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Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef [Kindle Edition]

Gabrielle Hamilton
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (430 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.98
You Save: $6.02 (38%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description


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 an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family—the result of a prickly marriage that nonetheless yields lasting dividends. By turns epic and intimate, Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion.

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2011: Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, is just what a chef's story should be--delectable, dripping with flavor, tinged with adrenaline and years of too-little sleep. What sets Hamilton apart, though, is her ability to write with as much grace as vitriol, a distinct tenderness marbling her meaty story. Hamilton spent her idyllic childhood on a wild farm in rural Pennsylvania with an exhilarant father--an artist and set builder--and French mother, both "incredibly special and outrageously handsome." As she entered her teens, however, her family unexpectedly dissolved. She moved to New York City at 16, living off loose change and eating ketchup packets from McDonald’s; worked 20-hour days at a soulless catering company; traveled, often half-starved, through Europe; and cooked cooked for allergy-riddled children at a summer camp. The constant thread running through this patchwork tale, which culminates with the opening of her New York City restaurant, Prune, is Hamilton's slow simmering passion for cooking and the comfort it can bring. "To be picked up and fed, often by strangers, when you are in that state of fear and hunger, became the single most important food experience I came back to over and over," Hamilton writes, and it's this poignant understanding of the link between food and kindness that makes Blood, Bones & Butter so satisfying to read. --Lynette Mong

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Owner and chef of New York's Prune restaurant, Hamilton also happens to be a trained writer (M.F.A., University of Michigan) and fashions an addictive memoir of her unorthodox trajectory to becoming a chef. The youngest of five siblings born to a French mother who cooked "tails, claws, and marrow-filled bones" in a good skirt, high heels, and apron, and an artist father who made the sets for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, Hamilton spent her early years in a vast old house on the rural Pennsylvania–New Jersey border. With the divorce of her parents when she was an adolescent, the author was largely left to her own devices, working at odd jobs in restaurants. Peeling potatoes and scraping plates-"And that, just like that, is how a whole life can start." At age 16, in 1981, she got a job waiting tables at New York's Lone Star Cafe, and when caught stealing another waitress's check, she was nearly charged with grand larceny. After years of working as a "grunt" freelance caterer and going back to school to learn to write (inspired by a National Book Foundation conference she was catering), Hamilton unexpectedly started up her no-nonsense, comfort-food Prune in a charming space in the East Village in 1999. Hamilton can be refreshingly thorny (especially when it comes to her reluctance to embrace the "foodie" world), yet she is also as frank and unpretentious as her menu-and speaks openly about marrying an Italian man (despite being a lesbian), mostly to cook with his priceless Old World mother in Italy. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • File Size: 1909 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (March 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,691 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
478 of 511 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blood and bones but not much butter February 7, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A memoir written by a chef is appealing because it promises to take us to a place few of us ever see, unless it's on the Food Network---that is, a restaurant kitchen. It promises to reveal all of the gritty, unlovely steps leading up to the moment when the beautiful plate emerges from the pass and into the hands of the waitstaff. In addition, after Anthony Bourdain led the way, such a memoir must also offer appetite-killers: dirty walk-ins, unsavory butchering scenes. And, like a religious testament, it also has those conversion moments, the moment when the chef discovers that she or he is destined to become an artist with food. Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir has all of these elements.

When Hamilton writes about food, she's entertaining, irreverent, and even spiritual. Her engaging account of her father's spring lamb roast (an edited version of this piece recently appeared in The New Yorker) establishes the origins of her love of food. Her account of her years working for catering companies will make you think hard before you pick up that next wedding hors d'oeuvre from the waiter's silver plate. And a chapter about cooking at a summer camp in the Berkshires is funny and deft in its handling of detail. I loved her wry depiction of the time she spent in a master's writing program, from the satirical descriptions of her fellow writers to her homage to Misty, a fellow cook and, for Hamilton, a kind of culinary muse.

