Blood, Bones and Butter: Gabrielle Hamilton

blood‘My parents seemed incredibly special and outrageously handsome to me then. I could not have boasted of them more or said my name, first and last together, more proudly, to show how it directly linked me to them. I loved that our mother was French and that she had given me that heritage in my very name. I loved telling people that she had been a ballet dancer at the Met in New York City when she married my father. I loved being able to spell her long French name, M- A- D-E- L- E- I- N- E, which had exactly as many letters in it as my own. My mother wore the sexy black cat- eye eyeliner of the era, like Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren, and I remember the smell of the sulphur every morning as she lit a match to warm the tip of her black wax pencil. She pinned her dark hair back into a tight, neat twist every morning and then spent the day in a good skirt, high heels, and an apron that I have never seen her without in forty years. She lived in our kitchen, ruled the house with an oily wooden spoon in her hand, and forced us all to eat dark, briny, wrinkled olives, small birds we would have liked as pets, and cheeses that looked like they might well bear Legionnaire’s Disease.’

~Gabrielle Hamilton, Blood, Bones & Butter

Memoirs often leave me cold, and it takes a really strong recommendation from a very well respected reader to convince me to pick one up. Luckily for me, I picked this one up. You should read this book too. Gabrielle Hamilton doesn’t just introduce her readers to the world of the kitchen, she takes us through the crazy world she inhabited that brought her there. And she does it with a writing style that is both engaging and revealing, and at the same time is well written. There is nothing that bothers me more, and I admit when it comes to memoir I read with a critical and cynical eye, than redundancy or too much telling and not enough showing or the overuse of simile and metaphor. (If run-on sentences bother you, you can skip that last one.) I’ll read a bad story written well before I’ll read a great story written poorly.

Gabrielle cooked for over 20 years before she decided she really was a writer and began work on an MFA, cooking only part time to support her education. The path through her MFA convinced her, along with her part-time cooking gig, that in fact she really did belong in the kitchen, perhaps with a pencil in her hand. After returning to New York  she took a crazy leap and opened a restaurant in the East Village in 1999. Since then she has  won awards for both her chef-ing and her writing. Her convoluted path through lies, drugs, sex, travel, marriage and self absorption, took her on a less than direct path to the opening of Prune. I’m not sure if it’s her crazy story or her descriptions of food and her sense of hospitality, but I want to eat there. Lucky for me I have a trip planned to attend a wedding on the east coast this summer…maybe this will give me reason to be less grumpy about being in New York in July.

Keep in touch,