My Summer Reading List: Tender at the Bone

Originally published on June 4, 2009.

Recently I ventured over to amazon.com and purchased a box full of foodie books to read over the summer. As I complete each one I will review them here for all to see. The list is an impressive one and I have chosen to lead it off with Ruth Reichl’s 1988 opus Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table.

Ruth Reichl Tender at the BoneOthers on my summer reading list include Kitchen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain), Heat (Bill Buford), The Man Who Ate Everything (Jeffery Steingarten) and The Making of a Chef (Michael Ruhlman).  I know what you are thinking, “Shouldn’t he have read those already?”  The answer is yes I should have.  You know what?  I haven’t seen Rainman or Switch Blade yet either.  I’ll get around to it.  But first, Tender at the Bone:

First published in 1988, Tender at the Bone was way ahead of the curve.  After all, the phrase foodie didn’t really even exist at the time nor the Food Network for that matter.  Bobby Flay was still in Culinary School.  Emeril LaGasse was only known for being the guy who replaced Paul Prudhomme at Commander’s Palace.

Tender is the story of a lifetime immersed in food, a coming of age tale a lifetime in the making.  When reading, one feels that Reichl is telling you her life story over a bottle of red and a plate of brie and grapes rather than leafing through an autobiography.  On more than one occasion I was left thinking, What an amazing life – she should write a book about it.  That’s how easy the prose is, it reads more like conversation.

Ruth Reichl grew up during an amazing period of strife and growth in America’s history but she was not a bystander; she was in the thick of it.  When hypocritical Northerners ridiculed the Deep South while keeping minorities at a safe distance in their own lives Reichl was color blind.  While many hippies dreamed of joining a commune, Reichl lived in one.  And through it all there was food.

Tender at the Bone is a must read for anyone who loves food and believes in the force that food can be in a person’s life.  There is a reason why Reichl sits at the head of the table of food writers with the likes of Bittman, Ruhlman, Steingarten and Burford.  The reason?  She is damned good at what she does.

Next: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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