Blood, Bones & Butter (2011) Gabrielle Hamilton has the sort of life that memoirs are made for. Left to run wild by her dysfunctional boho parents at 13, she developed… 2011-03-01 Cooking/Home Memoir Random House
Book Review

Blood, Bones & Butter (2011)

FOOD FOR THOUGHT Blood, Bones & Butter , a chef's memoir
FOOD FOR THOUGHT Blood, Bones & Butter, a chef's memoir
EW's GRADE
B

Details Release Date: Mar 01, 2011; Writer: Gabrielle Hamilton; Genres: Cooking/Home, Memoir; Publisher: Random House

Gabrielle Hamilton has the sort of life that memoirs are made for. Left to run wild by her dysfunctional boho parents at 13, she developed a taste for cooking, car theft, and cocaine. She took off for Manhattan at an age when most teens are just getting their driver's licenses, and after a long slog through the food-service industry she lucked into her own restaurant, transforming a rat-ravaged dump into a foodie destination where she turns out beautifully unfussy dishes with perfectionist finesse.

If only this book were so carefully fashioned. Blood, Bones & Butter can be frustrating, with nicely observed takes on food and restaurant life but too little on her own story. How does Hamilton spin such vivid imagery (the ''pig-urine stench of… pancetta,'' the way ''changing a diaper reminds me, every time, of trussing a chicken'') but fail to satisfyingly explain why she didn't see her mother for 20 years or how she and her husband had two kids without living together? There's also a lot of sloppy writing: Pointless repetition and samey sentences — does every line need an aside set off by dashes? — make for a choppy read. Still, those descriptions stick. Here's Hamilton on a French butcher shop: ''Pheasants in full stunning plumage hung for a few days until their necks finally gave out, and you could see, physically, a kind of perfect ripeness to the meat when it became tender enough to pleasurably chew, as if the earliest stages of rot itself were a cooking technique.'' Whatever this book's faults, you have to admire a writer who can make even decomposing meat sound tempting. B

Originally posted Feb 23, 2011 Published in issue #1144 Mar 04, 2011 Order article reprints