Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

By Emmy Lee | Posted on July 27th, 2012

It’s cover boasts Anthony Bourdain’s lofty praise: “Magnificent. Simply the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever.” The bar was set high – and I was still wonderfully surprised and captivated by Gabrielle Hamilton’s raw and candid memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. Hamilton is the lauded proprietor of Prune in New York and in 2011 she was recognized as Best Chef, New York City at the James Beard Awards. But before she achieved such lofty praise, she racked up twenty years of kitchen experience at various unglamorous jobs and her memoir takes us on the raucous ride from her childhood when her parents threw the same party annually involving whole roasted lambs over an open fire, hosting more than 100 people, through to her reign at the helm of the impossible-to-get-into Prune. Seamlessly interweaving the professional and personal, she shares her familial as well as romantic relationships including her unconventional relationship with her Italian husband and the glory of visits with his family in Italy. Through it all, her genuine, unpretentious love of family and food rings through – and her prose, which is acerbic and biting as well as lyrical and poetic is sure to satisfy as much as her cooking. One of my favourite passages is Hamilton’s precise and evocative description of the great Andre Soltner, who was at the helm of Lutece for 34 years, preparing an omelette:

“He beat the eggs and poured them into the prepared pan and then he agitated the eggs with a fork, constantly, over low heat until the curd was soft and tiny, and when the egg had adequately set, he tapped the pan, with gusto, on the burner to take out any last tiny gasp of air…He grasped the pan in his left hand and tilted it slightly toward the back of the stove. With his right hand, he tapped his left wrist, like a junky in search of a good vein, over and over, causing a little vibration in the pan that pushed the omelette incrementally with every tap up against the lip and then, when cresting, back in over itself until the whole omelette was folded over into thirds, a perfect football shape, absolutely no color on it, ust perfectly cooked yellow omelette, and he put the little torpedo onto the plate for lunch. The omelette. As prepared by Solner with just two hands, a fork, and a sauté pan.”


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