I learned early that the most important thing in life is a good story.
Throwback Thursdays are a favorite of mine. Scanning my shelves for books I've read (and reread) in the past, feels like reconnecting with old friends. I'm an ardent fan of rereading. Oscar Wilde was as well: “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”
Ruth Reichl had me from her first chapter of Tender at the Bone. Wait, that isn't true. She had me at her first lines of her Author's Note at the very beginning of the book: "Storytelling, in my family, was highly prized....If this required minor adjustments of fact, nobody much minded: it was certainly preferable to boring your audience." So while this book is true, she explains, it "may not be entirely factual." Sounds like the creed a couple of my brothers live by: never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
And Reichl, one of the world's leading food writers, does tell a good story. Regaling us with tales of her manic-depressive mother, otherwise known as "The Queen of Mold," who was "taste-blind and unafraid of rot" and "had an iron stomach." At ten, Reichl appointed herself the "guardian of the guests" at her mother's dinner parties: "My mission was to keep Mom from killing anybody who came to dinner." Her constant vigil led her to the discovery that "food could be a way of making sense of the world....if you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were."
While her mother's culinary catastrophes will have you laughing out loud, at the heart of this memoir is a young girl traveling into adulthood, trying to navigate life with a mom suffering from mental illness, and a loving father, caught between doing right by his daughter and protecting the woman he adores.
Reichl is unflinching in her detail, yet never self-pitying nor grandiose. She approaches writing like she appears to approach life: pragmatic with a healthy dose of humor. If you haven't yet read Tender at the Bone, I wholeheartedly recommend it. If you read it years ago, a reread is long overdue.