Friday, May 13, 2011

Literary Feast: Blood, Bones & Butter


Just in from nine days in the Bahamas. The bliss that can be found by disconnecting from cell phones, computers, and contact with the outside world is practically indescribable. But more about that later.

While lounging beachside, I satiated my thirst for information by reading book after book after book (5 in total). And I came across one that literally stands out from the rest as the most enjoyable read of the past year.

“Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef” is the memoir of Gabrielle Hamilton – a NYC chef, mother, wife, hellion, wise-ass, and bad-ass.

Every word leaps off the page and assaults your senses with the beautifully described sights, smells, and sounds of a life that is altogether rich and unique, but somehow poignantly encapsulates the human condition of the modern woman.

Although richly detailed (and often uniquely prepared) food is the undercurrent that strings her memoir together and makes the reader’s mouth water, Hamilton has penned much more than a culinary masterpiece.  Personally I was deeply moved by her narrative, which chronicles her childhood growing up on an idyllic farm in northern Pennsylvania with an eccentric French mother and an artist father, her troubled teen years that included drug use and thievery, her struggle to discover her professional calling and sexual orientation, and her subsequent journey into owning her own restaurantPrune in Manhattan.

Most touching, and somewhat alarming, was following her all-too-common but eloquently expressed emotions as she aims to be a working mother and a fulfilled wife. Like many women, including yours truly, the balancing act between being one-half of a couple, while still having room for yourself, is a slippery and oft-times precarious slope.

Her Italian husband’s family in Southern Italy welcomes her  and her children with open arms, and the 18th Century villa they summer in gives a phenomenal backdrop to the latter half of the story. Despite their Mediterranean warmth and Hamilton’s desire to be part of a large family, her feelings of being unloved overshadow the happiness that is seemingly at her fingertips. Instead of seeing the perfection in a cacophony of brilliant imperfection, she sees only the failings of her marriage and her husband’s inability to understand her.

The book ends at a pivotal and cliffhanging point, and I was left saying “Aww, man – do they divorce or what?!?”

I googled the answer – so I know if she managed to stay the course and overcome her own struggles, but I won’t ruin it for you. Check the book out. Hamilton, a master chef,  artfully feeds the reader a feast that won’t soon be forgotten

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