Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Sometimes when I read a book I know others will enjoy, I simultaneously realize there is no way I can explain it in a way that piques their interest as it should. Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir Blood, Bones, and Butter is just such a book. To say the book is about food, while true, is also an understatement.
The author grew up in a family where food was central. She opens with her memories of the book outdoor lamb roast her father organized and carried out each year. Even her accounts of her pure delinquency when her mother left and she and a brother remained behind--basically alone--don't prepare the reader for the woman who develops.
Hamilton didn't end up with her own restaurant Prunes in New York City after going the traditional route--culinary school. In fact, after having to complete high school and college in a nontraditional setting, she earned a MFA in fiction writing from the University of Michigan, "the Harvard of the Midwest." She learned everything she knows about the food industry the hard way, from the bottom up.
She started out waiting tables, prepping for huge generic catered meals, tending bar, even underage, finally landing in her spot as owner and chef by following anything but a logical business plan.
And that is only part of the story. Hamilton married an Italian (an Italian Italian-from Italy), the father of her two sons, and went with him each July for three weeks in Italy with his family, going from Rome to their summer villa in the South, then back. These vacations not only provide rich materials for food writing but such introspection and awareness of family dynamics.
Hamilton's rich use of imagery, of figurative language might slide by a reader not mining for such, but would land smack in the subconscious, prompting one to mull over just why this book is so evocative and provocative. I'll admit that I had to figure out how to add notes and highlights to my eBook so I could return to some of the most powerful passages. For now, though, I think I want to cook some eggplant.