Monday, February 27, 2012

Troubled life as told through good food

Book: Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

Author: Gabrielle Hamilton

Published: 2011 (Random House)

Pages: 291

All throughout reading this book, I daydreamed about what to cook for future meals of my own. None of them remotely resembled the meals Hamilton was describing, which, and hang with me for a second, I count as good food writing because she caught me up in the actual act of creating and making food rather than imitating her, room-temperature-egg for room-temperature-egg.

She started out in a family where her dad held annual lamb roasting parties and her mom always had something on the stove and Hamilton herself fell into waitressing, catering, and finally running her own kitchen as a way of scratching independence out of a hostile mess of early drug addiction and neglect.

And it works fairly well--by chaining her to 18-hour days in an industry she never really wanted to stay in, true, and giving her a green-card husband she married for the hell of it and spends a ridiculous amount of time and energy on considering how they don’t actually love each other. It’s this that casts a weird mist of doom onto the whole back half of her narrative; the part that is usually reserved for unconditional redemption made me worry about the life choices she seems to know were kind of shitty even as she lives with them. It’s refreshing to read a memoir that doesn’t advertise hard work as a guaranteed ticket to happiness, that cooking embraces her as she embraces it but it still takes work on both sides just like any loving relationship.

But… I keep going back to her husband, and why they tried to act like a real family even when they had no reason or incentive or pressure to do so. It’s disturbing in a quiet way that she never explains and presents as a fairly normal if troubled fact of her life. Possibly she stayed for a bigger sense of community in their annual trips to his family in Italy, something she had never been a part of before and might not have a chance to be a part of any other way? Maybe? I don’t know.

Her use of food as a way of expressing her fighting chance in life makes me care. Her writing is excellent.

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