A while back a very nice CR reader named Susan Kennedy emailed me and asked if I ever planned to review the book Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, by Gabrielle Hamilton. She had just finished and loved it, and wanted to know what I thought of it.
I was touched by her very nice email, so it broke my heart to tell her I had indeed started the book, read maybe a chapter, but had gotten bored and decided I wouldn't be finishing (or reviewing) it. But then we had a great idea: she'd read the book, and I wondered why she'd liked it. So why not have this conversation on the blog? She graciously acquiesced, so below you'll see my questions about the book (in bold) and her answers.
1. In a sentence or two, could you summarize what this book was about?
A chef grows up in kitchens. She learns about life from her French mother, her work experience in varied kitchens in NYC and beyond, and finally with the opening of her own restaurant.
2. What did you like about it?
I liked the vivid and almost fantastical storytelling. I could smell and hear and taste things she described with humor and honesty. I listened to the story as an audio book so perhaps this kept my attention better as Gabrielle read the story herself. I particularly enjoyed her account of the writing group in grad school and the Italy stories. I hated the abrupt ending – seems like she holds something back for another book.
3. Do you typically seek out "foodie" books, or how did you find this title?
I spotted it on a NY Times bestseller list and gave it a try. I read foodie books if an expose label fits. As a home cook, I tend to read more recipes than foodie lit. Let’s see. Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential cracked my Top Ten list. Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma educated me. Foodie books like Julie and Julia that are more fluffy do not interest me much. Anything that can be described as “slice of life” gets a chance.
4. Would you recommend it to other readers or book groups? Why or why not?
I recommend it for a book club. It takes you on a tour of various kitchen environments and the lifestyle that group showcases. It offers many topics to discuss like what is marriage/motherhood/success to the author? She leaves a few major points unanswered. For example, how does a lesbian in the 21st century NYC marry a straight man? She breezes over her relationship with her father and siblings. Maybe she left them out for the sake of the kitchen theme or perhaps privacy.
5. What are you reading now?
Behind the Palace Doors. It’s about the British royals from Henry VIII forward. I tend to be in more than one book at a time. I am halfway through The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which had to go back to the library as it was overdue. Naturally it is a popular book here in Baltimore.
Many, many thanks to reader Susan Kennedy, and her willingness to share her thoughts on this book. Now, I've got to go get the British royals one she just referenced.