“I wanted the lettuce and eggs at room temperature... the butter-and-sugar sandwiches we ate after school for snack... the marrow bones my mother made us eat as kids that I grew to crave as an adult.... There would be no ‘conceptual’ or ‘intellectual’ food, just the salty, sweet, starchy, brothy, crispy things that one craves when one is actually hungry. In ecstatic farewell to my years of corporate catering, we would never serve anything but a martini in a martini glass. Preferably gin.”
Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent 20 fierce, hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Above all, she sought family, particularly the thrill and the magnificence of the one from her childhood that, in her adult years, eluded her. Hamilton’s ease and comfort in a kitchen were instilled in her at an early age when her parents hosted grand parties, often for more than 100 friends and neighbors. The smells of spit-roasted lamb, apple wood smoke, and rosemary garlic marinade became as necessary to her as her own skin.
Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; the soulless catering factories that helped pay the rent; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family - the result of a difficult and prickly marriage that nonetheless yields rich and lasting dividends.Blood, Bones & Butter is an unflinching and lyrical work.
From the chef of the excellently unpretentious New York restaurant Prune comes this delicious memoir charting her experiences with both feast and famine. Having gone to graduate school for creative writing, Gabrielle Hamilton is entirely able to describe her life story not only as a chef, but as a writer. As a bonus, she narrates the audiobook herself with the deep feeling and attachment one should expect from someone analyzing her own life. Hamilton’s personality really shines through. With each deadpan punchline and every impeccable bit of Italian, it becomes increasingly obvious how Hamilton has managed to not only survive, but actually thrive, in the financially risky and still sadly machismo-dominated food service industry.
Beginning with her youth as a high school dropout abandoned by a hippie father and French mother, Hamilton relied on her experiences in the family kitchen to get hired as a waitress or line cook at a variety of average diners. Later, she travelled the world for a few months more on the strength of her wits than her wallet, learning about world cuisine from anybody willing to teach her. Her highly specific recollection of what it is like to be starving on a cross-county train ride is pure poetry, and the kind of thing one wants to hear directly from the mouth of the person who lived it. As Hamilton finds herself increasingly imbedded in the world of food, she is somewhat startled to realize that it has been her true passion all along.
There is easily something in here for everyone to enjoy. Industry people will appreciate the rant against brunch joints that offer a free mimosa. Aspiring chefs will be relieved to know that some fulfilling work-life balance is indeed possible. Foodies will delight in the comparison of regional Italian cuisine with its woefully inadequate American counterpart. And, of course, scrappy women who always manage to land on their feet will appreciate this unflinching testimony to the importance of having strength of character and a willingness to go your own way. Gabrielle Hamilton’s voice work is excellent because she doesn’t act like the popular girl at the party, regaling everyone with gossipy tales she acquired as toast of the town. Rather, she casually and quietly builds a fierce little empire of wisdom out of the scattered, broken bits of adventure that have been her life so far. This is a genuinely good listen, written and read by a genuine person. Megan Volpert
“Magnificent. Simply the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever. Gabrielle Hamilton packs more heart, soul, and pure power into one beautifully crafted page than I’ve accomplished in my entire writing career.
Blood, Bones & Butter is the work of an uncompromising chef and a prodigiously talented writer. I am choked with envy.” (Anthony Bourdain)
“Gabrielle Hamilton has changed the potential and raised the bar for all books about eating and cooking. Her nearly rabid love for all real food experience and her completely vulnerable, unprotected yet pure point of view unveils itself in both truth and inspiration. I will read this book to my children and then burn all the books I have written for pretending to be anything even close to this. After that I will apply for the dishwasher job at Prune to learn from my new queen.” (Mario Batali)
“I have long considered Gabrielle Hamilton a writer in cook’s clothing, and this deliciously complex and intriguing memoir proves the point. Her candor, courage, and craft make for a wonderful read but, even more, for an appreciation of her talent and dedication, which have resulted from her often trying but inspiring experiences. Her writing is every bit as delectable and satisfying as her food.” (Mimi Sheraton, food critic and author of The German Cookbook and Eating My Words)
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