Friday, April 13, 2012

Blood, Bones & Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton

About two years ago my relationship with my closest gal pal Janine flipped, culinarily speaking. Until then, I was the one who asked if she had checked out the new recipe for carrot soup in the paper. I was the one who had stories about trying to make asparagus souffle from the newest Kosher By Design cookbook. Upon mentioning any of this, Janine would inevitably muffle a laugh as if to say Are you kidding? For Janine dinner was a utilitarian chore. For me, at the time, making dinner was a metaphor for love.

But that was then. Now, for reasons too complicated to go into now, I am the new Janine. Frozen breaded tilapia for dinner? Perfect. Fried chicken from the grocery's deli counter? A pot of pasta? These are my new go-to dinners. Now, when Janine and I go on power walks through the neighborhood, she's the one offering tips on the best way to peel garlic, is the one bragging about the new recipe for Moroccan fish cakes. She bakes her own granola.

Which is why I knew she'd love Hamilton's "Blood, Bones & Butter." Hamilton, chef of Prune, a famous NY restaurant, has penned not so much a food memoir, but the story of a woman who grew to know and adore good food the way the rest of us know and adore our closest friends.

BB&B is a delish read from beginning to end, and it shows that Hamilton has an MFA in Creative Writing. Hamilton writes artfully about her love affair with food -- the magic of boiled squash blossoms, the terror of butchering her first chicken. I devoured BB&B, loved it, didn't want it to end, but I did have a few bones to pick. For instance, Hamilton writes about living with a woman before she ultimately married her husband and had children, but never once explained what was going on. Did she change teams? Maybe her early lesbian relationship was an experiment, but this didn't seem to be a simple case of fluid sexuality. (New adjectives, apply here!) Hamilton writes about her rocky and unusual marriage, one in which her husband needed to marry an American to stay in the country, one in which she and her husband didn't even live together in the early times. I couldn't help but be curious -- was her marriage a farce? Did she just want to have kids? Look, if you're gonna put your marriage in your book then you've got to spill it, you can't leave your reader in the dark. An article in Psychology Today ( proposed that Hamilton's failure to dig in and address the issues in her failed marriage are a reason the memoir failed. I disagree. Kind of. It's just that what Hamilton got on paper is so, so good. (And for good gossip, checkout The Post's article which blames the breakup of Hamilton's marriage on her affair with her brother-in-law! )

But unanswered questions notwithstanding, BB&B does a memoir's work, takes you into and through one person's story. Hers is a story worth telling, even if she's not dishing the way two friends do on their evening power walks.

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