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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Read it and Eat

I've written about this book previously, but wanted to try my hand at a book review, so please forgive the redundancy.

Until recently, I’m not sure I comprehended that food writing is a genre, but over the last six months the chef/half-owner of the shop where I work has recommended several talented authors. Always one for a succulent read, I dipped into his list, starting with James Beard award winning writer Ruth Reichl, formerly a New York Times food critic, as well as the Editor and Chief of Gourmet Magazine until it closed in 2009.

Tender to the Bone-Growing up at the Table, Reichl's memoir, is billed as: “…the story of a life defined, determined and enhanced in equal measure by a passion for food, unforgettable people, and by the love of tales well told. Beginning with her mother, the notorious food-poisoner known as the Queen of the Mold…”

From the onset, Reichl's stories swallowed me whole, starting with her tales of growing up in New York City with a manic-depressive mother, who exhibited “iron stomach” tendencies and was “unafraid of rot,” through her surprise exile (orchestrated by said mother) to an all French boarding school in Montreal (Reichl didn't speak French), her time at the University of Michigan, followed by Berkley, where she lived in a commune, working in a collectively owned organic restaurant before becoming a food critic for New West Magazine. Along the way, the author infuses the book with gulping mouthfuls of humor as she discusses her memories around well-loved dishes, the recipes for which she includes throughout:

“Aunt Birdie wasn’t really related to me; she was my father’s first wife’s mother. But she desperately wanted to be a grandmother, so when I was born she went to the hospital, introduced herself to my mother, and applied for the job. She was well past eighty, and this looked like her last chance…"
Whether it is through her description of traveling to North Africa with her college roommate, or exploring the family owned food shops in lower Manhattan in the early 1970’s (“Some days I would leave the loft to get a stick of butter or a loaf of bread and be gone for hours…”), Reichl demonstrates her skill as an extraordinary writer, evoking her memories with a richness layered in vivid scenery, and the spices bestowed by the characters who inhabited her early years.

You don’t have like cooking to enjoy the stories in Tender at the Bone, though it will add to the experience. As a food lover however, I stabbed at the book with my fork and ran my tongue through each luscious bite—so captivated by Reichl’s words that like a starving reader, I forgot to stop and take a drink along the way.

Tender to the Bone
Growing up at the Table

13 comments:

Bish Denham said...

Who doesn't like food? Stories about food? People who cook food? Eating food? Personally, I love food. Food is good. (How come those two words are pronounced the same way?)

Morgan Mandel said...

Beautiful blog, Liza! I haven't read any autobiographies about food and food lovers, but it's a possibility. I did read a romance lately on kindle, Always the Baker, Never the Bride, about a cake maker, which was kind of cute.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

Jacqueline Howett said...

I like it when cook books give little stories on time and place to the food and recipe. I have several cook books in the wings I'm also writing like this!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Oh, that line about a mother with an iron stomach, not afraid of rot, hit home for me. My mother was a terrible cook and never threw out anything, no matter how long past fresh it was. As a teen, I discovered gourmet cooking and had a wonderful time exploring the real world of food. And, then, I met my future mother-in-law who was an adventurous, wonderful cook and my life really blossomed.
We all eat. It might as well be extraordinary whenever possible. Thanks for sharing this.

glnroz said...

ok, well, i dont know if you think you can write a book review or not, but,,,i am going to have to run this one down and see what all it is about,, thanx,,glenn

Jan Morrison said...

I think I heard an interview with her on the radio a while back. The iron stomach comment is very familiar! I like books with recipes in them. I just finished one called Following the Crumbs Home or something. It was very self-absorbed and oh, I don't know - not good but the food descriptions and recipes were heaven. so there ya go...

Kathryn Magendie said...

What an appropriate and wonderfully crafted review!

You've made me want to read the book and that's what a positive well-written review will often do.

I like the addition of a bit of the text from the book, too.

JC said...

I Love Cooking, Thanks for share it
Quilting Fabrics

blog said...

I readed that book some months ago is not great I saw better but have many good recipes
Waste Service

EmptyNester said...

I love books about other people's lives- biographies or autobiographies...and memoirs! Love them all!

sue said...

I like your review, foodie references and all: "succulent read", "swallowed me whole" "gulping mouthfuls of humor", love those. However the last para is a bit over the top for me and I cringe at you stabbing at the book with your fork - ouch! The last few words though I really get "starving reader" and forgetting to take a drink - yep been there!
I missed your earlier post about this book, pity as it would be interesting to compare how you approached it.

Wine and Words said...

Might I suggest another succulent variation (do you watch Iron Chef? Well, it's a catch phrase)...
Edges of Bounty:Adventures in the Edible Valley - William Emery (Writer) and Scott Squire (Photographer)

Not sure if it was the subject, the photos or the writing, but I was getting teary-eyes over melons.

Mrs B said...

Thought you did a great job reviewing the book! Definitely made me want to read it!

I thought I was the only person who had a mom who deserved the title of Queen of The Mold. LOL

I'm newly following, but I'm just an old blog buddy with a new (and quite different) home. I'd love to have you stop by and say hello sometime!

Mrs B