Blood, bones, & butter : the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef

by Gabrielle Hamilton

Paper Book, 2011

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Random House, c2011.

Description

Biography & Autobiography. Cooking & Food. Self-Improvement. Nonfiction. HTML:NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. 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; 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 prickly marriage that nonetheless yields lasting dividends. By turns epic and intimate, Gabrielle Hamilton's story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passi… (more)

Media reviews

Though Ms. Hamilton’s brilliantly written new memoir, “Blood, Bones & Butter,” is rhapsodic about food — in every variety, from the humble egg-on-a-roll sandwich served by Greek delis in New York to more esoteric things like “fried zucchini agrodolce with fresh mint and hot chili
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flakes” — the book is hardly just for foodies. Ms. Hamilton, who has an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Michigan, 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.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member TadAD
In all likelihood, the path to becoming the chef/owner of a successful New York fine dining restaurant typically does not include a youth spent on cocaine addiction, car theft and feloniously acquiring tens of thousands of dollars from restaurants where you work as a waitress. The undergraduate
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experience is more likely to be the Culinary Institute of America than dropping out of an experimental college after a year dedicated to working as a short order cook in a diner and defining oneself as a "staunch Marxist feminist, a budding lesbian, a black nationalist sympathizer." An M.F.A. in Writing from the University of Michigan is probably not a common credential. And actually working in such a restaurant at least once before starting your own might be considered sine qua non.

Nonetheless, that's where this memoir takes us. In a story remarkably free of both whining and bravado, Hamilton simply tells us how she got from Point A (youngest child of a slightly unconventional and definitely dysfunctional family) to Point B (chef/owner of Prune restaurant in Manhattan, writer for the New York Times and Food and Wine). However, she tells it with such unsentimental self-reflection and with such engaging intimacy that I found it impossible not to wish I knew her personally.

If you can imagine a book with some of the tell-all qualities of Anthony Bourdain's writing but with 80% of the cynicism removed you would have some sense of this book. There's subtle poking at the "food as a game" trend epitomized by molecular gastronomy and some not-so-subtle poking at the reverse sexism fashionable among celebrity female chefs but, by and large, there's simply a life story told with warmth and humor against a constantly moving counterpoint of food and cooking.
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LibraryThing member msf59
Gabrielle Hamilton opened her restaurant “Prune” in NYC, when she was just 33 years old. She had never been employed as Chef and had never ran a business. After a few short years, “Prune” is a success and she is recognized as an accomplished cook. This enchanting memoir traces her life,
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from an idyllic childhood in rural Pennsylvania, learning the pleasures of food from her French mother, to her parents abrupt divorce, when Gabrielle was just 13, leaving her and her siblings to fend for themselves. Gabrielle quickly falls into the “wrong crowd”, taking drugs and dabbling into small-time crime.
Through various restaurant jobs, she ends up in NYC, which eventually leads her to meeting her future Italian husband, which is adds another interesting layer, due to the fact she is a lesbian.
Hamilton tells all of this, in a strong no-nonsense narrative, helped by the fact she “really” can write. She earned an MFA in fiction-writing. Her descriptions of food and meal preparations are perfectly appetizing. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
Gabrielle Hamilton is a study in contradiction. She's a lesbian married to a man, a woman loving woman who in her thirties hates her mother with the white hot heat of a teenager; a food lover who thinks her cooking was improved by days of hunger while traveling through Europe; a female chef who has
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no patience for women who whine about being female in a man's world at one point yet at another point demonstrates just what there is to complain about and has a predominantly female staff; a woman who breastfeeds her two boys for a year each while working punishingly long hours at her restaurant. She is above all a woman with a diamond hard work ethic working as a chef for a catering company while she gets her MFA at the "Harvard of the Midwest", physically herself cleaning out a filthy, rat infested, rotten food filled restaurant to start her own famous restaurant in New York, cooking all day then climbing barefoot into 25 foot trees to cut a view to the ocean for her Italian mother in law.

