From the chef of the excellently unpretentious New York restaurant Prune comes this delicious memoir charting her experiences with both feast and famine. Having gone to graduate school for creative writing, Gabrielle Hamilton is entirely able to describe her life story not only as a chef, but as a writer. As a bonus, she narrates the audiobook herself with the deep feeling and attachment one should expect from someone analyzing her own life. Hamilton’s personality really shines through. With each deadpan punchline and every impeccable bit of Italian, it becomes increasingly obvious how Hamilton has managed to not only survive, but actually thrive, in the financially risky and still sadly machismo-dominated food service industry.
Beginning with her youth as a high school dropout abandoned by a hippie father and French mother, Hamilton relied on her experiences in the family kitchen to get hired as a waitress or line cook at a variety of average diners. Later, she travelled the world for a few months more on the strength of her wits than her wallet, learning about world cuisine from anybody willing to teach her. Her highly specific recollection of what it is like to be starving on a cross-county train ride is pure poetry, and the kind of thing one wants to hear directly from the mouth of the person who lived it. As Hamilton finds herself increasingly imbedded in the world of food, she is somewhat startled to realize that it has been her true passion all along.
There is easily something in here for everyone to enjoy. Industry people will appreciate the rant against brunch joints that offer a free mimosa. Aspiring chefs will be relieved to know that some fulfilling work-life balance is indeed possible. Foodies will delight in the comparison of regional Italian cuisine with its woefully inadequate American counterpart. And, of course, scrappy women who always manage to land on their feet will appreciate this unflinching testimony to the importance of having strength of character and a willingness to go your own way. Gabrielle Hamilton’s voice work is excellent because she doesn’t act like the popular girl at the party, regaling everyone with gossipy tales she acquired as toast of the town. Rather, she casually and quietly builds a fierce little empire of wisdom out of the scattered, broken bits of adventure that have been her life so far. This is a genuinely good listen, written and read by a genuine person. Megan Volpert
“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 20 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 100 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.
©2011 Gabrielle Hamilton (P)2011 Random House Audio
“Magnificent. Simply the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever. Gabrielle Hamilton packs more heart, soul, and pure power into one beautifully crafted page than I’ve accomplished in my entire writing career. Blood, Bones & Butter is the work of an uncompromising chef and a prodigiously talented writer. I am choked with envy.” (Anthony Bourdain)
“Gabrielle Hamilton has changed the potential and raised the bar for all books about eating and cooking. Her nearly rabid love for all real food experience and her completely vulnerable, unprotected yet pure point of view unveils itself in both truth and inspiration. I will read this book to my children and then burn all the books I have written for pretending to be anything even close to this. After that I will apply for the dishwasher job at Prune to learn from my new queen.” (Mario Batali)
“I have long considered Gabrielle Hamilton a writer in cook’s clothing, and this deliciously complex and intriguing memoir proves the point. Her candor, courage, and craft make for a wonderful read but, even more, for an appreciation of her talent and dedication, which have resulted from her often trying but inspiring experiences. Her writing is every bit as delectable and satisfying as her food.” (Mimi Sheraton, food critic and author of The German Cookbook and Eating My Words)
I enjoyed every moment of this book. Part foodie journey. Part ultra-personal memoir. Hamilton has a style and an ease to her writing that is extremely accessible and real. Zero pretense. Lots of flavor. Her narration was a little flat at first but then she picked it up, or my ear got used to her style. Either way, I fell into this book and never wanted to have to climb out.
Totally awesome. Well defined characters and totally interesting book! You want to learn more about the life of this chef!
Loved every minute of it. There have been a number of memoirs of chefs the last few years but none as well written as this one. Our fascination with what goes on behind the scenes of the restaurants we eat at is fueled in part by the very different lives they live. I never thought it was so all consuming but then, I suppose, I'd never really thought about it. I do now. And admire those who spend their lives fueling mine.
Real, honest, loving
The story telling. This is a REAL LIFE story. The author shared her life with us and told it beautifully. Other reviewers talked about the narrator not being good but if you listen to the story, how else is she supposed to tell of steeling cars, being abandoned, growing into herself and share this amazing story but with a quiet telling. Most of the time I could see the scene she was telling about, her voice fading into the background with the sights and sounds and scene coming to life. An amazing woman.
Her humility. She shared these amazing stories in her own voice without flinching at the bad parts. She is admitting her faults and living her life. She wasn't ranting or raving or crowing. She was quietly sharing her life with me. I felt like I was sitting with a glass of wine and a good friend on a patio or in a livingroom and quietly talking about life and lessons learned; with laughter, tears, sadness, great joy and peace.
The telling of her fathers party in the meadow behind the castle with the labms made me feel like I was there. The chicken killing brought tears to my eyes. The reality of a marriage made for convenience does not mean you do not have hope for it's life... The stories of Italy, the amazing people she has met, the stories of her mother. Other reviewers did not let themselves go in this story, did not hear the truth in her words and did not alow themselves to be touched by her experiences. I almost didn't buy the book due to the horrible comments in the reviews. I am so glad I did not base my purchase on such small minded people. Amazing story.
Artist. Photographer. Devil.
