Genre: Auto-biography

Notes: Book 9/50. FOOD. PORN.

Review: Be careful what you get good at.  You might just be doing it for the rest of your life.

Gabrielle Hamilton never set out to be a chef.  She just kind of ended up being a chef to support herself after her parents’ tumultuous divorce that left the kids to fend for themselves.  She passed herself as 16 when she was 13 to get a job as a dishwasher in a local restaurant and passed herself off as 21 to work in a NYC bar.  Everything just kind of snowballed from there.  Eventually, without every working as an executive chef or sous chef in a restaurant and very little formal schooling, she opened her own restaurant in NYC called Prune which has absolutely raving reviews on Yelp.

The book itself is glorious.  Hamilton has an MFA from the University of Michigan, so she knows how to handle the written word and craft a story.  Hamilton separates the book into three sections: Blood, Bones, and Butter.  After reading fan fiction, this book felt like a cool drink of water on a hot day.  The first section, Blood – I can’t even describe.  Hamilton writes about her idyllic childhood in rural Pennsylvania so clearly I felt transported back in time.  It was nostalgia overload in a good way.  The other two sections of the book, Bones and Butter, didn’t quite deliver but they weren’t really a disappointment either.  I devoured this book ans savored the descriptions of food, her round about way of becoming a chef/owner, and her weird INS sham/ not-sham marriage.  (You married an Italian man so he could stay in the country and you’re slightly shocked it didn’t work out?  Really?)

One of the things I didn’t like about the book was her focus on her marriage.  Granted, I get marriage is a big part of a person’s life and the subsequent failure or success shapes a lot of your personality.  But the way Hamilton writes about her marriage to her M.D/Ph.D husband just oozes contempt.  And surprise about ever being married in the first place.  She began an affair with Mr. Italian (I forget his name at the moment, but most of his personality is boiled down to his Italian-ness anyway) behind her then girlfriend’s back and, when his visa runs out, she decides to marry him.  She waltzes up to the court house, some friends on tow, and marries him – all the while assuring everything this is just for the INS.  She describes it as a piece of dramatic theater she took to the finish and it never really meant anything.  I mean, my god, in the span of their three year affair, Gabrielle never introduced her lover to her friends, never really got to know him, and never really laid any sort of foundation for a marriage. And yet (!) a lot of her book talks about how she feels her marriage should be more.  That she wants the partner that marriage provides, not this name on a piece of paper or this man who is the father of her two children and little else.  They even live separately.  She says, “”Ever since I was actually married, I have hoped for it to be everything I think a real marriage should be, an intimacy of the highest order.”  But why?  You picked totally the wrong guy, picked someone you didn’t really even seen to like that much from the beginning, and tried to forge this sham of a life.  And then you brought kids into your weird marriage mix?!  WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Marriage rant aside, Hamilton’s rise to fame is a good one.  As far as chef authors go, she and Bourdain top my list.  Non-professional writers (although Bourdain might be more of a writer than chef these days) who can still write are a weakness of mine.  I think writing (in any profession) is essential and people who can’t compose a tight paragraph or a clear sentence make me scream.

Bottom Line: Loved it!  Don’t read on an empty stomach though – the descriptions of food alone were enough to get me salivating.

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