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

Monday, November 7, 2016


Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
Gabrielle Hamilton, 2011

Challenge Book! Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016 - Read a food memoir

Premise: Gabrielle Hamilton has a successful restaurant in New York City, but she’s always trying to capture an experience of food that you don’t normally find in the food industry. In this memoir, she traces her life from her quirky childhood through her unconventional attempts at education to her unusual marriage and the relationship with food that runs under it all.

I struggled with finding a book for this challenge. I started one and dropped it, perused a lot of lists and nothing called to me. Then I saw this book on several lists of great food memoirs, and it was available from the library as an audiobook on a day when I needed a new audiobook.

It must have been fate, because I really liked this one.

And it’s only partially because it contains some of the best descriptions of my alma mater I’ve ever heard, and I wasn’t expecting that at all.

“It was the most ill-conceived - not to mention expensive - education model I ever could have imagined for myself, this one in which you spring loose totally aimless eighteen-year-olds on a campus designed much more like graduate school than undergrad, and then watch all but the most serious and exceptional of them flail and falter.”

She is one of the many “alums” of Hampshire who did not graduate from that institution, although she did (only half-ironically) appreciate what she learned in the time she spent there.

Her attempt at Hampshire was after dropping out of another school, after lying about her age to be a cocktail waitress in New York, after going through her parents’ (one artistic, one high-strung) divorce.

I loved her story not because the scenes are beautifully captured, the metaphors apt and biting, the gritty reality of working in the food industry spelled out in gory detail, although the book has all of that. I loved her story because she’s honest and prickly. I loved her humor and her stubborn, sometimes illogical opinions. I liked how sometimes unlikeable she seems.

I love her relationship with food. I don’t agree with all of it, but I love her passion for feeding people, what it should mean to satiate hunger. She has no patience for fads or chic, fancy food for its own sake.

Her marriage is fascinating. She loves her husband’s family, loves her sons. She sometimes gets along with her husband, but always feels unsatisfied with their relationship, yet neither of them are inclined to change their situation. It’s difficult to describe or understand except at length, and the biggest fault with the book I found was that it ended before any final resolution from that quarter.

It’s an unusual life, laid out in all its ups and downs, pettiness and lies, love and anger and illogical selfishness. Life, in other words.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

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