Summary and book reviews of Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

Blood, Bones & Butter

The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

by Gabrielle Hamilton

Blood, Bones & Butter
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2011, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2012, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

"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.

1

We threw a party. The same party, every year, when I was a kid. It was a spring lamb roast, and we roasted four or five whole little guys who each weighed only about forty pounds over an open fire and invited more than a hundred people. Our house was in a rural part of Pennsylvania and was not really a house at all but a wild castle built into the burnt-out ruins of a nineteenth-century silk mill, and our backyard was not a regular yard but a meandering meadow, with a creek running through it and wild geese living in it and a Death Slide cable that ran from high on an oak to the bank of the stream and deposited you, shrieking, into the shallow water. Our town shared a border so closely with New Jersey that we could and did walk back and forth between the two states several times in a day by crossing the Delaware River. On weekend mornings we had breakfast at Smutzie's in Lambertville, on the Jersey side, but then we got gas for the car at Sam Williams's Mobil on the ...

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    Indie Booksellers’ Choice Awards
    2012

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Readers beware - Chef Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter, is smoking hot! Hamilton is absolutely fearless as she narrates the chapters of her life - from her idyllic childhood as a girl in rural Pennsylvania, to the tough renegade chef presently rocking New York City's East Village, Hamilton dishes it out from page one with her edgy literary style. Her smacking, straight-up honesty is highly acidic and a bit hard to take at times, but every page holds a killer quote and Hamilton's hard-core intensity is intoxicating.   (Reviewed by Megan Shaffer).

Full Review Members Only (518 words).

Media Reviews

Time

Blood, Bones & Butter, more than any book I know, captures the essence of contemporary cool when it comes to food.

O Magazine

A memoir that flings open the kitchen door to expose the backbreaking toil and passionate obsession of a world-class chef.

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

Though Ms. Hamilton's brilliantly written new memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter, is rhapsodic about food… the book is hardly just for foodies. Ms. Hamilton… is as evocative writing about people and places as she is at writing about cooking, and her memoir does as dazzling a job of summoning her lost childhood as Mary Karr's Liars' Club and Andre Aciman's Out of Egypt did with theirs.

The Washington Post - Joe Yonan

[L]uminous… Hamilton quickly proves that her decade-in-the-making work can live up to the extraordinary "best memoir by a chef ever" hype.

Booklist

[A] lusty, rollicking, engaging-from-page-one memoir... add this to the shelf of chef memoirs but also recommend it to readers with a penchant for forthright, well-written memoirs in general.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Hamilton can be refreshingly thorny... yet she is also as frank and unpretentious as her menu...

Author Blurb Anthony Bourdain
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.

Author Blurb Mario Batali
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.

Reader Reviews

Jean

Well-written Book Not Just for Foodies
Ms. Hamilton's story caught me at the first page and took me through the many stages of her life and career. I love to read about cooking, but it is the stories of the people in her life that held me and continue to be in my head still. This book is ...   Read More

Elisabeth

Frenetic!
This book is fascinating, often in that train wreck sort of way. Gabrielle Hamilton is a terrific writer who tells her crazy life story in an unpretentious fashion. The frenetic pace and actions of Hamilton's life give the book the feel of The ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Chef Gabrielle Hamilton's Restaurant: Prune

As a child, Gabrielle Hamilton's mother called her by the pet name Prune, and today the moniker appears in pink letters on the door of her thriving restaurant of the same name, located at 54 East 1st Street in New York City's East Village, established in 1999.

The East Village has a rich history of both rebellion and creative vision, making it the perfect location for this maverick chef's restaurant. Though her initial impression of the real estate was not great - the restaurant before hers had been abandoned and left with rotting food in broken freezers, dirty dishes piled in the sinks, and vermin running unabashedly about - she could immediately sense that the space suited her style and, after a serious scrubbing, would be a great ...

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