Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table

Title: Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table
Author: Ruth Reichl
2017 Book Challenge Entry: A book about food
Thoughts: Obviously, I’m a huge food fan. I love to eat food, I love to take pictures of food and I love to talk about food. Oddly enough, in my literary journey I have not read very much about food. Most of the books I pick up about food sound a bit clinical and I always find there is something else on my reading list pulling at me with more force.
This one though. This one I had been itching to read for a while. In Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl tells her story from growing up in Greenwich Village, where as a child she would routinely intercept dinner guests to steer them away from her mother’s cooking, to becoming food critic for both the The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.  I figured with a resume like that, she probably knew how to write.
She does.
And it’s not just writing like, she makes good word choices and she knows where to put commas. I mean, she can craft a scene. She knows how to make you feel like you are in her living room in New York, or the bistro she worked in when she lived in California.
She also writes about food like a pro. #obvi.  But here’s the thing. She wasn’t born a food critic. She wasn’t born a wonderful cook. She wasn’t even born or raised to have a discerning palate. She is a person who learned to love food based on her relationships as a child. Since she worked and fought and learned to gain this knowledge, she still remembers life B.G.F (Before Great Food) so her telling of experiencing great dishes for the first time are full of reverence for the cook and the recipe. Great dining wasn’t in her destiny. It was a long road for her to travel and the trip along that road is amazing.
The thing that really astounded me throughout the book, however, wasn’t her ability to command the page with her descriptions of food and wine. I mean, don’t get me wrong, that was fantastic, but what was truly powerful, was the way she made you understand human relationships, especially those within her immediate family.
I have family members with mental health issues and the way she describes the guilt, frustration and incredulous feelings associated with handling those family members is spot on. She also captures the love and patience you have to find to navigate those relationships. When she is younger, these situations are kind of hilarious. As she gets older and develops a greater understanding of the situation, they become more serious and somber. She just hits every note right. She doesn’t miss a beat. Anywhere.
I’ve read a lot of memoirs over the years and sometimes they don’t satisfy me. They can become a bit repetitive. This one just had a different flavor. See what I did there?  While her story has a lot to do with food and she tells that aspect of it so very well, there is more here. She has had and is still having a hearty, meaty life and it is one that sticks on your ribs for a while.
Happy Reading!

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