Tender at the Bone
by Ruth Reichl

Broadway Books, 1999. ISBN 0767903382.
Reviewed by Susan Wittig Albert
Posted on 01/08/2001

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Food/Cooking/Kitchen; Nonfiction: Relationships

Ruth Reichl has been a food editor and restaurant critic for the LA Times and NY Times and is now the editor of Gourmet Magazine, but if you're thinking that Tender at the Bone is just another foodie book, think again. Sure, it has recipes (18 of them, most simple, all tantalizing) and plenty of mouth-watering descriptions of food, cookery, and dining. It's also a tasty, tantalizing book, a smorgasbord of entertaining character sketches and often hilarious food adventures.

But Tender at the Bone has its serious side. It tells the disturbing tale of a family thrown into chaos by Ruth's manic mother, the "Queen of Mold" whose idea of a gourmet meal is a stewed two-week-old turkey carcass. It is an almost-classic rite-of-passage journey of a lonely young girl whose dysfunctional parents abandon her to the care of others, leaving her to discover that good food can comfort the lonely (Alice's Apple Dumplings), that food can seduce the unwary (Devil's Food Cake), and that food always expresses our deepest cultural and familial longings (Serafina's mother's Coconut Bread). As she meets helpers who encourage her to outgrow her controlling mother, Ruth graduates from waitress to commune cook to restaurant chef to food writer, stumbling into her vocation along the way in this wonderful journey of self-discovery. Food is a "way of making sense of the world," Ruth says in an introspective moment, or as another character succinctly remarks, "I have to keep tasting."

Tender at the Bone is a sweet, funny, light-hearted memoir whose lessons are dished out with a deft hand. At the same time it is a revealing self-study that offers insights into the forces that limited Reichl during her childhood and teen years, as well as those that brought her new experiences. The author's insatiable appetite for life, her compelling need to "keep tasting": to savor adventure, sample many lifestyles, delight in diversity, relish discovery, learn, create, and grow. It is a nourishing book, in all its various dimensions.

(You might also be interested in our
Story Circle book discussion questions
-- see also more book discussion questions)

Authors/Publicists: For promotion purposes, you may quote excerpts of up to 200 words from our reviews, with a link to the page on which the review is posted. ©Copyright to the review is held by the writer (review posting date appears on the review page). If you wish to reprint the full review, you may do so ONLY with her written permission, and with a link to http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org. Contact our Book Review Editor (bookreviews at storycirclebookreviews.org) with your request and she will forward it to the appropriate person.


Visit us on Facebook and Twitter and goodreads.

Buy books online through amazon.com by simply clicking on the book cover or title. Your purchase will support our work of encouraging all women to tell their stories.
This title is currently available ONLY as an e-book