I love it when an author can show the contradictions inherent in humanity, and Gabrielle Hamilton does it well. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about food and hard work and who is comfortable dealing with human ambiguity.
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LibraryThing member karinnekarinne
Never google the author of a memoir if you want to have a bias-free reading experience. I googled Gabrielle Hamilton and throughout Blood, Bones, and Butter, whenever she mentioned her sister Melissa, I couldn't help wondering how Hamilton could betray someone who was there for her as much as
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Melissa was by having an affair with Melissa's husband. It colored my opinion of Hamilton as a person and I wish I'd never conducted that search.

Blood, Bones, and Butter is prettily written, although the author does some confusing jumping around within her personal timeline and changes tenses in weird places a couple of times. She tells some gross anecdotes that in another voice would sound way too "HI I'M SUPPOSED TO BE SHOCKING!" but they don't read that way at all in this book -- they're just Hamilton discussing another bit of her life that happened to be pretty nasty.

I really enjoyed reading about her dad's parties (Hamilton tells a good story, especially when it involves food) and her interesting and strange childhood, and how she climbed her way up to where she is today, but when the narrative got closer to the present, it became an angry little ode to bitterness.

I mean, I get it, this is supposed to be unflinchingly honest and REAL, but it wasn't the same kind of honesty as in the first half of the book; it was tinged with cold anger, and the anger is never really EXPLAINED, which makes it hard for me to understand why, for example, Hamilton stays away from her mother for twenty years and then acts like a sullen teenager when she does visit her. There are glimpses of the root of her bitterness every now and then, but they're fleeting. Maybe I was supposed to read between the lines or something, but I'm never very good at that.

On the plus side, it sounds like any affection that may have been displaced by anger has been transferred to food. Hamilton comes off as snobbish when it comes to food -- some of it's understandable, some of it's is the stuff eye rolls are made of -- but she also sounds like she knows her stuff, and she writes about food in a hungry-making way. I wouldn't want to live with her, but I'd love to eat her food.
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LibraryThing member Narboink
The first part of 'Blood, Bones & Butter' is an intoxicating mix of great writing and epicurean indulgence. I'm not normally fond of memoirs, since they're usually nothing more than haphazard collections of self-aggrandizing lies. Gabrielle Hamilton, however, has done an almost perfect job of
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writing a memoir that is both candid and yet modestly impersonal. Its best passages are about food and memory. The second half of the book was, frankly, a little confusing. She suspends her biography as a restaurateur and chef and takes up the subject of her curiously stultifying marriage. There's nothing wrong with this, obviously, but I simply didn't know what I was supposed to make of it. Why was she telling me this stuff? I enjoyed the coming-of-age story and the confessional aspects of her biography insofar as they shed a useful and interesting light on how a palate can mature, on how a career in the food business can take shape, on what life can be like for a chef in New York... but the details of her ill-defined relationship with her husband seemed to lack a context and connection to her previously established themes.

Sometimes after I read a novel that's been made into a film I'll complete the experience by watching the movie. In the case of 'Blood, Bones & Butter' I decided the best capstone experience would be to have a nice dinner at Gabrielle Hamilton's restaurant in the East Village, "Prune". I went with my gal and we had the quail, pork shoulder, a negroni, sardines & crackers, goat cheese & bread, mascarpone ice cream with caramel & croutons, and olive cake. Our meal was absolutely first-rate. All criticisms aside, this woman knows what she's talking about when it comes to food.
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LibraryThing member BookConcierge
Book on CD read by the author

From the book jacket: 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. … Hamilton’s ease and comfort in a kitchen were instilled in her at an early age
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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.

My reactions
I’ll say this for Hamilton – she can definitely write. I was fascinated by the stories of her upbringing, and her “wild-child” phase. I was interested in (and horrified by) her journey through the bars and joints of New York, and her multiple attempts at college. I laughed, cheered and gasped at the anecdotes of her years working for the big catering companies, and the summer camp. But she kind of lost me when she got to her marriage. She is open about marrying so that her husband – an Italian physician – could secure his Green Card, but then she seems to also demand that he be the idyllic spouse. They keep separate apartments and she’s angry that he’s not “there for her” more. On the other hand, she has a great relationship with her mother-in-law.

