All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Blood, Bones & Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton

Blood, Bones and Butter:  The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef is the memoir of Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and owner of Prune restaurant in New York City. Hamilton, whose relatively small restaurant commands a large following, has appeared on Martha Stewart’s show on Food Network and has been published in The New Yorker, Saveur, and Bon Appetit.

Blood, Bones and Butter chronicles Hamilton's life in stages beginning with her relatively happy childhood with many siblings and eccentric parents on Pennsylvania farmland, the dissolution of her family upon her parents’ divorce, and her subsequent lack of any parental influence as a pre-teen, which led her to petty thievery, breaking and entering neighbors' homes and pawning their valuables, and drug and alcohol abuse. In order to earn money, she worked bussing tables and washing dishes at local restaurants.

As she seems to gain focus, she finishes college and earns a MFA, all while continuing to work in the food service business. However, her skill level seems to jump considerably from washing dishes to catering elaborate events. Soon after, we find her mulling the notion of opening her own restaurant.  Management of the restaurant isn’t clearly described, except when dealing with the odd character or two. Some time after opening the restaurant, she meets and marries her Italian doctor husband, who has green card issues. There isn't much description of Hamilton's actual training as a chef, so some readers may find the subtitle misleading.  There is more focus on Hamilton's personal life and issues than being a chef or restaurant owner. 

The marriage is an odd interlude in the book. Her descriptions of their annual jaunts to Italy are warm and engaging, although Hamilton doesn't speak Italian well and finds communicating in words challenging. Food and family tied her to the clan, and she seems to find a way to feel comfortable there. But, as the marriage disintegrates, Hamilton feels alienated and as if she never belonged.

Prune is still a thriving enterprise for Hamilton. The book may interest some but to others it may seem that Hamilton intended to shock her readers with what she called being “badass.” In fact, she bragged about inducing labor for her second son so she could manage her restaurant staff, but said that “ . . . badass is the last thing I am interested in being. Badass is a juvenile aspiration.” She follows that statement with a recap of her stealing cars and smoking when she was 13, and being “coked out of my head” at 16. Hamilton may have “being badass” out of her system, but she seems to want her readers to know that she was at one point in her life  . . . and still is.

Blood, Bones, and Butter was published by Random House in 2011.

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