Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table

by Ruth Reichl

Paperback, 1999





Broadway (1999), Edition: Reprint, 304 pages


"At an early age, Ruth Reichl discovered that "food could be a way of making sense of the world. ... If you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were." Her deliciously crafted memoir, Tender at the Bone, 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, the notorious food-poisoner known as the Queen of Mold, Reichl introduces us to the fascinating characters who shaped her world and her tastes, from the gourmand Monsieur du Croix, who served Reichl her first souffle, to those at her politically correct table in Berkeley who championed the organic food revolution in the 1970s. Spiced with Reichl's infectious humor and sprinkled with her favorite recipes, Tender at the Bone is a witty and compelling chronicle of a culinary sensualist's coming-of-age"--Publisher description.… (more)


½ (749 ratings; 4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member foxglove
The writing is decent, and the beginning and ending are good, but too much of the book consists of adolescent navel-gazing.
LibraryThing member WeeziesBooks
“Tender at the Bone” by Ruth Reichl was a charming book that we read as part of a cooking theme for a local book club. Along with learning about Ruth as a young girl, you are also treated to an array of recipes which are a consequence of her memories of when she was growing up. Her stories are
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not always happy reflections. Ruth’s mother was a terrible cook who according to Ruth came close to poisoning her guests many times over.
This is a delightful read and it will make you smile, re-think your own cooking, and for many of us, be generally be thankful for the mother’s cooking that sustained us as we grew up. I heartily recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member Talbin
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table is Ruth Reichl's memoir about her childhood and early adult experiences with family and food. Reichl grew up in the 1950's and 60's, and entering adulthood in the early 70's. From being thrust into a French Canadian boarding school (and learning about
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French cuisine) to cooking with her Aunt Birdie and Birdie's cook Alice, to joining a sort-of commune and cooking vegan, Reichl's formative years seem to have been perfectly aligned with her eventual career as a food critic and food magazine editor. But what really strikes home was her relationship with her manic-depressive mother and her long-suffering father. While Reichl is able to spin stories about her mother into comic episodes, I have a feeling that her mother's disease affected Reichl more than she really lets on in the book. Reichl has an engaging style, and she tells her stories with relish. A definite "must" for those readers who enjoy food writing.
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LibraryThing member Molave
The recipes seem authentic, and good. The Oléron Berry Tart from France, for example, sounds like a winner.

The author's anecdotes, though, don't always strike me as particularly funny, or engaging, or even, at times, plausible.
LibraryThing member jennifour
I love food writers and Ruth Reichl is one of the best. Her stories incorporate her own story, intertwined with food and recipes, of course. I've read all of her books and have enjoyed each of them.
LibraryThing member k56nyc
The connexion between life, food, and memories is a evocative mixture and a method of reaching the life-well-lived.
LibraryThing member Niecierpek
Reichl writes about food and cooking with such gusto that she makes it sound almost sexy. Well, I guess she finally got me to believe that some people really can taste more than others, and they are not just show-offs. Even though I can’t try out almost any of the recipes in her book, they look
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fabulous. Following her cues, I’ve started marinating meat for much longer- I even managed to overdo it a bit; it came out too salty, but was indeed aromatic.
It was a very pleasant read, and there was much more to it than just reading about food. It was interesting to see how Reichl had an enormous interest in food since childhood, and how lucky she was to stumble on great mentors: her nanny from Bermuda who happened to be a gourmet cook, her French school friend’s father who was a great connoisseur, and a collection of colourful food experts in really good restaurants she worked for. On the other hand, an ordinary child/adolescent/person wouldn’t probably have picked up on those chances, wouldn’t have even noticed them. She was also very focused and persistent, and despite her mother creating constant havoc in her life and her upbringing which was pointing elsewhere, she managed to persevere in what interested her.
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LibraryThing member mcglothlen
This was a gift. I tried to read it but Ruth Reichl irritates me too much. The only one of her books that has tempted me is the one about being a restaurant reviewer. Haven't read it yet though. I did hear her interviewed about it on public radio and it sounded like fun.
LibraryThing member karieh
I just love reading about cooking and peoples memories about food... I've never tasted her cooking - but if it's half as delicious as her prose...sign me up!
LibraryThing member sarahfrierson
I first encountered Ruth Reichl's writing with 2005's Garlic and Sapphires and was immediately impressed. (And hungry! You can only read about food for so long before you want to experience it for yourself.) That book told of Reichl's arrival in New York to work as the food critic for the New York
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Times and the hilarious disguises she needed to create in order to do her job. Reichl has a wonderful storytelling style, and her love of food and people is abundantly clear.

Tender at the Bone is a collection of stories from throughout Reichl's life, each showing a step in her development as a "foodie" and as a storyteller. From learning how to cook her father's favorite German dishes as a young girl to an elite French boarding school, through communal living in San Francisco to an extended trip to North Africa, the reader is able travel along with Reichl as she begins to discover her passion.

