On the Shelf: Blood, Bones & Butter

Monday, 19 January 2015
Chef Gabrielle Hamilton is a literary genius. You don’t always hear about fantastic chefs being fantastic writers but she is. I just listened to her memoir Blood, Bones & Butter while driving from Ohio to Tennessee to teach and I was reluctant to even get out of the car! If you love food, humor, and appreciate strong women who are highly successful, read this book.


 I can only aspire to be as fabulous as Hamilton, who owns her own restaurant (Prune) in New York City, and has published two books. She is also a mother and has put up with unbelievable mental and physical stress while building her own restaurant.

An example: Hamilton (who narrates her own book on CD) tells a story about how she had to deal with human feces outside the door of her restaurant one morning (homeless guy) and a rodent that was still moving when it appeared to be dead (maggots). I have so much admiration for this person who takes no shit from anyone (figuratively) but works impossibly hard to make sure her patrons are well cared and leave happy.

James and I have kind of gotten “over” New York City because of its presumptuous folks, high prices, and horrid airports but I MUST return soon to dine at Prune and relish in the behind-the-scenes stories about how Hamilton turning the former Italian-gone-bankrupt restaurant into her own jewel. (Her newest book, by the way, is Prune.)


 Beyond the fact that Hamilton’s life is/was fantastically adventurous (she backpacked by herself through Europe, worked as an alcohol-serving waitress in a busy NYC night club before the age of 18, married an Italian MD to help him get a green card, climbed 25 foot trees to trim back branches so her mother-in-law could have a few of the sea) she can put pen to paper while explaining food like I’ve never read before.

Listening to this book has inspired me to do something. I try to plan, prep, and cook yummy meals for James and I each night. I present some inventive meals such as steamed artichokes, roasted Italian sausage from the butcher, green salad with fresh herbs along side oozing, pungent, soft cheese. James is on a champagne kick and opens something gorgeous (we recently tried the label owned by Jay-Z) most evenings and we are keeping a journal of what we taste. But I want to learn more, attempt new knife techniques, and bring different flavors into our home.


Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter has inspired me to take local cooking classes. Even if they are commercial and I learn to use equipment sold by a certain store (or whatever), at least I’ll be adding somewhat to my kitchen skills. Being in the kitchen and preparing good food is a stress reliever in my life. Thinking is not necessary while I go through the practiced motions of chopping onions and garlic and sautéing them in extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes not thinking (especially while most of your mental energy goes to a dissertation) is a good thing.

1 comment

LizP said...

Sounds like an awesome read, I'll have to add it to my list! I've been pondering taking cooking classes here in EUG ... not many to choose from. I mostly want to learn techniques, not necessarily a specific dish though.