Gabrielle Hamilton – Blood, Bones, and Butter
Length: 298 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction; Memoir
Started: 31 July 2011
Finished: 06 August 2011
Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? Kitchen Confidential totally whetted my appetite for foodie memoirs.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 18 February 2011.
This chef’s memoir spends
more time in her childhood and
less in her kitchen.
Summary: Gabrielle Hamilton differs from your average chef memoirist in two ways. One, she’s not a celebrity chef, doesn’t have a TV show, and still spends most of her days working in her NYC restaurant, Prune. Two, she’s got an MFA in creative writing to go along with her twenty-plus years working various gigs from dish washer to catering chef in the restaurant industry. This memoir starts with the dissolution of her parents’ marriage when she was twelve, and covers her somewhat unconventional career path and the new family she has built from her husband’s extended Italian family.
Review: I am, by-and-large, not a memoir reader. Of the memoirs that I’ve read, the ones I’ve enjoyed most have a central theme or topic that is something I’m interested in anyways (birds, travel, Jeopardy), while the ones I’ve enjoyed least are the more personal, introspective, “look-at-my-messed-up-childhood” variety. I absolutely loved Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, which frequently gets classed as a memoir, so I thought another chef memoir would be right up my alley. And I was partly right: the parts of this book that are talking about food, or her parents’ lamb-roasting parties, or cooking for a camp’s worth of children, or the process of opening a restaurant, or making a meal for an entire extended Italian family? Those parts were wonderful. Hamilton is a skilled writer, and although her words aren’t always polished to perfection they flow so naturally that they’re a joy to read.
However, the parts of this book in which I was interested (the food/cooking parts) were interspersed with a number of parts (the more “memoir”-y parts) that I found less engaging. This is assuredly my own non-memoir-reader idiosyncrasy, but I just had a hard time getting into the parts about her parents’ divorce, her self-destructive teenage behavior, her green-card marriage and its subsequent problems, her musings on the joy of motherhood, etc. Not that they were badly written, and they did contribute to the narrative of the story, but just… not my cup of tea. On balance, there were enough good parts that I enjoyed the book overall, but I wish I’d realized going in that it wasn’t all about the food. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Recommended for memoir fans who are also foodies, as well as fans of Kitchen Confidential, although be advised: this is as much about the author as it is about her cooking.
First Line: We threw a party.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 80: “Somehow, a crack in my fully cultivated antipathy toward children and their insipid tenderness had formed, and without even the slightest understanding of why or how, I felt worse at the thought that I might be undernourishing the kids than I did when, for example, all the quenelled saffron-pistacio ice cream melted onto the gold-rimmed plates when the king of Thailand spontaneously rose from his seat at the luncheon honoring his presence and gave an unscheduled and wordy toast.” – a food item made into an oval or egg shape.
© 2011 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.