I was gripped by this audio book. Gabrielle has lived a fascinating life and so we are fortunate she can write so beautifully and share her colourful stories so vividly. I am in the camp that was delighted she was the reader. It was interesting how she juxtaposed different events in her life in a non-chronological manner > it kept the surprises coming. Her tone helped round out the words and give an even clearer picture of the woman she is. The book feels, at time, cathartic, and there is no denying that at sometimes I squirmed and other times I wished for nothing more than both she and her husband behave a little differently in the hope they could work things out and have a happy-ever-after-ending. Can you imagine > Hamilton suddenly morphing into romantic fantasy. Hah! Well, no, of course not. I am not sure she ever expected to be liked by her readers, but by the end of the book I wished she was a kick-arse friend of mine.
Loved the lamb roast story that was published in the "New Yorker". It was evocative and mouth-watering. This is how the book begins.
Then she just gets more and more bitter, cranky and judgemental. Having spent decades in the restaurant business I can relate to impulse to vent about the myriad irritations, but I don't really need to hear about her problems with her staff quitting. I'd quit in a heartbeat if I had to work with her. I did quit the book. It was just making me uncomfortable, and bitter, cranky, and judgemental.
You will begin this book in the dreamiest world that quickly crashes around the author. I loved this book so much I bought it in hard-bound, then wanted to hear the authors real voice as I read, so I bought the audio too. On a rare occasion a book is so good that I'll re-read a chapter to avoid reaching the end. It's my way of savoring every bit, and that's exactly what I did on this book.
I don't understand why anyone wouldn't like the audio read from the author, she was excellent (unlike so many other authors who read their own books). If Hamilton seems non-pulsed a bit, it's because that's who she is. She's a self-described "bad ass" over-achiever who tries a little too hard to be lovable, yet needs no one, even you, the reader. At the beginning of the book I felt sorry for her, mid way I envied her Italian Italian husband, kids, cooking, food and summers. 2/3 in I was rolling my eyes and couldn't stand her. By the end I felt we could be friends. Fiction or non, any book with a character you love and hate that leaves you thinking about it long after is an excellent read. Hamilton is a vivid writer and she will take you through her life, into her kitchen and straight into her self-created isolation.
I met the author at a book launch dinner and she is as prickly in person as she is on the page. It was as if she resisted even visiting with or signing a single book for the overpaying guests at her dinner (which she didn't even bother to speak at). It will be interesting to see what the effects of her books' great success will have on Gabrielle. She's certainly shared her life story with raw honesty, and she's a beautiful writer.
I found this book hard to finish. This self-absorbed narration about growing up to become a chef is focused on all the hard knocks she confronted, virtually all of which are blamed on others. The author doesn't speak to her mother for 20 years, but we never know why. The "love of her life," who sacrifices much to be with the author, is barely acknowledged. About the spouse who is great with their children, we rarely hear more than negative attributes. I hoped she would have an epiphany at the end that would turn her life around, but no such luck. Why two stars nonetheless? The writing is acceptable (if one doesn't object to constant four-letter words), and is the narrator.
Bohemian Bon Vivant
For the first two-thirds of the book I was enjoying the narrative quite a bit. The last third, however, just droned on and on (and on and on), with little covered, and all about a loveless marriage that wasn't of interest to her, so why would it possibly be to us?
Why did a lesbian marry a man so he could get a green card (and have two children with him)? (And [not covered in the book], why did she later have an affair with her sister Melissa's husband?)
To say Ms. Hamilton has emotional issues would be an understatement, and why do all her male lovers look like someone's old father? Daddy issues?
Worse, the author just suddenly buys a restaurant and we have no idea where she came up with the money for it. It was just there. Magic.
I've also read she's been arrested ELEVEN times. Is that in the book, other than her brush with the law with her first job in Manhattan? If so, I missed it.
Too bad about the ending, because up to that point it was interesting, but also a bit annoying for the parts of the story glossed over or not mentioned at all.
mostly nonfiction listener
Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, by Gabrielle Hamilton, is not the typical chef, restaurant or food book. With Hamilton, food is always a metaphor for relationships (usually screwed up).
If you are like me, you probably started with Kitchen Confidential, maybe moved on to Heat, took a detour with Waiter Rant, and now too often find yourself absorbed in food porn on the Food Network.
I'll most likely never eat at Hamilton's NYC restaurant, Prune (her childhood nickname from a now estranged mother). Prune's food sounds delicious, the anti-foodie culture refreshing, but I doubt I'm hip enough or knowledgeable enough about food to appreciate her cooking.
Reading Blood, Bones & Butter is as close as I'll get to Hamilton's cooking, and the sensual experience that I imagine Prune provides. This is a book about how a person with deep relationship issues, issues with roots is a dysfunctional and then broken family, can simultaneously succeed gloriously (in both cooking/restauranteering and writing), and fail spectacularly (at creating a marriage). Hamilton is ballsy enough to provide us something of an unvarnished glimpse into the most brutal and ugly aspects of dining out (particularly catering food), and marriage.
Blood, Bones & Butter will be polarizing. Some readers will love it (I did), some will find Hamilton so unappealing as a personality that the book will leave a bad aftertaste. Some people will feel both at once. Whatever the verdict, I think everyone will agree that Hamilton can flat-out write.
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