This month my reading recommendation is Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table.
Her family's maid and her grandmother's maid were both amazing cooks (recipes for Aunt Birdie's Potato Salad and Alice's Apple Dumplings with Hard Sauce are included).
She was sent to a girls' school in Montreal to learn French. There, she befriended a girl who brought her home on weekends. Her classmate's family introduced her to all kinds of fancy dishes, prepared by their kitchen staff.
After finishing high school at home in New York, she attended college in Michigan (to get as far away from her chaotic home life as possible) She and her roommate (from Detroit) discover the local farmer's market and get creative cooking for themselves.
She worked for a summer at a health camp on Île d'Oléron off the coast of France (she describes the "camp" as a place where poor French children are sent for a free month in the country). The purpose of the camp was for the kids to gain weight. While in the France, she met a local cheese maker and learned to make a fruit tart from scratch (recipe included).
Back in Michigan, she worked in a fancy French restaurant (and impressed her snooty co-workers by speaking flawless French and knowing more than her fair share about cooking).
She and her college roommate traveled to northern Africa on a whim, and spent time in Tunisia and Algeria. Their adventures were harrowing and exciting. They pushed the limits of personal safety while making friend there, even considering it was the late '60s.
My favorite chapter was about moving to Berkeley, California in 1972. As newly-weds, she and her husband formed a commune with several friends. They were all passionate about living simply and eating healthy. I think I liked it so much because I could picture the same scenario in my hippie-friendly town. I laughed out loud at several passages about one roommate in particular. He convinced the whole household they needed eight bags for household recycling.
"Nick would not be moved. The bags were ugly and recycling was annoyingly time consuming, but it was the right thing to do. We grumbled; we recycled. We could also agree that Nick was right when he asked us not to buy Nestlé’s product, although I no longer remember why. We agreed with the ban on Welch's (they supposedly supported the John Birch society) and Coors (fought with unions). Grapes, of course, were completely forbidden, but is was a moot point: the farm workers had such strong support in Berkeley that grapes were simply unavailable. But the day Nick came home saying that coffee was unhealthy and henceforth we should all drink tea we went into open revolt."