This book aspires to be more than just a chef memoir, however, since the subtitle refers to "The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef." In particular, this is a book about family: about Hamilton's own family, painfully riven by divorce when she was still a child, and about her marriage and the birth of her two sons.
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142 of 159 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary + Culinary Creativity February 28, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Slowly the meadow filled with people and fireflies and laughter -- just as my father had imagined -- and the lambs on their spits were hoisted off the pit onto the shoulders of men, like in a funeral procession, and set down on the makeshift plywood-on-sawhorse tables to be carved. Then the sun started to set and we lit the paper bag luminaria, which burned soft glowing amber, punctuating the meadow and the night, and the lamb was crisp-skinned and sticky from slow roasting, and the root beer was frigid and caught, like an emotion, in the back of my throat."

Gabrielle Hamilton looks back on her nine-year-old self in that passage -- over-the-moon infatuated with her older siblings, her mother's way in the kitchen and her father's way with setting a stage ... and unaware that divorce and neglect are just around the corner.

By 13, she's drugging with an older crowd and lying about her age to get work in restaurant kitchens to support herself; before long she's participating in a felony-level employee theft racket. Yet she has a knack for stumbling onto cooking mentors and gradually learns enough to run the kitchen at a kids' summer camp and freelance-cook at high-volume caterers for fancy Hamptons (NY) parties. She completes a fiction-writing MFA, but only because she simultaneously finds a wellspring of sanity and true creativity in a side cooking job that recalls the down-to-earth food and settings of her childhood. And it's with that "real food" perspective that she eventually opens a restaurant -- New York City's acclaimed Prune.

There's evidence of that MFA in this memoir -- a beautiful mix of literary and culinary creativity.
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122 of 138 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Had to stop halfway through. November 4, 2011
By C.Z.S.
Had this book ended in the middle, it would have been a good, light read. Hamilton is a skilled creative writer and the first part of her book was interesting. In it, she admits to a troubled past that included grand larceny, auto theft and drug use. She did not express remorse or any desire to make restitution, but I took this as the starkly candid confession of someone who had grown up and wised up. From there, she takes us through Europe and on to the opening her restaurant; very engaging. After that, the callous, deceptive self-obsessed character that I thought we had left behind pages before resurfaces - not as a forgivable mixed up youth, but as a scary, middle-aged woman. No reflection. No apologies. Hamilton seems to have an unhealthy and unrelenting contempt for other people and a superiority complex that fans the flame. She doesn't cut slack for anyone else, and never finds fault with herself. (In other words, she strikes me as one of those "Can dish it out, but can't take it" people--the kind who are so in the habit of being mean that they are unaware of how awful they're being and how horrible they are to put up with.) It's depressing to think that we live in a culture that rewards a person for this level of arrested development and shallow self-obsession. I'm sorry, but masterfully well-turned phrases and clever metaphors can't carry pointless, harsh, indiscreet talk for an entire book. Authorship is authorship. Therapy is therapy. After 150 pages or so, it began to feel as if Ms. Hamilton had completely confused those two very different things. Where on earth was her editor?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars too bad she loves food more than people
Well written, too bad she loves food more than people. She could benefit from doing some dialoguing about her attachment disorder
Published 1 day ago by Frank and Kathy
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Much better than I thought
Published 1 day ago by James Kinn
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great story teller.
Published 7 days ago by Harold
5.0 out of 5 stars Tells you why Gabrielle Hamilton loves cooking good food
The first chef's memoir that left me in tears at the end. An autobiography bounded by experiences with food and the people who cook it. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Mr. Piz
4.0 out of 5 stars I didn't like it that well
It was another book club choice..I didn't like it that well, but it got mixed reviews from the other ladies...
Published 14 days ago by Sharon Kirian
5.0 out of 5 stars A stand-out among audiobooks.
I listen to about 25 audiobooks per year, and this one really stands out. It was one of those can't-wait-to-get-back-to-it books, and it stuck with me in a very positive way. Read more
Published 20 days ago by amyd
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo!
Before I say how much I loved reading this book, I will preface it by saying that I love cookbooks, books about chefs, books about the culinary world, and generally everything in... Read more
Published 21 days ago by EverydayReader
2.0 out of 5 stars Part Interesting, Part Boring
A lot of fluff in the beginning. The parts about cooking and the restaurant business are interesting but the last third of the book about her marriage is boring. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Paul Courter
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Really enjoyed the skillful prose and the early life details of this remarkable woman homey.
Published 1 month ago by SJ Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This is the best book I read this year. I purchased it for 4 different people as a gift.
Published 1 month ago by EyreAffair
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