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Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
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Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  19,736 ratings  ·  2,765 reviews
Before 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...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Random House (first published January 1st 2001)
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Community Reviews

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Nina
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cynthia
I wanted to love this book, and there are passages that are simply delicious reading. Hamilton has a MFA in writing and so the structure is good and the language is interesting. Anthony Bourdain said this was the best Chef memoir ever - I'm guessing he doesn't read much because this book really misses the mark.

I enjoyed the first major section of the book, and I enjoyed the last sections about vacations in Italy. The rest of the book left me a bit bored and unmoved. Hamilton paints a picture of...more
Shiverme
Despite the accolades from arrogant *sswipe Anthony Bourdain, I read this anyway. Rather, I gobbled it up in two days. The author is aware that her frigid French ballerina mother is fully responsible for her (prepare yourselves 'cause I'm gunna say it) Freudian obssession with fresh and authentic cooking and she illustrates this without making us wallow with her in endless therapy sessions. I loved revisiting NY's East Village circa 1988--rat carcasses and all-- with her as a tour guide almost a...more
Cassy
Jan 07, 2012 Cassy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Foodies
Recommended to Cassy by: Limited library selection
Whenever I read an autobiography, I find myself asking these two basic questions:

1. Can they write?

2. Is their life interesting enough to warrant a book? Because, I'll be honest, mine is not.

To the first question, Hamilton can write. She earned an MFA (for whatever you think that’s worth). I enjoyed both the crispiness of the details, as well their selection and amount. She was also good at analyzing herself, her life’s trajectory, and the food industry.

Regarding the second question, I had mixed...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Aug 15, 2013 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jeanette by: Buddy Read with Judy
This is not a chef's tale in the fashion we've come to expect from foodie books in recent years. It's more of an autobiography that happens to include a lot of cooking and eating. Put even more precisely, it's an exercise in self-analysis through writing, in which the reader is allowed to tag along.

The book's subtitle is a perfect seven-word description of Gabrielle "Prune" Hamilton's road to chefdom. Her training in the food service industry was as inadvertent as any career path could possibly...more
Lauren
I loved this book. Loved it. At first I thought this was going to be another memoir about "how I fell in love with cooking during my already privileged life". But this one is different. Gabrielle is real. She has had an extraordinarily non-traditional and rough upbringing and is unflinchingly honest about it. So her story is interesting but what I loved most wasn't her unique story but that she is a really, really good writer. Beautiful, I would say. So once I got on board and realized that, I s...more
V. Briceland
Toward the end of Hamilton's interminable chef memoir, she admits to having a certain sense of Gallic superiority to the rest of the world. Hoo boy, is that an understatement. While Hamilton's recollections of her unconventional childhood and rise to celebrity as the owner of Prune offer up a credible pastiche of MFA-style literary writing, the author's personality is so off-putting that I found the book nearly unreadable.

When Hamilton is talking about cooking, or about the restaurant industry a...more
Richard
Once a sauce breaks it's almost impossible to bring it back together again. Chefs have their tricks, but even with tricks there's no guarantee, and no guarantee the sauce will hold. Most likely it won't. The unfortunate separation in Blood, Bones & Butter occurs at the half-way mark. Of course, I write this at the risk of being way too clever, and maybe it is, but I'm saddened that Chef Gabrielle Hamilton wasn't able to hold her memoir together.

She had me, totally had me for the first 158 p...more
Kathryn
Gabrielle Hamilton certainly has led an enviable life. Blood, Bones & Butter is an adventure, and, truthfully, I was disappointed when it ended. But I found that while Hamilton is skilled at invoking the senses, she is less adept at reconciling various parts of her story.The resulting gaps within the narrative make it a disjointed and frustrating read and impair what is otherwise a very good book.


Feeling “disaffected” after 20 years in the kitchen, she leaves to pursue an MFA degree. After r

...more
RandomAnthony
Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones, and Butter is as good a book I've read about the intersection between eating, cooking, and what we do with the hours in-between. Even though I'm a huge Anthony Bourdain fan but his work sometimes make me feel like I'm reading through a filter that stylizes the profession into a restaurant version of a movie like Goodfellas. I'm not a foodie. I microwave cheese on tortillas. Blood, Bones, and Butter doesn't engage in culinary industry mythmaking; the book is abo...more
Brittany
The alternate title for this book:
I Have an Italian Husband (But I Totally Didn't Mean To) and Other Reasons Why I'm Totally a Legitimate Chef.

