Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blood, Bones & Butter: A Culinary Romp Through a Chef’s Life

My initial interest in Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton was based on the excellent dinner I had a few years ago at her New York restaurant, Prune.  Prune was one of those meals that you don’t easily forget the feeling of satisfaction and joy it brought, regardless of whether you remember exactly what you ate.  It somehow seems appropriate though after reading her memoir, that Prune was the first time I ate marrow.  Her writing is like the marrow I had: rich and flavorful while also something I could not eat too much of.

Blood, Bones & Butter is the story of Hamilton’s life and her journey through the culinary world.  Brutally honest and candid, Hamilton opens her life up to the reader in a way that is almost startling at times.  The details of her family and her relationship with food are told in heartfelt detail and there is no doubt of her strong voice throughout the tales. Her rocky ride through relationships and restaurants builds to the genuine enthusiasm Hamilton displays over the almost serendipitous beginning of Prune.  Her work ethic is extremely apparent throughout and the way she manages the different complications and issues that arise are truly motivational.  At the conclusion, there is a feeling that the terrific meal Hamilton created through her life story has ended but the flavor remains.

There is one portion of the memoir that I found particularly relevant.  Hamilton is asked to be part of a panel of the best female chefs at a culinary institute.  Not only does she point out the obvious sore point of distinguishing female chefs from the general culinary group, but the reader gains insight into the gender divide in the kitchen in much more detail.  She manages to touch on many of the issues women encounter across all industries while also weighing in on the differences that women may inherently face. The question of how she manages to do it all, including running the grueling brunch station then scrubbing the pancake batter off the refrigerator ten days before her first child is born, is almost a moot point—the woman is a hard worker and extremely dedicated.  This seems to be the tantamount lesson she preaches to women throughout.  After all the delicious food descriptions and cooking information, the most apparent take-away is the true strength and candor of the amazing chef and woman Gabrielle Hamilton.

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