Friday, August 19, 2011
Blood, Butter and Bones
Gabrielle Hamilton is a well-known chef in the food world, but I didn't really know her well until picking up her memoir. Not only is the title incredibly evocative, but it gives you a hint as to the layout of the book.
The first third covers her early years: eating bone marrow made by her French mother, helping her father roast lamb at large parties held at their dilapidated home, moving to NYC at 17 to take up waiting tables. The second third describes her forays into cooking. It is an inexplicable part of her; it's in her bones. She writes about being a chef, the struggles she's faced as a pregnant woman working the line at her own restaurant, and beautifully describes some of the foreign travel she did that brought her to starting Prune, her NY establishment. The latter portion is kind of the icing on the cake, the buttercream, if you will. She travels to Italy yearly with her now-estranged husband, and she begins a torrid affair with the country: Hamilton loves the food and the way of life, but feels it lacks depth and is too steeped in tradition to move forward. She finally does.
As much as I enjoyed reading about her relationship with food and kitchens, the book really picked up with the descriptions of the variety of foods she's prepared. I most loved the brief section on a field trip she went on in Italy that involved taking very hard biscuits, which are then softened with one "Ava Maria" in saltwater. I've never heard of this, but immediately want to try it. Beautiful book, fun to read, brings up some good questions about women in any field of work.