At first, Hamilton tries to take the Feminist-Answer-to-Anthony-Bourdain angle: I never wanted to be a chef! I was a bad girl druggie! I was in the kitchen being vulgar and sexual with all the male cooks in my kitchen but I was also educated!
Unfortunately, Bourdain actually has wit, something that Hamilton is sorely lacking--some of her stories are inte...more
Mary
I read an article of hers in the latest Bon Appetite magazine and immediately purchased this book. I absolutely loved it and noticed myself parceling it out so that it would last longer. Even though the final part of the booked felt like it got off kilter and started to ramble, there were just so many great things I loved, that I had to give it five stars.
Some of the winning pages included:
‘Camping’ in the back yard with her brothers and sister ”…that voluptuous blanket of summer night humidity,...more
Jackie
I was unprepared for how this memoir spooled out. I was not familiar with Hamilton, or Prune, her restaurant in New York City, and was expecting a dainty kitchen memoir, even a tough one. But the book turned out to the be story of a marriage, and more, the story of a woman exploring her own identity and soul. This soul is deeply wrapped up in the kitchen, and that is how the kitchen enters the story: it's a background character that defines the shape of everything around it. As a passionate cook...more
Margaret
This was an exhausting, schizophrenic read for me and I have very contradictory and conflicting feelings about it. In some ways it was both frustrating and off-putting, and yet I really couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it. On the one hand it’s probably the best food memoir I’ve read since Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential – and for some of the same reasons - but at the same time I got far more information about the author’s spectacularly dysfunctional personal life than I really wan...more
Happyreader
Blood, Bones, and Bitter would have been a better title. Her constant subterranean rage exhausted me. Great, she can cook and found a workaholic outlet to hide from all of her unexamined issues. She’s well into her forties and still angry with her mother for God knows what. The big complaint is that her parents divorced and abandoned her for a summer. Yet she was abandoned at her dad’s home and it’s her mom, the source of her love of food and cooking, whom she doesn’t speak with for 20 years. He...more
Judy
Jan 22, 2012 Judy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Judy by: erin brewster
Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef tells the story of Gabrielle Hamilton's, owner of Prune Restaurant in NYC, dysfunctional childhood and the oasis she stumbled upon through cooking.

I experienced a jumble of emotions while reading this book. Disbelief over her parents abandonment of their children, frustration with Gabrielle's bitchiness and unwillingness to forge deep relationships, admiration of her perseverance and talent in cooking, and hope for her futur...more
Tracey
If you like odd-ball, quirky families that produce eccentric, talented, opinionated people...than read this book! A young women living in a house with no media influences with a French Mom and an artist Dad raise this lovely lady, Gabrielle, who knows what it means to live, eat and create.

She shares all sorts of life experience coupled with her passion for cooking...

For me, this is quintessential foodie reading. I love a good story, a talented writer and the distraction of someone cooking consta...more
Alexis
Jun 12, 2011 Alexis rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Possibly two and a half or three stars. I felt compelled to read this and was interested, but I was irritated by the author. She struck me as really abrasive and strident and I just didn't really like her.

I was interested in the chapters of her early years, and how she came to be a chef and her interest in writing. Her later chapters made me want to visit Italy. But I kept on wondering if I would like her if I met her in person. She seemed incredibly self-absorbed (although most memoirs make yo...more
K
Some Obvious Things I Should Already Know that I Learned from Reading Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef:

1. I almost never enjoy food writing as much as I think I will. I certainly don't enjoy it enough to compensate for basic flaws in a book.

2. TMI memoirs are car accidents but vague, guarded memoirs are boring and confusing which is arguably worse. (I still don't get why Gabrielle was so mad at her mother, how she made the transition from untrained caterin...more
Rocinante
I often rate books but seldom actually comment on them. I also rarely give a book one star so I feel I must justify it a little.

So the subtitle is the Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. That's a little misleading. I didn't really notice any reluctance. Every job she ever had was in food service. And, in her only non-food experiment, the MFA, she ended up deciding she'd rather be in food service. With the exception of a few early stories about her mother, she really didn't explain any of...more
Susan
Mar 24, 2011 Susan rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nobody
I kept reading mainly because of the gushing praise of Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain highlighting the cover of this book. Either they didn't actually read the book, or their frame of reference is sadly narrow. Or maybe the publisher sent a lot of wine.
I had to ask my culinary school graduate friend if all chefs are whiny and crude. A lot, but not all, I am told. Argh, what an annoying story. Made worse, no doubt, by the author's MFA in writing. Apparently this necessitates throwing in the oc...more
Denise
Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef/owner of the acclaimed New York restaurant Prune. In Blood, Bones and Butter she chronicles how she ended up a famous chef giving lectures in cooking schools and running a successful restaurant. Gabrielle grew up in a big, boisterous, unconventional family with a French mother and an unreliable, artistic father. Both her parents taught her to love food, so when the family split up and she was a teenager at loose ends and needing money, she went to work in a restaur...more
Thing Two
I purchased this book for my husband last year; he generally enjoys reading memoir/cooking books. He got about a third of the way into this one and left to collect dust on his nightstand.

Must you like a person in order to enjoy reading their memoir? I appreciate Ms. Hamilton has a gift of the written word - and would have loved to know what else she learned earning her MFA other than her dislike of the program director - and she has had a variety of experiences from which to glean, but, in the...more
Katie
Wow. I really can't believe how utterly disappointed I was by this book. I skimmed the last 30 pages or so, I was so completely bored and sick of Hamilton.

Here's the thing, and I admit this freely: I was interested in this book because a year or two ago I read an interview with her from Anthony Bourdain in his collection of writing ("The Nasty Bits"). The Hamilton he fawns over, and that I was interested in, was not really in these pages. One of the quotes from said essay are when she says, "Fuc...more
Cydni Perkins
This book was beautifully written in a highly descriptive, poetic style. The author's whole messed-up life is contained in it. The story strolls along at a slow pace, stopping to linger on every stage of the author's life. I didn't start to dislike Gabrielle until the end of the book, when she embarks on an unhappy marriage with a man she doesn't love, but makes the baffling decision to have children with him despite everything. She reveals a certain coldness in her own nature as she complains a...more
Amy
I'm torn. On the one hand, I found myself engaged while reading, and at one point it had me dying for a sandwich from an Italian deli. On the other hand, the author is intensely unlikeable, and her memoir had some really glaring holes in it.

I get that this wasn't necessarily about her romantic life, but I want to know how the following happened: "I mostly like women, which is why my marriage to a man who needed a green card was safe except that I really wanted him to love me. Then we had two kid...more
K.M. Soehnlein
I gobbled this memoir up in a single day. Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef/owner of Prune, a 30-seat restaurant in the East Village that she never planned on opening but which has been a solid success -- and a useful platform to share her ideas about cooking, hospitality, hard work, the food industry, family, lovers, raising children, travel and much much more.

The first part of the book recounts an idyllic childhood with bohemian parents that crashes to pieces after a sudden divorce. The second s...more
Cryselle
Anthony Bourdain says that every day Gabrielle Hamilton likes him is a reason to live. Ok, that was reason to read.

The book is disjointed, but so was her life -- she tells the story as it needs to be told right then, and frankly, I'm astounded she lived through some of her choices. Or her parents' choices. I seldom went went 5 pages without feeling that someone needed to be slapped, sometimes her.

For a memoir, she glosses over some extremely large and life altering decisions, showing us instead...more
Chris
May 17, 2011 Chris rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Chris by: Michael-BOTNS
I am wavering between giving this 3 or 4 stars. It's more like 3 1/2.

Hamilton is the chef du jour in New York, as her restaurant, Prune, has won rave reviews. She doesn't sugar coat what it's like to run a restaurant. I think in this day and age of The Food Network, where chefs are superstars, many have a misconception of what it takes to own a restaurant, I myself being one of them. I have this fantasy of a hot kitchen, then going out to the dining room in my whites and receiving plaudits from...more
Derrik
I had serious bipolar disorder while reading this book. At times I liked Gabrielle, and at others she was the epitome of what I despise in someone. The begining of the book was really fascinating, I loved reading about her family and the stuggles she went through and guessing how each of her experiences would influence her as an adult. My favorite part of the book, however, was probably her in college. However,it all went down hill from there. She got more and more pretentious the longer she had...more
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Million Little Pieces Standard of Memoir? 11 158 Nov 04, 2013 06:42AM  
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  • Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter
  • The Sorcerer's Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adria's Elbulli
  • The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen
  • The Man Who Ate Everything
  • Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant : Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone
  • The Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy (Harvest/Hbj Book)
  • An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace
  • Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
  • Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris
  • The Tummy Trilogy
  • The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food
  • My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals / Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes
  • Yes, Chef
  • Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table: A Collection of Essays from the New York Times
  • Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table
  • Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker
Lilco & His Mommy Prune Recipe Book Prune

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“Be careful what you get good at doin' 'cause you'll be doin' it for the rest of your life. -Jo Carson” 16 likes
“How can it be, after all this concentrated effort and separation, how can it be that I still resemble, so very closely, my own detestable mother?” 8 likes
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