Last spring I had the great Silver Lining opportunity to hear Ruth Reichl speak as part of the UCSB Arts & Lectures Program. She is a beloved authority on foodie culture, the former Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine and recipient of six James Beard Awards for food writing. And she is cool.
This year, our book club is reading her book, Tender at the Bone. This book is the first of Ruth Reichl’s autobiographical presentations. Ohhhh, is it ever great!
Some people remember what they were wearing on important days of their lives, others remember the music or sounds in the background. Ruth Reichl is a gifted story teller who remembers what she was eating – in vivid detail. Reichl describes food in a way that makes you salivate – even when she is describing a dish that she ate over 3o years ago.
She is only about 10 or 11 when the story starts and right away we know all about her family. Her father, Ernst, is easy going. He has to be, considering Reichl’s mom, Miriam, is rather…eh… intriguing (translation: she has bipolar disease). Miriam can “make a meal out of anything!” Often much to her family’s chagrin. Reichl even states that her brother, Bob, was lucky to have made it to the age of 25.
Most mornings I got out of bed and went to the refrigerator to see how my mom was feeling. You could tell instantly just by opening the door. One day in 1960 I found a whole suckling pig staring out at me. I jumped back and slammed the door, hard.
To Reichl’s credit (and her readers’ relief) this memoir doesn’t wallow in any of the dysfunctional-family nostalgia that currently defines the genre. Instead this is a book about food–more specifically, “the way food brought people together–and kept them apart.”
This book is fundamentally a journey through Ms. Reichl’s education about how good food can be, how good life can be, and how she could overcome anything in her background to become her own person.
Tender at the Bone is whimsical, entertaining, enlightning, sad, inspiring, and truly, truly intriguing. So wonderful are Reichl’s descriptions that I almost couldn’t wait to finish the book and hit the kitchen.
I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did!