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Review: Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamiton

Title: Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
Author: Gabrielle Hamilton
Year published: 2022
Category: Adult nonfiction
Pages: 320 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location: (my 2022 Google Reading map)USA (DE, NJ, NY, MA, MI), Greece, Turkey, Belgium, France

SummaryBefore 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 passion.

Review: Friends of mine from my childhood days have decided to start a book group. I feel torn about book groups: I love them because... books. But I always worry that I won't like the books we choose will be books I don't really want to read and will get in the way of books I am looking forward to it.

All that said, I was hesitant about this book, but liked it the moment I started listening to the author read the book. Her descriptions of her experiences with food and with life were entertaining, interesting, and inspired. It is always fascinating to hear how someone gets to where they end up. Did they know they'd be there from the start? Do they stumble into it by accident or can you see it coming even though they could not?

I especially smiled when she described her time in Bruges, Belgium (winter/spring 1986) as a brutal winter as that's when I lived in Vienna and remember how excruciatingly cold it was. There is a lot of discussion of food in this book, which is no surprise, but as someone who isn't into food, I was a bit worried about this. However, I needn't have been concerned. The food is there as is life in restaurants, but Hamilton is a good storyteller so the food and restaurants are characters in her life rather than the sole focus. They frame her adventures and experiences rather than dominating and being the only focus.

I particularly liked the chapter about being a woman in restaurants. Hamilton begins feeling that women should get their act together, work hard and you will do fine. But she finishes by realizing she has worked two jobs: the restaurant job and that of subconsciously deciding between choices that will make her look good in front of the men in the kitchen.

Hamilton closed her restaurant in 2020 during the Covid pandemic.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Literary Escapes--Belgium

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