Thursday, July 26, 2012

Foodies Read 2: Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl

Despite meetings for my historic neighborhood association and the work projects crowding my schedule, I continue to find time for reading :-) .  I was fortunate that the two meetings this week, relating to my volunteer work with the neighborhood, took place at near-by restaurants--doubly gratifying because the Highland neighborhood has some of the best eating establishments in the city!

On Tuesday I was treated to a delicious, spicy but light quiche at TWINE, a new restaurant and bar on Line Avenue, the major street that separates the two historic districts in our neighborhood.  It was a veggie quiche but the vegetables were mere suggestions, spots of color in the quiche, which must have included bits of hot pepper that provided the perfect "punch" of taste to wake up the mild quiche.

Then on Wednesday evening after work, tapas were on the menu at the reopened and re-imagined restaurant, STIR, tucked into the neighborhood a few blocks from my house.  I savored the creamy shrimp remoulade served on fried green tomatoes, while my friend tried the lobster wrap.  The shrimp remoulade is a destination dish, one of those foods you would return to a restaurant just to taste again.

Since food was on my agenda for this week, it should come as no surprise that my reading material echoed this interest and was also part of my Foodies Read 2 Reading Challenge.  I vicariously (and literally, it would seem) ate my way through the week with Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table (Broadway Books. 1998. 282 pages. Memoir).

This is one of the many books that I've picked up on the cheap at the local college's annual Book Bazaar fundraiser.  This book cost $1.00 and is one I've had on my shelves for awhile, apparently waiting for the right moment to read it.  Reichl has been a food writer, restaurant critic and is now producing television food shows.

If you have ever wondered how one lands this kind of job, this memoir shows the circuitous route Reichl took, and it's probably not a path to emulate.  Her career path started in childhood when Reichl's family assignment was to protect the dinner guests from her mother's strange dishes and casual attitude toward food freshness and storage.  Reichl proceeds to take the reader on a wild and funny ride through her childhood and early adulthood in a household with a bipolar mother and a father who escapes through his passion for his job as a book designer. 

Reichl encounters frequent personal challenges--having an unpredictable manic depressive mother, being sent away to Montreal to boarding school against her will and being picked on by the class rich girl.  After three years, Reichl returns to live with her parents as a high school student, only to essentially be left alone during the week to raise herself, but Reichl has the knack for turning disaster into opportunity, with a dose of laughter thrown in to avoid appearing pathetic.  We follow Reichl to college, her first marriage and her first cooking jobs.

This memoir is highly readable, is interspersed with a few recipes, as well as many wonderful descriptions of foods, meals and the people who propelled Reichl ultimately toward a writing career.  Good stories, tight writing and interesting characters elevate this memoir above the norm.  I am late coming to this book and its author.  I'm sure many of you read Tender at the Bone and the sequels years ago, so I'm glad I held onto this book waiting for the right time to "devour" it.


  1. I really enjoyed this when I read it several years ago. Aunt Birdie was my favorite!

    1. Jennie, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the book. I think I have another of Reichl's books to read, too. She paints a vivid picture of events.