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Beginning with her youth as a high school dropout abandoned by a hippie father and French mother, Hamilton relied on her experiences in the family kitchen to get hired as a waitress or line cook at a variety of average diners. Later, she travelled the world for a few months more on the strength of her wits than her wallet, learning about world cuisine from anybody willing to teach her. Her highly specific recollection of what it is like to be starving on a cross-county train ride is pure poetry, and the kind of thing one wants to hear directly from the mouth of the person who lived it. As Hamilton finds herself increasingly imbedded in the world of food, she is somewhat startled to realize that it has been her true passion all along.
There is easily something in here for everyone to enjoy. Industry people will appreciate the rant against brunch joints that offer a free mimosa. Aspiring chefs will be relieved to know that some fulfilling work-life balance is indeed possible. Foodies will delight in the comparison of regional Italian cuisine with its woefully inadequate American counterpart. And, of course, scrappy women who always manage to land on their feet will appreciate this unflinching testimony to the importance of having strength of character and a willingness to go your own way. Gabrielle Hamilton’s voice work is excellent because she doesn’t act like the popular girl at the party, regaling everyone with gossipy tales she acquired as toast of the town. Rather, she casually and quietly builds a fierce little empire of wisdom out of the scattered, broken bits of adventure that have been her life so far. This is a genuinely good listen, written and read by a genuine person. Megan Volpert
Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent 20 fierce, hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Above all, she sought family, particularly the thrill and the magnificence of the one from her childhood that, in her adult years, eluded her. Hamilton’s ease and comfort in a kitchen were instilled in her at an early age when her parents hosted grand parties, often for more than 100 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.
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; the soulless catering factories that helped pay the rent; 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 difficult and prickly marriage that nonetheless yields rich and lasting dividends.Blood, Bones & Butter is an unflinching and lyrical work.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Mel on 03-11-12
A Little Prickly--But Yummy
The trick to reading this very good book and not having a possible negative reaction (which is obvious in the varying reviews) is to refrain from judgements of the author, if possible, and just be enveloped in the story. Because, if you can avoid being infected by the candid and bitter details of a disappointing marriage--(the kind of inner and not so flattering feelings one usually shares only with their oath-sworn-to-patient-privacy shrink)--you will experience sensuous settings in far off places, refine your inner gastronome with exotic foods you've never heard of before, and almost taste "that lamb" as it sizzles over the rosemary scented fire. It really is a lovely epicurean trip that makes me want to lick my fingers as I recall some of the fare, and I could spend a day just conjouring up images of that castle/farmhouse, the meadows, orchards, and streams, the French ballet dancer mother with her omnipresent apron, the artistic bohemian father, the Italian villa, Rome by night--all the perfect ingredients.
The personal details are inarguably prickly; I found them uncomfortable yet brave admissions that lend authenticity to the story of this very authentic person. Coming from Hell's Kitchen tyrant Gordon Ramsay, or bad-ass Anthony Bourdain, the snarkyness would probably be expected and overlooked, like a mint leaf on mousse.Hamilton writes like she cooks and like she lives: committed, authentic, undiluted, without pretense...and that takes bravery--the kind of bravery one would expect from a young girl that can set off with a back pack and a little over $1,000 on a solo trip around the world. My opinion is that her narration lends a bit of personal revelation, which adds to the story. Glad I got around to this one.
25 of 26 people found this review helpful
By Doggy Bird on 07-02-11
Quite a surprising pleasure
This book is quite different from any of the other foodie memoirs I have loved - I don't want to make it sound like I look down on the others. I really enjoy food writing. Anthony Bourdain's books, Julia Child biographies, Ruth Reichl's books, Laurie Colwin's essays and Jacques Pepin's memoir are all among my favorites. This book, like those, is about the author's relationship with people and with food. It starts with poignant memories of a childhood interrupted and is haunted by that rupture. I started the book without suspecting what an amazing writer is Gabrielle Hamilton. Even more important for an audiobook, she reads the book herself, something that usually turns me off. Yet Hamilton's reading is excellent and one of the greatest charms of this audiobook. I couldn't bear to stop listening. Truly a pleasure on many levels, one of the best books I have listened to this year.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By darkfrankhs on 02-12-15
Great account if a very abrupt ending
Would you listen to Blood, Bones & Butter again? Why?
It is a compelling story with beautiful descriptions. I love the flawedness of the main character for an autobiography. She is endearing but at the same time flawed and human. The ending disappointed me however - I literally did not see it coming. It leaves a lot of things to be concluded - which I often don't mind but it seemed incomplete. Like she ran out of time or someone chopped the last 4 chapters off the book.
What other book might you compare Blood, Bones & Butter to, and why?
It did remind me a bit of Fuchsia Dunlop's Sharks Fin and Sichuan Pepper - but dare I say it - Fuchsia comes across as a lot nicer person.
Have you listened to any of Gabrielle Hamilton’s other performances? How does this one compare?
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
It did make me laugh on the odd occasion - but there was one family moment/reuniting that was particularly moving and wonderfully done.
Any additional comments?