Sunday, October 23, 2011

Monday Bites - Blood, Bones and Butter

“First we eat, then we do everything else.”
― M.F.K. Fisher

Book Design: Susan Turner

I wish I could actually express to you how wonderfully compelling and beautifully written I think this book is.  If you were young and running around NYC anytime from the 80's and till now, you would recognize places, and situations, and ultimately, the line in front of the restaurant, Prune in the E. Village.  Now, if you are lucky and patient, you get a seat and a meal. 

Photo: Melissa Hamilton

If you didn't catch it from the cover above, Gabrielle Hamilton has written "the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever." according to Anthony Bourdain.

Gabrielle Hamilton was also this year given the James Beard Foundation's "Best Chef, NYC" award.

Her mother is French and taught her how to eat and taste food properly at an early age, hunting with her for mushrooms in the woods along the banks of the Delaware river, and showing her how to drink the sweet nectar from the pulled-out pistils of honeysuckle flowers.  She learned more about eating and cooking on sometimes lonely trips around Europe and Asia.  And especially, of all places, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  She never went to cooking school, but she worked in many many restaurants, starting as a dishwasher, which trained her for the very hard and dirty life a chef's can be.

Her writing is luminous and lyrical.  (Click for excerpt.)  It's also tough and funny.  

Here are a links to a series of youtube videos; including her Barnes and Noble conversation w/ Anthony Bourdain that shares with you how witty and real she is, and where she shares what I think is such a sensible approach to food: i.e., cooking and eating only food that she loves, food that she mostly has a very personal history with, and especially her conviction that, beyond it being about the food, it's all really about LIFE.   Whether it be hers, or yours.  (And NOT so much the food's life!  Sorry food!)

Her older sister Melissa you might recognize as one half of the "Canal House" team.  More here, from the New York times.  And also about Gabrielle, also from the NYTimes.

You might think Blood, Bones and Butter is going to be a book about cooks, and kitchens, attitudes, tough talk and tasty plating.  But I'll let you in on a secret:  it's really about family.  And how some of us can't separate those two things:  the food and the family.   And how we always seem to be confusing the one for the other, or looking for the one in the other.  In spite of ourselves.

“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.”
M.F.K. FisherThe Art of Eating


  1. My friend (who has a chef boyfriend) is going to Australia for a month, and the boyfriend is so sweet I know he will pine! So I have just recommended this book to give to him along with Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires, which I read ages ago and found completely absorbing.
    On a separate note, I wanted to ask if you had any good recommendations for Hawaii? My friend's parents are going and last time they thought they just really only saw the tourist side of it, so I was wondering if you had any recommendations. His Mum is very stylish, and they are very cultural and as most of the people in my life seem to do, love great food.

  2. This is a wonderful book review, and I can't wait to read it - I do believe food and family are very much connected!

  3. Great book review, very interesting.