Cannonball Read III: Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton
In her satisfying memoir, Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, Gabrielle Hamilton invites the reader into not only her New York City restaurant, Prune, but her entire life. In fact, this memoir is just as much a story of family as it is of food.
BB&B is divided into three sections: Blood, her adolescence, wild teen years, and her start in the food world; Bones, the structure that led her to where she is today - college experiences, travel, opening her restaurant; and Butter, her life as a restaurant owner, head chef, wife, and mother.
Hamilton is driven by food, but not just because she enjoys cooking. The thought of cooking--preparing, eating, sharing, and providing--is what makes her a chef. She wants customers at Prune to feel as she felt when traveling across Europe and Asia (hungry and alone) to feel as deliriously happy as she did when she encountered people who took pity on her, fed her, and gave her a place to rest.
Hamilton's planned, multi-year "disappearance" in Europe is a tale that could stand on its own, but its inclusion in BB&B is just part of what makes her book so delectable. Overall, BB&B is more about family than anything else. Hamilton's relationship tales--with her parents, her siblings, her friends, and her husband and children--are peppered throughout the book and are so complementary to her narrative, that's it almost immediately obvious that she holds an MFA in creative writing. Her descriptions of food make you not only hungry, but leave you yearning for whatever it is that she's describing.
Her strained relationship with her divorced parents clearly marks her life trajectory, cements her choices, and pushes her to be an adult long before she is ready. She makes decisions that will change her life, and some of her choices are absolutely perplexing to the reader.
Personally, I had a bit of a problem with the final third of the book. While I loved reading about her summers in Italy with her husband's family, some asides and anecdotes felt a little too personal. I almost felt like I was eavesdropping on very private feelings and conversations. But since Hamilton was clearly writing a memoir--not just a chef's memoir--every word is important.
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This review is part of Cannonball Read III. For more information, click here.