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)
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"A Little Prickly--But Yummy"
The trick to reading this very good book and not having a possible negative reaction (which is obvious in the varying reviews) is to refrain from judgements of the author, if possible, and just be enveloped in the story. Because, if you can avoid being infected by the candid and bitter details of a disappointing marriage--(the kind of inner and not so flattering feelings one usually shares only with their oath-sworn-to-patient-privacy shrink)--you will experience sensuous settings in far off places, refine your inner gastronome with exotic foods you've never heard of before, and almost taste "that lamb" as it sizzles over the rosemary scented fire. It really is a lovely epicurean trip that makes me want to lick my fingers as I recall some of the fare, and I could spend a day just conjouring up images of that castle/farmhouse, the meadows, orchards, and streams, the French ballet dancer mother with her omnipresent apron, the artistic bohemian father, the Italian villa, Rome by night--all the perfect ingredients.
The personal details are inarguably prickly; I found them uncomfortable yet brave admissions that lend authenticity to the story of this very authentic person. Coming from Hell's Kitchen tyrant Gordon Ramsay, or bad-ass Anthony Bourdain, the snarkyness would probably be expected and overlooked, like a mint leaf on mousse.Hamilton writes like she cooks and like she lives: committed, authentic, undiluted, without pretense...and that takes bravery--the kind of bravery one would expect from a young girl that can set off with a back pack and a little over $1,000 on a solo trip around the world. My opinion is that her narration lends a bit of personal revelation, which adds to the story. Glad I got around to this one.
"Quite a surprising pleasure"
This book is quite different from any of the other foodie memoirs I have loved - I don't want to make it sound like I look down on the others. I really enjoy food writing. Anthony Bourdain's books, Julia Child biographies, Ruth Reichl's books, Laurie Colwin's essays and Jacques Pepin's memoir are all among my favorites. This book, like those, is about the author's relationship with people and with food. It starts with poignant memories of a childhood interrupted and is haunted by that rupture. I started the book without suspecting what an amazing writer is Gabrielle Hamilton. Even more important for an audiobook, she reads the book herself, something that usually turns me off. Yet Hamilton's reading is excellent and one of the greatest charms of this audiobook. I couldn't bear to stop listening. Truly a pleasure on many levels, one of the best books I have listened to this year.
"Gets to the meat of things."
Well-written, sharp, wry, sarcastic, genuine, at times heartbreaking, and full of a lifer's experience as a restaraunteur. Gabrielle Hamilton is not to be missed - nor messed with. From the quickly described recipes to climbing the oleander for Mama, Gabrielle poingantly describes her life's journey as a daughter, mother, sister, chef, writer and woman - she'll have you laughing right along with her.
"One of 2011's Best"
I read Blood, Bones & Butter last year and loved it so much that I recently listened to it for the chance to re-visit Gabrielle Hamilton's world (and hear her story in her own voice). The author's childhood was not an easy one - and the beginning of this book reminded me very much of The Glass Castle, another memoir of a successful woman with an unorthodox upbringing. But Hamilton is unflinching in telling her life story - and I appreciate her guts and her honesty, as well as her ability to write beautifully and cook masterfully. And speaking of the food... The wonderful, decadent descriptions of the food and Hamilton's cooking experiences (especially in Italy with her mother-in-law) make this a truly worthwhile experience.
"A sensory feast"
As one reviewer on Amazon said, this is one of those books that must be savored in one sitting. Bourdain was most definitely not paying mere lip service when he claimed to be "choked with envy". The story is like one luxurious feast prepared by a chef who does not mince words, and who may strike some (even the new fan that I am) as rather grating at times. But the book would have been better served by a professional reader (w/ the author reading the foreword or a brief intro to the book), although the narration did improve in the second part of the book.
"Inspiringly strong female autobiographer."
One of my favorite audiobooks, mostly because of how closely i felt i could identify with the author
Descriptions of the parties her parents threw at her childhood house.
An autobiographical book being read by the author brings a whole new level of understanding to the reader about the persona of the author/main character.
When she visits her mother later in life with her own family and, in a way, forgives or makes peace with her memories.
I would especially recommend for women, those interested in cooking, Italy or with lives or loved ones that bring them between Europe and the U.S.
Some reviewers haven't liked the author's voice or style. Its her partricular personality; I loved her dry wit. She's not an actor; her voice lends layers of experience and edification to the craft. Having cooked my whole life, I can relate to her experiences with food and even her mother! I recommend this audio book wholeheartedly; it ended much too soon.
Not only a wonderful story magnificently written about an interesting life but the audio book is beautifully read by Gabrielle. It's impossible to miss even the smallest emotion and meaning in her words. A very rich experience for which I very grateful to have had the time to gobble up in just two listening sessions. Now I'm just hoping she can find the time to so fully live another lifetime of which to write another book.
"You don't need to be a foodie to love this book"
I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this book -- I thought it was going to be one of those "my life in the kitchen" books, but I was really wrong. It is a wonderful autobiography -- describing family events leading to life events leading to life decisions, all centering around good food. I am going to listen to this again in a few months! Wonderfully written, narrated by the author.
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.
"Great account if a very abrupt ending"
It is a compelling story with beautiful descriptions. I love the flawedness of the main character for an autobiography. She is endearing but at the same time flawed and human. The ending disappointed me however - I literally did not see it coming. It leaves a lot of things to be concluded - which I often don't mind but it seemed incomplete. Like she ran out of time or someone chopped the last 4 chapters off the book.
It did remind me a bit of Fuchsia Dunlop's Sharks Fin and Sichuan Pepper - but dare I say it - Fuchsia comes across as a lot nicer person.
It did make me laugh on the odd occasion - but there was one family moment/reuniting that was particularly moving and wonderfully done.
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