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Book Review-NYT. Blood Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/25/boo...

The review is by Michiko Kakutani

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  1. looks very interesting, thanks! a food writer with an mfa with a very interesting upbringing sounds worth checking out.

    1. I can't wait. I've been a huge fan of her writing since her "The Chef" series in the NYTimes in 2001 and preordered Blood Bones and Butter the second I heard it was coming out.

      There's a lot of hilariously hyperbolic praise for the book (Mario Batali: “I will read this book to my children and then burn all the books I have written for pretending to be anything even close to this. Then I will apply for the dishwasher job at Prune to learn from my new queen") but I get it. I actually have to consciously not slobber when I talk about her, she's that awesome. Her writing voice is so distinctive you can consistently identify her pieces even without a byline. Her style is really gutsy and grounded, but still gorgeous and lyrical. I like her food, too.

      1 Reply
      1. re: daveena

        Prune is a truly excellent, excellent restaurant. Never misses.

      2. LA Times liked it too. it's on my Amazon wish list.

        BTW Phaedrus, did you stop watching Top Chef? you haven't joined us for a discussion in ages!

        3 Replies
        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          ghg, I have been watching on DVR and lurking in the backround. Wednesday nights are killer this time of the year.

          1. re: Phaedrus

            well that's a relief - i thought perhaps you didn't love us anymore!

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Oh please. You're some of my favorite people. I'll be back.

        2. I pre-ordered it quite a while ago. Is it actually out? Because I can't wait to read it.

          I had one of my most memorable meals at Prune. I always wondered if I thought that because it happened to be just a few days before 9/11. Then I went back a few years ago. And it was perfect. Again.

          BTW, GH was featured on the most recent episode of "The Splendid Table."

          2 Replies
          1. There was an interview with her on The Splendid Table last weekend.

            1. http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

              And here is an interview with her.

              It appears Tony Bourdain has given her adoring reviews too.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Phaedrus

                http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/din...

                Yet another article. Talk about saturating the media. But from what I read, good for her.

                1. re: Phaedrus

                  i recall Bourdain saying in "The Nasty Bits" that he thought Gabrielle Hamilton was the chef who should really be writing all the books because she had such a storied history and a way with words.

                2. I've resisted buying any books for seven months now, which has been hard, believe you me.
                  The local library has this book, and I believe I am 33rd in the list of hold requests.
                  I bought this book this morning on Amazon. It should be here Friday.
                  Rainy weekend and a good book, check and check.

                  1. talk about gabrielle, what exactly is a "slash and burn?" Flesh cut and healed in a particular design I've heard of, but not the burn part

                    1. finished this book last week. it was well written but more about chef hamilton's familial relationships than her life's work or her restaurant or her philosophy. many of her accounts of the working life and the little accidents of fate which result in restaurant career choices rang true. i enjoyed reading up to the chapter in which she attended/was part of a forum for women in the culinary arts: "where are the women?" and think some of the most valuable things she has to say were in those pages. but after that it was pretty much about her 3 week vacation each year with (odd relationship) her "husband" whom she didn't live with, but did co-parent with, and his family in italy, and a lot about breastfeeding and her blood-sugar issues and her mental hand-wringing about her own estranged relationship with her mother.

                      in sum, i liked the book much more when i began to read it, than when i finished the book. so i guess despite some great writing i feel that, for me, the book fell short.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: soupkitten

                        I found it surprising that in her Splendid Table interview, she says that she only chose "the good parts" of her life, the ones that had to do with food. Which, first of all... wow. If this was the romanticized version of her life, I don't know if I could handle reading all the edited bits.

                        All of the essays I've read of hers have focused primarily on food, but have given tantalizing glimpses into her life, so for me, this book filled in the gaps between kouign amann/French mother and Sunday lunch/Italian mother-in-law. After reading the book, you can more or less look at Prune's dinner menu and annotate it with events from her life. I always did wonder where the random Greek stuff came from. And I have been dying to know for years where the husband and kids came from.

                        I quite liked the part of the book where she deromanticizes the whole vacationing in Italy with the Italian family thing - I thought that parts of the book where veering dangerously close to Under the Tuscan Sun territory, so I was delighted and relieved when she lined up her tropes, and shot them down, one by one.

                        1. re: daveena

                          I definitely enjoyed *both* the romanticized and non-romanticized versions of her time spent in Puglia. Probably my favorite parts of the book.

                          Overall, the book didn't quite live up to my expectations, though. I loved her article about Misty in F&W, but didn't think the version in the book was as good.