But what really shines in this memoir is her relationship with food. I relished in the descriptions of both simple (vegetables and cheese for lunch) and elegantly complicated meals.

Hamilton narrates the audiobook herself, and she does a very fine job.
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LibraryThing member Emidawg
The author of this book is a gifted writer and it shows. Her memoir reads much like fiction and is full of wonderful imagery. Heavy drug use and a general lack of direction in her youth make this a somewhat gritty story. Her life seems less than ideal, her marriage to her husband is less than happy
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and her relationship with her mother is rocky. Somehow despite all this she pulls her life around to open an acclaimed restaurant Prune in NYC. It's not exactly a fairy tale story but I respect her for being open and not trying to gloss over the hard parts of her life.

The verdict - a wonderfully written book that is aptly named for the blood and bones the author bears to the reader. The butter, as is nutritionally responsible, is tucked in here and there for sweet bursts of creamy goodness.

As an aside: I had always wanted to be a chef when I was younger, but when I signed up for the cooking program at Vocational Technical school my guidance counselor pulled me aside and told me I was too smart to be wasting my life in that sort of profession. I ended up going to college for a major I really hated and ended up failing miserably in. I regret believing him to this day.
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LibraryThing member britbrarian
When I read Anthony Bourdain's over-the-moon blurb for this book, I thought I knew what type of book it would be. I expected a low-down, gritty exposé of the New York restaurant industry, ripe with bad language and stomach-turning description. (I try not to read too many third-party reviews before
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I read a book. I hate spoilers.) Well, Gabrielle Hamilton does discuss the industry, does admit she has a potty-mouth (although she uses it sparingly in the book), and had an encounter with a chicken that did, indeed, make me want to throw up. However, the book is much more personal memoir than it is a "food memoir."

Hamilton begins at age 8 and works her way up to her early 40s. While food is definitely a highlight of the book (her descriptions will make you literally drool), the main focus is family. From growing up with her four siblings, eccentric artist father, and mercurial French mother to trying to find her place in her husband's "Italian-Italian" family, it's clear that even though she's proven she can do just fine on her own, Gabrielle wants nothing more than a close, loving family.

The language and structure of this book is beyond reproach. Gabrielle's descriptions, whether it be of food, setting, or event, is lavish and rich without being cheesy. She generally stays in chronological order, but makes huge arcs with the plot, so that just as soon as you think she has lost her original train of thought, she loops back around and connects everything together. Many author's whose works I've read have tried to use this device and failed miserably. Hamilton pulls it off and makes it look effortless. It's not surprising to learn that she's earned her MFA in fiction writing.

I wanted to love this book. I expected to love this book. And yet, I do not love this book. I like the book. I like it a lot. Gabrielle and I have a lot in common, and I enjoy her voice (both her actual voice, and her "writing voice"). Unfortunately, the book got so far away from her chef experience in the last section, I got disinterested. Yes, reading about the downward spiral of her marriage and desperation to truly become a part of her husband's family was captivating, but almost in a "tabloidy" way. I felt a little guilty knowing so much about the intimate problems of this non-intimate couple. Although the relationship has certainly helped mold Gabrielle into the person (and chef/owner) that she is, I would have much rather read more stories about the happenings behind the scenes of Prune, her restaurant.
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LibraryThing member ursula
The subtitle of Blood, Bone & Butter is "The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef." It should have been "The Incidental Education of an Insufferable Chef." I get it: cooks are crazy. Everyone knows this. And Gabrielle Hamilton, the author of this book, is no exception. She had a neglectful
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upbringing, found out that she could work in kitchens even if it wasn't what she really wanted to do, and spent time in NY getting in all kinds of trouble, like many restaurant workers do. Then she took a left turn and decided she wanted to do something more "important" and went and got an MFA in creative writing, and then ended up back in the restaurant business. This sounds kind of interesting, but this lady -- oh, this lady. She is a piece of work. I don't mind, or even prefer, a memoir that isn't strictly about the work. What else goes on in our lives often has a lot to do with how we end up where we are, so I am perfectly fine with personal life mixed in liberally. But when I finish the book and I'm not even sure what her successful New York restaurant is like, aside from small and that it serves brunch, I don't think it's a really successful book about a restaurateur.

