Feb 2007

Tender at the Bone – Ruth Reichl

About: 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 humor 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.

My thoughts: One of my favorite questions is from the short-lived and under-appreciated show “My So-Called Life.” Jared Leto (Jordan Catalano) asks Claire Danes (Angela Chase) in his signature drawl, “Why are you, like, the way that you are?”

Ruth Reichl’s answer to my favorite question lies in the pages of Tender at the Bone. From childhood to adolescence and eventually to adulthood, Reichl takes readers through the memories, meals, and characters that have shaped her life. The road she travels to becoming the restaurant critic for the New York Times and Editor-in-Chief at Gourmet is surprising and hilarious. Let’s just say she was never hip and a hardcore hippie. I fell in love with Reichl after reading Garlic and Sapphires. And with Tender at the Bone, my admiration grows even deeper.

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