                          I'll definitely be eating at Prune the next time I'm in NY, though!

                          1. re: daveena

                            I just finished reading this, and while I loved parts of the book (everything about her travels, everything about starting and working at Prune), the beginning and some of the midway parts sagged for me, and in some parts of them I found her really irritating. I actually hated that entire chapter when she was at the CIA and was at a forum for women, because, though she said great stuff in there, she didn't say it to any of the women at the forum, and just sat around and stewed passive aggressively (which is how I felt every time she talked about her husband, and her mother, for that matter). But all of her descriptions of cooking were just magic, especially when she talks about cooking with her mentor in Michigan, or on the line at Prune, or with her mother in law in Italy.

                            I do find it funny that she had a jab at Ruth Reichl in that chapter about the forum for women, when her blurb about the book is the first I heard of it.

                            1. re: JasmineG

                              File that (the RR jab) under "no good deed goes unpunished".
                              I knew from the first this was not a book for me, interesting to see your and roxlet's impressions.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                Well, I mean, Ruth Reichl obviously had read the book and read the comment about her before raving about it, so I'm not sure if she was being "punished" there. I'm glad I read it, and her writing about food and cooking is fantastic (I'm still thinking longingly about two of the sandwiches that she talks about).

                          2. re: soupkitten

                            I agree that the book did sort-of veer off into all-italy-all-the-time toward the end, but I think that was on purpose. I got the feeling GH was really going after more of a novel than a chef-bio. I think the final freak-out in Italy was the climax of the story.

                            While I was disappointed not to get a little more behind-the-scenes kitchen stuff, I really was impressed with her writing, and I was hooked into the suspense of would the marriage work or not. Of course, I still don't know...but I assume not.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                there was a profile of her in this month's Bon Appetit. They are divorced. But apparently she recently visited her former mother-in-law, so as not to give up that portion of her life.

                          3. I just got this today at Costco -- $14.99. Looking forward to reading it.

                            1. I was quite looking forward to reading this but sampled it on Kindle and have no intention of reading any more. Pretentious beyond pretentious. No 2% milk in 1976? Oh yeah? Available even in the town of 3000 my husband was raised in. A wristwatch on a 14-year old being held up as something to be marveled at? Oh please. The theatrical background is very evident.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: buttertart

                                I agree. I was interested until I saw her on Charlie Rose. She had a very irritating way of offering up tidbits of information. When he picked them up and went with them she would get high and mighty as if he had crossed the line of privacy. Yet he seemed quite captivated by her.

                                I'll stick with her articles.

                              2. I think I echo other readers when I say that I started out liking this book more than I ended up enjoying it. By the end, I guess that I really didn't like Gabrielle Hamilton very much. She seemed to complain a lot about her husband, but I fault her writing in that I found him so poorly drawn that I had a difficult time understanding her problem with him. Clearly, she is a very driven woman, and her husband and his family were not. I also didn't understand her problem with her mother. In the end, no one she talked about was well-deliniated for me, and she came off as a prig.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: roxlet

                                  I agree that I found her a rather irritating person. If she had so many issues with her mother and her husband that she was more than willing to put into print in all that gory detail, why on earth was she so passive in *talking* to either one of them about it! Sheesh!

                                  1. re: roxlet

                                    >>>>By the end, I guess that I really didn't like Gabrielle Hamilton very much.

                                    This is why I couldn't make it past page 50. BacktothelibraryASAP. Too many good books, too little time.

                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      I think she's a very good and vivid writer -- and she sure isn't afraid of looking bad or writing herself as an occasionally unsympathetic character. I appreciate that.

                                      For me the book falls apart as she focuses on her disfunctional relationship and trips to Italy -- as if the restaurant and everyone in it disappeared after the first couple years. The Italy-trope stuff *is* interesting, but enough enough. At that point in the book she isn't writing with the self-awareness required to dish into the painful personal...so it's tedious and you want to look away. That said, I found it a quick read, good for a weekend. She's a million times better writer than Bourdain, he's got that right! Not a totally satisfying read, but worth reading for sure.

                                    2. I'm in the middle of the book at this point in time and although at first I thought it to be a gutsy book for her to write, I'm not too sure now. I'm usually a fast reader and plow right through but with this book I can only take a few chapters at a time. Was it Batali who said he should burn all the books he's written because he can't write like her, or Bourdain? I thought to be a "slight" exaggeration... In any case I do agree that when she writes about food the focus is there and lovingly so. Wonder how I'll feel at the book's end...