Instead, here's what I know about Gabrielle Hamilton: she hates women who shop at farmer's markets. She had lesbian relationships until she married an Italian guy. She is terrible at relationships - she had an affair with said Italian guy while dating a woman, who she broke up with by informing her she was getting married. She married the Italian so he could get a green card. (Although ultimately who is in that marriage for more than that, and who is most disappointed by the whole thing, and who is more at fault and why are we still talking about it is all up for debate.) She thinks people who let their kids cry it out are miserable excuses for human beings, but she will yell "things I'm not proud of" at her fussy toddlers in the car when she's hungry. She is a chef, but cannot correctly pronounce "turmeric" or "pho." She also has a habit of pronouncing "a" like "ay," including at the beginning of the word "another," so that I felt like she was reading to a particularly slow 4-year-old. I mean really - who says "ay" person and then "ay"nother?!

I suppose the bottom line is, I did not like this woman, and I felt like the book focused on all the wrong things in all the wrong ways. I wish she had stuck to cooking and skipped the MFA.
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LibraryThing member TerriBooks
Gabrielle seems to be doing just about everything she can to make sure she has a difficult life. I wanted to say, "what are you thinking?" so many times. The book was uneven, parts hung together well and other sections were disjointed and made me wonder what she was trying to say. I enjoyed the
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inside look at a chef's life and I watched the open kitchen with interest when I went to a restaurant this afternoon. Interesting book but not a likable character.
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LibraryThing member worldbridger
Blood, Bones & Butter is a combination memoir/food book, written by Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef/owner of Prune in NYC. She illustrates various phases of her life with stories about specific meals, starting with the annual lamb roast her parents threw when she was a kid. The daughter of a
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theatrical set designer and a French mother, Hamilton weaves the story of her family life into what becomes her career.

While she talks about cooking and food, this is by no means a recipe or how-to book. It did make me crave some of the dishes that she talked about - Crepes Bretonnes, for me! - which sent me off searching my cookbooks.

People come and go a bit too quickly for me, and I'd personally wish for some more explanations of some of her relationships, but I loved this book for the food and wine and glimpses of a chef's life.
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LibraryThing member snash
I loved the author's irreverent attitude, her candor, and honesty about herself, the cooking industry, and Italy. At times it seemed superficial but it wasn't at all, it merely reflected the author's guarded, tough nature. It's an excellent enjoyable book. As a resident of Lambertville, NJ, I also
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enjoyed the references to local places and people in the early part of the book.
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LibraryThing member rpeckham
An engaging and by turns hilarious and poignant account of learning to eat and learning to cook. Upturning the usual cliche of food bringing people together and cementing relationships with family and friends, here the author writes of how people have been instrumental in introducing her to what
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seems to be her true passion--making good food. Through oblique glimpses at architecture, trauma, travel, and a New York now past, the reader is treated to a vision of how food can function at the center of a life.
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LibraryThing member dhelmen
Hamilton's book is a brave and entertaining exploration of her life related to food and cooking. At times it can be uncofortably honest but Hamilton has a no-nonsense approach which prevents it from every becoming maudlin or twee. I was engrossed within the first couple of pages and could not put
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it down until I had finished. I was very happy to read a succesful and hardworking woman's story which does not hide behind syrupy self-reflection or mother-earthey philosophizing. This is a book for anyone who wants to be inspired by a person building a life the best they can and living unashamedly!
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LibraryThing member michigantrumpet
Gabrielle Hamilton's Prune Restaurant has been an East Village favorite for over 10 years, garnering a 2008 James Beard Best NYC chef nomintation for its chef owner, as well as regular plaudits from the NYT, New Yorker, etc. Ms. Hamilton has earned her stripes and then some.

