August 9, 2011

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

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

A prissy reader might be tempted to rename this memoir within the first 50 pages. Something like Food, Drugs and Cusswords would do. Or, buoyed by a highly-developed moral code, one might set it aside in favor of something sweeter on the palette. But that would be like foregoing a spectacular feast of honest food prepared by a famous chef like…well, like Gabrielle Hamilton herself.

Hamilton’s memoir is a delicious account of her arduous journey from adolescence to adulthood, hurdling obstacles and carrying baggage that might have put a lot of us on the sidelines of life. Instead, the author matures into talented writer and chef/restaurant owner, who starts her own unconventional family and begins the balancing act known to legions of hard-working women.

Thinking of glamour? Well, forget that.  Her journey to chefdom didn’t include a lofty chef’s school. It was made on an itinerant apprenticeship of inauspicious greasy spoons, summer camps, catering gigs, and a hungry, sometimes harrowing traipse through Europe as a young adult. None of it paid well, but it did form an unpretentious chef who can simultaneously write and cook the glory and complexity of unfussy, unadulterated food and of life itself.

Keep your dictionary handy. All but the very most sophisticated of foodies will need it to figure out what’s in the oven or on the stovetop and table. Read to the end and take turns shuddering, gasping, salivating and aching your way through a gritty memoir filled with tenderness, honesty, self-reliance and hope.

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