Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl was truly just what I needed this Thanksgiving season. It’s a memoir of growing up but it is also about food in all the little events that make up a childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.
I was able to take a trip away from home and away from my two young kids (and my husband) for the first time, essentially, since I became a mother seven years ago. It was a much needed break.
But in the midst of the turkey and pie, I also read this gem of a book and it hit me in all the right spots. Family relationships: I can’t ruin my kids too badly. Cooking: I’m not as hopeless as I feel. Life in general: It’s a mix of all the moments, and the joys of simple memories will probably win out in the end.
In Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl recalls the food moments of her young life, beginning with her taste-challeneged mother who was the “queen of the mold.” I laughed so hard as I read of all the cooking disasters her mother created.Accidentally dropping a pie into the batch of soup? Making a half-awake spouse taste the food you suspect is spoiled? Even if you never read the rest of this book, someday you must try just this first chapter. Somehow, through all the moldy food, Ruth finds her way around the kitchen and warns off friends from her mother’s disasters.
The other chapters detail the others who helped her learn what real food is: her Auntie’s maid who taught her the basics of cooking, the restaurant she visited in Paris, the friend’s family that invited her home from boarding school for a weekend. All of these helped her learn to appreciate food and learn how to cook. When she later lived on a commune during the 70s, she was the one who was able to make a real meal from the dumpster finds others brought in. Eventually she would become a food critic.
Most chapters also shared a recipe that related to that time of her life. Although I’m not going to make Wiener Sschnitzel anytime soon, it’s always fun to see what recipes one remembers from childhood.
Ruth Reichl has written other memoirs of her time as a food critic. I am curious to know how these early experiences have changed her perspective on food. She is truly one who has experienced the extremes, even from childhood!