But to call this a book
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about opening a fabulous, popular NYC eatery is akin to calling Gone With the Wind a book on Southern Living. Sure, foodies will rejoice over tantalizingly recalled meals from her childhood in Pennsylvania to Italian delicacies shared with her husband's family. A writer for Food and Wine and Saveur Magazines (among others), Hamilton's descriptive powers on culinary and gustatory matters have few peers. (Google Hamilton -- her 2001 article calling banker-turned-forager food purveyors to task will have you cackling with glee.)

This book, however, is so much more. Hers is an unapologetic memoir of a negligent childhood (negligent child rearing by her parents as well as her own cocaine infused larceny from her employer); followed by the tug and pull conflict between education/writing and her hard won proficiency and happiness in the kitchen. Most moving to me were the passages on childrearing and her marriage. One would have thought it impossible to be hard-bitten and clear-eyed yet lyrical at the same time. Hamilton makes it look effortless.

Entertaining, touching and funny. Give it a try -- I think you'll be glad you did.
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LibraryThing member JaneHuber
The promotional material for Blood, Bones, and Butter includes a gushing review by Anthony Bourdain, wherein he proclaims the book "simply the best memoir by a chef ever." I agree, and enjoyed this book immensely.

This is not one of those cute fluffy books garnished with recipes. It is a sharply
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written, fierce life examination by a woman who happens to be a chef. Her writing is lovely, and her strongest attribute is honesty -- Hamilton does not shy away from recounting pain in any form. The chapter about working as a female chef absolutely blows away everything else I've ever read about motherhood, cooking, and women. It would be a welcome addition to any women's literature collection.

I look forward to reading more from this author, and can't wait to share Blood, Bones, and Butter with the women in my life, especially the ones who cook.
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LibraryThing member wineisme
Engaging from the moment you pick it up, Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir is vivid, passionate, and brutally honest. Her excellent prose and detailed descriptions sweep you into her world as she experiences it, mostly centered around food, family, and hard work. I appreciate the review that this book is
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anything but cookie cutter, and will re-emphasize this point. This particular chef was not shaped by the sanitized world of an expensive culinary school and famed apprenticeships, that's for sure.

The lesson peeking out of Gabrielle's life accounts is that your career and work ethic are shaped early-on. No need to run from a trade you are inherently good at, rather embrace the trade for all of its nuances. Even after 20+ years of not cooking alongside her mother, Gabrielle is humbled to discover so much of her strength as a chef was shaped by this very woman presenting a simple roast chicken.

You will eat up these pages.
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LibraryThing member audramelissa
This book is more than a chef or food memoir. It is about growing up and falling in love with food and cooking. At the end of her book, I wanted to know more and I hope that Hamilton plans to continue her personal writing.
LibraryThing member MrJgyFly
While by no means a terrible read, I put Blood, Bones & Butter down with a sense of relief. Perhaps Anthony Bourdain's review gracing the front cover ("Simply the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever.") should not have been a significant factor in getting me to read this book. Most comprehensive?
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Perhaps. But best? I shudder to think at the reasons why other chefs' biographies fall short of attaining this status.

Complaints aside, it is admirable that Hamilton stays on topic throughout the entire book. Blood, Bones & Butter isn't so much a memoir as it is an extensive autobiography, starting with Hamilton's earliest memories and ending at present day. She does not get sidetracked (unlike Anthony Bourdain) by dedicating entire chapters to food and everything that goes along with it. The passion for her bread of life is there, but it infuses her life story, rather than strives for its own sections.

This passion is the beauty of the read. There is not a single page that does not relate Hamilton's culinary tastes to her life in general. Food is by far the most important thing in her existence, which should not be taken as a sad statement. Meals become holy in this book, something to be worshiped. Home-cooked food is the mainstay of her childhood, representing the one constant in her life. She's poetic about her subject, even when most would shy away from her disgusting culinary findings, such as near-rotting meat in France:

"Pheasants...hung for a few days until their necks finally gave out, and you could see, physically, a kind of perfect ripeness to the meat when it became tender enough to pleasurably chew, as if the earliest stage of rot itself was a cooking technique."

