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Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chefby Gabrielle Hamilton
Hamilton is the chef-owner of acclaimed NYC restaurant Prune. Her memoir is compelling, harrowing, beautifully written, and utterly charming, whether she's invoking memories of fields of fireflies or gritty kitchen realities. Anthony Bourdain loves this book, and I think it's magical.
Synopses & Reviews
I wanted the lettuce and eggs at room temperature...the butter-and-sugar sandwiches we ate after school for snack...the marrow bones my mother made us eat as kids that I grew to crave as an adult....There would be no "conceptual" or "intellectual" food, just the salty, sweet, starchy, brothy, crispy things that one craves when one is actually hungry. In ecstatic farewell to my years of corporate catering, we would never serve anything but a martini in a martini glass. Preferably gin.
Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty fierce, hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Above all she sought family, particularly the thrill and the magnificence of the one from her childhood that, in her adult years, eluded her. Hamilton's ease and comfort in a kitchen were instilled in her at an early age when her parents hosted grand parties, often for more than one hundred friends and neighbors. The smells of spit-roasted lamb, apple wood smoke, and rosemary garlic marinade became as necessary to her as her own skin.
Blood, Bones and Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; the soulless catering factories that helped pay the rent; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton's idyllic past and her own future family — the result of a difficult and prickly marriage that nonetheless yields rich and lasting dividends.
Blood, Bones and Butter is an unflinching and lyrical work. Gabrielle Hamilton's story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion. By turns epic and intimate, it marks the debut of a tremendous literary talent.
"Owner and chef of New York's Prune restaurant, Hamilton also happens to be a trained writer (M.F.A., University of Michigan) and fashions an addictive memoir of her unorthodox trajectory to becoming a chef. The youngest of five siblings born to a French mother who cooked 'tails, claws, and marrow-filled bones' in a good skirt, high heels, and apron, and an artist father who made the sets for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, Hamilton spent her early years in a vast old house on the rural Pennsylvania — New Jersey border. With the divorce of her parents when she was an adolescent, the author was largely left to her own devices, working at odd jobs in restaurants. Peeling potatoes and scraping plates — 'And that, just like that, is how a whole life can start.' At age 16, in 1981, she got a job waiting tables at New York's Lone Star Cafe, and when caught stealing another waitress's check, she was nearly charged with grand larceny. After years of working as a 'grunt' freelance caterer and going back to school to learn to write (inspired by a National Book Foundation conference she was catering), Hamilton unexpectedly started up her no-nonsense, comfort-food Prune in a charming space in the East Village in 1999. Hamilton can be refreshingly thorny (especially when it comes to her reluctance to embrace the 'foodie' world), yet she is also as frank and unpretentious as her menu — and speaks openly about marrying an Italian man (despite being a lesbian), mostly to cook with his priceless Old World mother in Italy. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Gabrielle Hamilton has changed the potential and raised the bar for all books about eating and cooking. Her nearly rabid love for all real food experience and her completely vulnerable, unprotected yet pure point of view unveils itself in both truth and inspiration. I will read this book to my children and then burn all the books I have written for pretending to be anything even close to this. After that I will apply for the dishwasher job at Prune to learn from my new queen." Mario Batali
"I have long considered Gabrielle Hamilton a writer in cook’s clothing, and this deliciously complex and intriguing memoir proves the point. Her candor, courage, and craft make for a wonderful read but, even more, for an appreciation of her talent and dedication, which have resulted from her often trying but inspiring experiences. Her writing is every bit as delectable and satisfying as her food." Mimi Sheraton, food critic and author of The German Cookbook and Eating My Words
"[A] lusty, rollicking, engaging-from-page-one memoir of the chef-owner of Prune restaurant in New York's East Village. Hamilton opened her eating establishment without any prior experience in cheffing, but the life experiences she did have before that bold move, told here in honest detail, obviously made up for any deficiencies in heading up a restaurant and also provide material for an electric story that is interesting even if the author hadn’t become the chef-owner of a successful restaurant. An idyllic childhood turned sour when her parents divorced; her adolescence and young womanhood encompassed drugs, menial jobs, and lack of direction and initiative when it came to continued education. All's well that ends well, however, and her story does indeed do that. Add this to the shelf of chef memoirs but also recommend it to readers with a penchant for forthright, well-written memoirs in general." Booklist
About the Author
Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef/owner of Prune restaurant in New York's East Village. She received an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, GQ, Bon Appetit, Saveur, and Food & Wine. Hamilton has also authored the 8-week Chef Column in The New York Times, and her work has been anthologized in six volumes of Best Food Writing. She has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and the Food Network, among other television. She lives in Manhattan with her two sons.
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