Blood, Bones & Butter
The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
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". . . leaves a lot of unanswered questions . . ."
Gabrielle Hamilton should have written a cookbook rather than reveal her life blemishes in a memoir. Like cooking, when ingredients are left out, the dish is less than fulfilling. “Blood, Bones, & Butter,” leaves a lot of unanswered questions which wouldn’t have been the case if she’d stayed focused on how her cooking skills turned her into one of New York City’s top chefs.
At 16, she graduates from high school, leaves home, gets a waitress job, cheats a restaurant of its profits, and is charged with a felony. “Tens of thousands” dollars is spent on cocaine so she is broke. Because she was underage, the charges are dropped. She garners a scholarship to the University of Michigan where she earns an MFA in creative writing, returns to New York, and without business knowledge, but years of working in the food business, opens her own restaurant. All of this is extraordinary, but most curious is how this self-proclaimed lesbian agrees to marry an Italian so he can get a green card. She refers to her marriage as “performance art.” They maintain separate houses, and, curiously, have two children.
Hamilton also writes about her love of food and cooking. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania where her parents entertained hundreds of friends, she clings to the memory of “gamey lamb, apple-wood smoke, rosemary garlic marinade” hissing away over an open pit. For nearly 20 years, she worked as a camp chef, at a catering service and during her one-year solo backpacking trip to Europe, learned about hospitality and picked up cooking skills she has incorporated into her own restaurant, “Prune” (her mother’s pet name for her).
Hamilton has an easy-flowing writing style and her fluent descriptions of her signature dishes is enough to make your mouth water. However the loose ends of her life story are left dangling like a soap opera, an open-ended drama with promises the next episode will hopefully reveal answers to lingering questions.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla