Stephanie's Reviews > Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
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May 19, 11


Has there ever been such an angry food memoir? I can now appreciate the apt title of this proud, ferocious, viceral book. Her idyllic wild childhood in a ramshackle house in the country, where her father staged elaborate parties and her elegant former-ballerina mother turned out traditional French food from her 6-burner stove, ended with their divorce. Eleven-year-old Hamilton and her 15-year-old brother were left alone in the house the summer after the divorce, which is hard to conceive of but goes a long way toward explaining the source of her anger and self-reliance. Hamilton then grows up too fast, discovers that she is most at home working in kitchens, and eventually opens her restaurant Prune in the East Village. The descriptions of what this restaurant meant to her, how it enabled her to demonstrate her own highly developed ideas of good food and hospitality and style, show her at her most enthusiastic and generous. Hamilton's account of visiting her mother in rural Vermont after refusing to speak to her for 20 years shows a strange combination of insight and tenacious resentment; she is repulsed by her mother's affection and portrays her as a life-sucking spider (literally, lots of spider imagery!). Hamilton is appalled to find the exacting, critical, beloved woman of her youth, who wore Chanel pumps and a cashmere skirt to buy milk at the farm, now shops at Payless and holds up her socks with rubber bands. Recognizing how much her mother has been a model to her, Hamilton wonders how much nicer she might have been to people for the last 20 years if her image of her mother had relaxed to include this possiblity. Her desire to recreate her early family life and its rustic, deeply nourishing food leads her to marry an Italian man she doesn't seem to like, because his affectionate family, the traditional food they cook, and their villa echoed all she had lost. She is seriously messed up--but what food! I want to go to a party where they roast lambs with tiny crooked teeth over glowing embers.
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