I decided to “read” (i.e., listen to) Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef solely based on the blurb written by Anthony Bourdain: “Magnificent. Simply the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever.” As the author of what many consider the best memoir ever — Kitchen Confidential — I took Bourdain’s endorsement seriously. Having now listened to the book, I have to disagree with his overall assessment — even if it was an enjoyable read.
Like many people who work in the food service industry — in my experience, at least — Hamilton came from a damaged background after her parent’s break-up. Who moves to Hell’s Kitchen at age 16 and waits tables? Much of her story is trying to come to terms with who she is and where she came from — though food.
It’s mostly a compelling and interesting story, especially the intricate details of getting her now famous restaurant Prune up and running. I was really rooting for her through this part. But there is also a couple of places where she is notably not forthcoming and here I begin to question her credibility as a memoirist. She was estranged from her mother, and we don’t really find out why. She had a relationship with a woman while doing a creative writing program in Michigan, then has two sons with a man seemingly out of convenience. Much of these stories are elided.
I’m not saying she needs to take us into her bedroom to be honest in her memoir, but she tells parts of these stories when it is convenient to her and so not having the whole story is frustrating.
Overall, a fun and interesting read, the frustration notwithstanding.