Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review: Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

  • Blood, Bones & Butter

  • By: Gabrielle Hamilton

  • Pub. Date: March 2011

  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

  • Format: Hardcover , 304pp

  • ISBN-13: 9781400068722

  • ISBN: 140006872X

  • Source: Library Copy

  • Synopsis:

    “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 & 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 & 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.

    My Review:

    Ugh. When I started this book, I was so enchanted and interested in Gabrielle Hamilton's life and experiences that led her to be an owner and chef at a popular restaurant in New York City but once Gabrielle's descriptions of her childhood end, I just became more disgusted with her life and her poor choices.

    I understand that many people don't have great childhoods or make the best decisions for their lives, but it seemed that Gabrielle had several opportunities to change the course of her life but chose instead to go in the opposite direction. I had little sympathy for her because she was competent enough to know what she was getting herself into. She also never seemed to reflect enough on her past and thus, I think, just ended up repeating some of her mistakes again. For example, she ended up marrying an Italian man so he could get a green card and stay in the US. She didn't love him and they lived apart, yet they had kids together... I don't understand that at all and she never explained her motives for staying (if seeing each other mostly for only one month a year in Italy counts as staying) with a man she never loved and having kids with him. Since this is Gabrielle's own memoir, I wanted more reflection and explanations of her decisions so that I could better understand her. However, I feel like I just got the surface layer of her life, which just left me tired of her and unsympathetic with her problems in life.

    I also wanted more of a focus on her love of food. Gabrielle often worked in the catering industry, and I understand that that probably did not give her the time to use her passion for creating good food, but I still wanted more reflections on the use of food in her life and everyone's lives. As I said earlier, the descriptions of her early childhood were wonderful and I was hooked so that I wanted to know where her life of loving food would lead, but her life choices and subsequent shallow explanations of them, just left me wanting to stop reading, although I did push through and finish the book.

    My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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