I heard an hour-long interview with author chef Gabrielle Hamilton on NPR one day and was so fascinated with her unusual life story that I downloaded her new memoir from Audible (frustratingly, this link is not to the full interview I heard, which I can’t find online, but to a shorter one that was also broadcast on NPR; an excerpt is included at the link). Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef is not only the story of how Hamilton became a chef but also the story of a very unusual life.
Although the author shares some wonderfully warm stories of growing up in rural Pennsylvania (not too far from where I live) with her brothers and sister and loving parents, surrounded by fabulous foods served by her French mother, her life fell apart when her parents divorced. She was basically left on her own during her teen years, and, as you might expect, she got into plenty of trouble. In between and in the midst of that trouble, though, she began working in kitchens – restaurants, catering, even summer camp – and eventually became the chef and owner of the very popular Prune in New York City.
Hamilton’s unusual and difficult life has left her with plenty of unresolved issues. Her memoir is very honest and raw, and she does not shy away from the difficult topics. In fact, sometimes she dwells on them: her very odd marriage to her Italian husband, her continued resentment of her mother for leaving, her switching back and forth between lesbian and heterosexual relationships.
As someone who loves both good food and memoirs, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Blood, Bones and Butter. Hamilton’s descriptions of summers spent in Italy were almost worth the cost of the audio alone, though I was also captivated by the stories of her unusual life path. Now, I’m hungry - I need to take a trip to NY to visit Prune. Anyone want to join me?
NOTE: If you are offended by swearing, it’s best to pass this one up!Where in the World Are You Reading? Update: Although Gabrielle Hamilton has traveled all over the world, most of her book takes place in New York City, as well as Bucks County, PA, and Italy. Since I already had pins in all 3 locations, I chose NYC, since the majority of the book takes place there.