By A Customer
I thought this book was great! I guess I wasn't disappointed with the ending because I then went on to read "DINING OUT" by Andrew Dornenburg -- another great book in which Reichl is featured prominently, both on the cover and in the text as one of America's leading restaurant critics. After reading how she developed her passion for food in "TENDER AT THE BONE", I loved learning what her life as a restaurant reviewer was like in "DINING OUT"!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars YUM! 26 May 1999
By A Customer
This book is a must for people who share the belief that eating is not a biological necessity but rather one of life's great adventures. Ruth Reichl has enriched the life of many with her superb reviews. Now she has added courage and generosity to her work by sharing some of the experiences that formed her. It was a joy to share her physical and psychological journeys. I will continue to emulate her zest for life and food!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Ruth Reichl is so brave to bare her family's dysfunctional framework and how it shaped her life as a food lover, cook and critic. I kept wondering if the people she so openly writes about are still alive to see what she wrote! Her love of food is poetic, but her open-minded life more than that is a testament to finding balance and optimism. I hope now that she's at Gourmet she can look back and write about what it was like to become restaurant critic of the New York Times.
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3.0 out of 5 stars OK 27 Jan 2013
By Alison
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I usually love food related autobiographies but wasn't so crazy about this. It was quite readable but not quite as good as I had hoped.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Growing Up At The Table 26 Jun 2012
Ruth Reichl has been the restaurant critic for The New York Times and the editor of Gourmet magazine. Living in the UK, I really didn't know much about her, but had read reviews of her work and I do love 'foodie books', so was hoping for a tasty read!

Although food does play a huge part in the book and in Ruth's life, this is more than just her foodie adventures. This is an honest account of her upbringing in a very strange, almost eccentric family. Her mother is known as the Queen of Mold - purely because the food that she served up on a daily basis was mostly inedible. Ruth spent much of her formative years watching out for dinner guests and trying politely to urge them not to eat the food that her mother had so lovingly prepared. Despite this, many guests did suffer after attending dinner parties, yet Mother was never affected. Although potentially poisoning your guests is pretty serious, Reichl tells her tale in a humourous way. It is clear that her mother was suffering with mental health problems and despite their precarious and often very fragile relationship, Reichl does show a fondness for those years.

Ruth Reichl encountered food in many different places; away at a Montreal boarding school, in France and later in life in many other parts of the world. This was by no means a tradtional food education but her experiences gave her a particular insight into what tastes good and what certainly doesn't. Littered throughout the book are the recipes that she collected along her travels, which although I haven't yet attempted, do seem very easy to follow.

This is a really interesting memoir, with some great characters. It's at times very funny, and at others, quite sad. I really enjoyed reading about her life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book.
Okay, first of all I must confess that my favourite books of all time are books sprinkled with recipes - as this book is. Read more
Published on 26 Jan 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy for any foodie!
How Ruth Reichl ever became involved with food having a mother who, singlehandedly, could have wiped out an entire village is a mystery! Read more
Published on 18 July 2000 by R. Busciglio
3.0 out of 5 stars An 'OK' read
I enjoyed the book except for the end ... it ends extremely abruptly, like a car that has just run out of gas !!! Read more
Published on 20 July 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Page after page of small joys
I'd never read anything by Ruth Reichl before picking up this book, but you can be assured that I will seek out her work after having put it down! Read more
Published on 22 Jun 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
I found this book moving, entertaining and down right funny! I loved strolling down "food" memory lane with her. Try the Art Park brownies!! They are delicious.
Published on 7 Jun 1999
2.0 out of 5 stars Great food critic, lousy biographer
I've always enjoyed Reichl's NY Times food reviews - they're quick, factual and accurate. The skills that she uses so well in her food columns just don't translate well into a... Read more
Published on 4 Jun 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars A sometimes moving memory of family and food
This beautifully written account of Ruth Reichl's warm relationship with food, is peppered with moving anectdotes about her mother and the education of one of the most influential... Read more
Published on 30 May 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars A "Bad Mom" book with recipes
While there certainly are some humorous vignettes in these food-centered memoirs,the repeated theme is "my mom was nuts, treated me badly, and made me unhappy. Read more
Published on 24 May 1999
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