Monday, March 28, 2011

Blood, Bones and Butter

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

As mentioned in the blog post dated March 23, 2011, this book, BLOOD, BONES, & BUTTER: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, has gotten rave reviews from other chef/writers.

In it, Gabrielle Hamilton chronicled her idyllic childhood, growing up with a French mother and an artistic father. She remembered how her parents hosted fabulous parties, abounding with food and atmosphere. The idyll ended when her parents abruptly divorced when she was 13. This event seemed to color the rest of her life, including her bleak marriage to an Italian doctor, as well as her determination to work hard and cook well.

She included many wonderful descriptions of food, from the lamb banquet her family served when she was a child to Italian dishes and meals she ate as part of her Italian husband's family.

As well as luscious descriptions of food and the events of her life, she shared some of her thinking. I loved her thoughts on hospitality...

She arrived tired and hungry when she traveled to Greece, and called someone she'd never met whose number she'd been given to see if she could crash at his place for a while. He was utterly delighted to hear from her even though she was a complete stranger. After she arrived, he provided an amazing Greek meal for her, never asking any of the usual things we think that a host would ask, would she prefer red or white wine? Does she like shellfish? No, he simply cooked a marvelous meal and presented it to her. In having the meal and in not having to make any choices about it, she felt absolutely cared for and welcomed, fed and warmed, as much by his taking care of everything as in the food and drink itself. Which is more hospitable, she asked, to make sure everyone has items he or she prefers? Or did he do the more hospitable thing in taking care of everything himself, providing out of his bounty and generosity? She knew what her answer was. "I forever want to arrive somewhere hungry and thirsty and tired and be taken care of as Iannis took care of us."

Hamilton came to her success by diving in with hard work, often not looking up to see if she was doing it right. She was just doing it. And with a little bit of attitude.

In chapter 16, she described how she was on a panel for a conference given for upcoming female cooks/chefs. She found herself so frustrated by the apparent need to separate female chefs from chefs. She encountered the phrase about one of the presenters..."One of the best female chefs in New York City..." and she mused aloud, "What if we take out the word "female"? And then the description becomes "One of the best chefs in New York City." The rest of the panel to whom she was speaking became silent at her observation. This chapter was stunning in its look at being female and being a chef and being significant in one's field.

While I'm not raving about this book quite as much as Mario and Anthony did (perhaps because I am not a chef by any stretch), I can appreciate and respect her drive and her writing and her story.

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