Each story is able to stand alone, but a few threads run through them all--culinary discoveries, the individual's search for identity, and the power of family. Reichl's interactions with her mother help to define her as well as thrust her into new possibilities, and the result is a book that explains how one can find one's calling without knowing that a search has begun.

Also, for those who are more interested in the food, most chapters are augmented with a recipe from that time in Reichl's life. Each recipe is simple and stripped down to the basics, which I appreciate greatly as a beginning cook. I'm looking forward to my first attempt at Wiener Schnitzel. Cross your fingers!
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LibraryThing member kd9
There is no doubt that Ruth Reichl is a very good story teller. She has a strong voice and an unshakable point of view. The early stories of her adventures in eating seem almost magical, but as she gets older and life becomes more difficult for her to live, she starts to hide the truth and becomes
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more remote. She wrote the last third of the book as if it was happening to someone else. I will continue to read her books for their sheer entertainment value, but I will always wonder where the truth lies.
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LibraryThing member NancyJak
I loved this book. I loved reading about Ruth in the kitchen. I felt bad for the life she had growing up but I couldn't put this book down.
LibraryThing member LivelyLady
Wonderful memoir of this foodie writer growing up in New York and then moving as a young adult to California...all within the context of what she ate, cooked and created!!! Maybe because of the influence I made tomato soup from scratch today for the first time.....:)
LibraryThing member Carrie.deSilva
The expected beautiful, readable writing from Ruth Reichl - last editor of the late Gourmet magazine. This is one of a pair of autobiographical volumes (see also Comfort Me With Apples) and is a treat for bedtime. A few recipes are included.
LibraryThing member bookwormteri
Excellent. Funny, poignant, and hunger inducing. Ruth goes from her childhood to her wild teen years to her commune to becoming a food critic. I love her voice. Anyone who really enjoys a good memoir, or likes to read about food, should pick this up. Includes recipes.
LibraryThing member VermontBooklover
This is a food-based memoir by a former New York Times restaurant critic and former (or maybe still?) editor of Gourmet magazine. It's laugh-out-loud funny in places and penetratingly insightful about the importance of food in our lives. It's a quick and engaging read.
LibraryThing member jettstream
One bite and you'll devour the whole thing.
LibraryThing member book58lover
A delightful book about the early life and career of food writer and New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl. If you are interested in food reviews, cooking, etc. you must read this book.
LibraryThing member debnance
Reichl grows up, from being the only child of the worst cook in the universe, to becoming a food critic for the New York Times.
LibraryThing member atk511
Ruth Reichl, former food critic for the Los Angeles Times and New Times and editor of Gourmet magazine until it closed in 2009, has written a funny, touching and fascinating memoir. Beginning when she was a young child and ending as as a young adult in a communal living situation in Berkeley, CA in
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the 1960's, Reichl describes the people and experiences that developed her life-long love affair with food. The book is sometimes laugh out loud funny, sometimes sad, but always hard to put down.
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LibraryThing member cestovatela
Former New York Times food critic and Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl wasn't born a gourmand. Her mother was the sort of person who shopped obsessively for the cheapest food and served it even when it was spoiled. Young Ruth learns to cook mostly as a survival skill, and keeps at it only
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because she sees the joy it brings to people. I loved this book because it was the first foodie memoir I've read by someone whose culinary awakening happened relatively late in life, and because it is as much about finding your passion as it is cooking good food. Ruth's journey with her lovable but out of control mother is poignant, and admired her tenacity in living life the way she wanted to -- even when that meant squatting in a crowded Berkeley apartment and cooking what her hippie roommates found in the trash. This is a food memoir, but it is also very much the story of growing up in the nineteen sixties and seventies, and seeing how the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and racism intersected with Ruth's otherwise ordinary life made these events far more vivid than any history book. Her travel experiences in Canada, France, and North Africa are fascinating as well.
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LibraryThing member autumnesf
Famous food/restaurant reviewers autobiography. Great story of a love affair with food (in a healthy way). The chapter of her mothers cooking was beyond description. I don't know how their family survived.
LibraryThing member LynnB
Ruth Reichl developed a love of food -- cooking it and appreciating subtle nuances in taste and texture -- at an early age. In this book, she talks about different periods in her life, each revolving around cooking or exploring foods.

This book is more a collection of memories than a plot-driven
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autobiography, but it does paint a picture of the author's life. She is a good writer with a keen knack of finding humour in trying circustances. And, I baked the raspberry pie which is delicious!
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LibraryThing member fantasmogirl
Reihl somehow was capable of creating a book that is equal parts humor and despondence. Her accounts of her family life and growing up should make one want to weep a bit, but instead you can't help but laugh at the anecdotes she puts forth through the tales she weaves.
LibraryThing member tippycanoegal
Loved this book, loved all of her books. Love her! One person I would love to have at my fantasy dinner party. She is funny and brash.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

304 p.; 5.31 inches


0767903382 / 9780767903387
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