Unfortunately, the poetry, while very moving, might actually detract from some of the more interesting aspects of Hamilton's life. For example, her mother's decision to leave her husband and take all of her children with her is an abrupt transition in Hamilton's life, even though her parents' relationship had been on the rocks for a long time. Her mother quickly becomes demonized and despicable in Hamilton's eyes, but not with the justification one would expect. Hamilton herself struggles with identifying concrete reasons for hating her mother for most of her life, so much that she severs all ties with her for decades. Don't get me wrong: I'm not hoping to de-emphasize the impact any divorce can have. I'm just saying, compare this to what you'd expect in most memoirs discussing childhood turmoil, and it is not nearly as moving.

Perhaps this is due to Hamilton's hyper-awareness about what she eats. Seemingly every meal, even minor ones, throughout her entire life is described in explicit, delectable detail. She is a master at food writing, managing to tease one's taste buds, without crossing over into "food porn." I don't fault her for these descriptions at all--they are a mainstay of this memoir--but the lack of detail concerning other major life decisions eventually creates a sense of dullness throughout the read (for example, the first time she tries cocaine is quickly brushed over, whereas family meals are discussed for nearly entire chapters).

Food is Hamilton's saving grace for many domestic problems in her life, which is why it takes precedence over the troubles themselves. While I was perfectly satisfied with this for the Blood and Bones sections of the book (the book is divided into the three nouns of its title, respectively), Butter grated on me. Not only did it irritate me, it outright bored me and I kept checking my page count, hoping to finish soon so I could move on to something else.

The boring bits begin with Hamilton's marriage to her Italian immigrant husband, Michele. The situations of the marriage itself are thoroughly entertaining, and the bizarre nature of the relationship give one pause for thought (the two lived separately for most of their years together). This is all part of what makes Blood, Bones, and Butter entertaining; however, the multiple chapters dedicated to descriptions of the couple's yearly visits to Michele's family in Rome, ripe with the continuous long dedications to homemade food and descriptions of their marital spats, become so trite that the last fourth of the book blends together to form one boring chunk that could be summarized in half the amount of space.

What starts out as a memoir that delivers everything it promises, ends as a horrible flop. This is a shame considering I really loved reading the larger portion of this book. It's unfortunate that it left such a bad taste in my mouth, because I hate recommending books solely on sections, but that's exactly what I'm about to do. If this is the first book you want to read about a chef's life, I'd steer clear of it until you get some other reads under your belt. However, if you enjoy these types of books, by all means read this. I'll go so far as to saying you need to read this. Just be prepared for the latter portion of the book.
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LibraryThing member bruce_krafft
So I do a lot of reading, a lot of reading, depending on what I am reading I can easily read a book or more a day. Hands down this is the most stunning book that I have read in a long time, if not ever. This book is about as close as you can be to being there without a halo deck from Star Trek.
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Contrary to what other people say this is not one of the best ‘chef memoirs’ around; it is one of the best memoirs around period. You are living, breathing, smelling, and hearing her life in every page. You are blown away from the very beginning by the images created in your head by the words you are reading.

Just - WOW
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LibraryThing member nemoman
As a memoir, from someone who succeeded in the food industry, Hamilton's book is at least the equal of Kitchen Confidential by Bourdain. From her childhood in a dysfunctional family, to her career as a chef. Hamilton writes beautifully, with humor and unflinching honesty. Notwithstanding sexism,
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and her own nonconformity, she succeeds in owning and operating Prunes, a highly recognized restaurant in New York City. She writes somewhat vaguely, and confusedly, about her confused sexual identity. She mentions lesbian relationships, but also marries an Italian to get him his Green Card and also to have children. I did not know what to do with this information because it never really developed or went anywhere. I enjoyed her trips to Italy where she interacted with her mother-in-law, notwithstanding the language barrier, through participation in the preparation of meals.
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LibraryThing member mabs
Hamilton is the chef and owner of Prune restaurant in New York. Her memoir recounts her childhood, which was disrupted by her parent's divorce, leaving her to raise herself. After graduating from high school early, she moved to NYC and began working odd jobs, including waitressing. Eventually she
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begins catering and working as a chef at a children's camp, and finally opening her own restaurant. Hamilton got into her fair share of trouble, and at times the reader may wonder how she will manage to pull it together. This isn't the typical behind-the-scenes, fast-paced, gritty chef tale, but a story of family, pain, loss, struggle, and survival. Food is a big element of the story, but this is a good read even if you aren't into the foodie scene.
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LibraryThing member karieh
Although I am not sure that I enjoyed “blood, bones, and butter” with the same nearly religious fervor that the chef/authors on my copy of the book did, this book was a satisfying experience.

