Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton is the second book that I read as part of the Huffington Post Book Club. I approached it with reluctance, figuring it would be some lame Food Network-inspired book. But since I committed myself to reading all the HPBC selections for one year, I bought the book and began reading.
The book immediately kicked up repressed memories for me. In the earlier part of my life, I spent a solid 18 years working in food service: working at my dad’s deli in New York, traveling to Bavarian beer festivals in the summer and selling smoked eels, then finally moving on to work as a line cook, banquet cook, saucier, sous chef, and so forth. One day, in the midst of an exceptionally busy brunch service, I had a moment of clarity and decided to go back to school and make a career change. Hence, my new life as a writer.
In the early part of her book, Gabrielle describes kitchen life to the T. She captures the heat, the insanity, the bizarre people, and the after-hours partying perfectly. I must confess, it made me uncomfortable, reliving those experiences, even though I know they contributed to making me who I am today. I still love cooking and still have a passion for food, but I find I enjoy it much more not having to do it for 10 hours a day.
About halfway through the book, the focus shifts from kitchen war stories to her domestic life and how she strives to find balance. Normally, this would cause me to lose interest and require drinking even more coffee than usual to finish the book. She had one thing going for her, though, which kept my interest. She married an Italian and wrote about their regular trips to Italy and her experiences with the food and culture over there. Well, last year I went to Italy, which was one of my lifelong dreams, and while I was there I indulged in every culinary extravagance I could afford. You know, sometimes when you travel and have expectations, the trip fails to meet your idealized view. This is not the case with Italy. It was everything I had hoped for and more. So the last half of Hamilton’s book essentially evoked my memories of Italy, of the hills and the food and the smells and the people. I found myself craving prosciutto and fresh mozzarella on a crusty panini. I think that after I write this I will make some olive tapenade.
I’m not sure if this book is for everyone, since I am not sure that people will connect to it on the level that I did. I think that if you have ever worked in a restaurant or dreamed of visiting Italy, then you’ll enjoy it. The quality of the writing is certainly top-notch. Personally, I’m glad I read it.