Tender at the Bone (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch


Tender at the Bone
Ruth Reichel, 1998
282 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
February 2009

The career of Ruth Reichl, one of the country's top food critics and the editor-in-chief of Gourmetmagazine, was hardly a given. Her mother's idea of culinary elegance was laying out a buffet of mold-encrusted food or leftovers from Horn & Hardart's automat cafeteria in New York City!

In fact, according to her account, Ruth might have followed the career path of a public health inspector. By 9 years of age she was warning guests away from her mother's toxic offerings, particularly worried about "the big eaters" and her favorite people as they neared the buffet, "willing them away from the casserole."

Unknowingly, I had started sorting people by their tastes. Like a hearing child born to deaf parents, I was shaped by my mother's handicap, discovering that food could be a way of making sense of the world.

Reichl's memoir makes for quick, delightful reading with a good dose of hilarity thrown in. But her story eventually reaches its tender point with her aging parents, particularly her long-suffering father who put up with a good deal from Ruth's zany mother, a diagnosed manic-depressive. To escape, Ruth takes off for distant parts, putting 3,000 miles between herself and her mother, only to be called home occasionally to help get her parents through another crisis.

This is delectable fare served up by Reichl. I recommend it highly—a delightful, fun read. 

See our Reading Guide for Tender at the Bone.

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