The default television channel in my house is “Food Network” – not so much because I more than
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passable cooking skills, but because the preparation and description of food feels to me nearly as gratifying as eating. Reading about food has nearly the same effect. The appreciation of food of high quality, with love and care behind the cooking of it, came late in life to me…but not to Hamilton.

“from him (her father) we learned how to create beauty where none exists, how to be generous beyond our means, how to change a small corner of the world just by making a little dinner for a few friends. From him we learned how to make and give luminous parties.”

From her French mother, she learns much of how to make the most of food – either in flavor or by using every last bit. But as wonderful as these aspects of her young life may have been, her teenage and young adult years are anything but magical.

“I hastily grazed through the menu of adult behavior and tried on whatever seemed attractive, for whatever inchoate reasons, as they occurred to me…” Until, “I knew that I did not want to go to that juvenile detention program because I had an intuitive sense that it would turn me irrevocably into the kind of character that I was only now rehearsing to be.”

For the rest of the book, Hamilton yearns for the sense of family, the sense of togetherness that she once seemed to posses. With food being such a large part of so many family events, she starts to draw people in with her cooking, and then with her restaurant. She creates the family she so longs to have, the one she so wants to nourish and satisfy.

There are descriptions of food and of place (Italy, Greece, New York) that draw the reader in, filling the senses with smells, tastes and color. Some of the dishes she makes and tries are ones that I would never be brave enough to attempt, but was able to experience them through her words.

I finished the novel, however, profoundly sad. I was very impressed with who she has become and what she has accomplished given the path of her childhood…but felt a sympathetic emptiness at the conclusion. As rich as most of her life is as a successful restaurant owner, mother, friend…there is more she yearns for and has not yet discovered.
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LibraryThing member mlanzotti
Simply the best memoir I have read. Passionate,angry,funny,heartbreaking,all adjectives apply. More than a timeline memoir,the author takes important times in her life and by the end you feel like you know her.
LibraryThing member bakersfieldbarbara
I was so excited to be able to get this book from my library so quickly, and after reading it, so disappointed. the uncommon honesty, and grit mentioned by other critics were one of the reasons I found this reading so negative. Anger at her mother, for her own reasons, I suppose, comes through so
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harshly, and even at her in-laws in Italy, whom opened up their hearts and homes to her. There were moments when the author acknowledged them kindly, but only moments. Was this book about cooking, her life as she lived it(and who cares), or what? Memoirs, I know, are just that, but because she has authored New York Times columns, and has appeared in many food magazines, I expected more professionalism in her approach to telling us about her life. Her marriage of convenience(for whom, him or her or the INS?) was a legality, but they didn't live together other than their yearly trip to Italy. Which she liked, and didn't like. This confusion disoriented me throughout the book..the author married for the INS, didn't live with her spouse, but must have had a relationship at some time due to the proof of their children being born, wanted an intimate relationship and yet hadn't spoken to her mother for 20 years, because "I feel better without her."
I have now negative thoughts, also, about those chefs who have endorsed this as "magnificient. Simply the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever". Come on now, Bourdain. Calling her a fine writer is an insult to so many who keep readers spell-bound to the end of the pages. This book has made me take a vow to not read another Memoir for at least another year, to get the narcissism and negativity out of my soul. Thankfully, I did not buy this book, or I would have been absolutely furious at my wasted money.
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