Blood, Bones & Butter (and Writing)

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I didn’t really expect to like Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter.

Aside from the fact that it’s written by the chef of a restaurant I’ve never been to (Prune in New York), Blood, Bones & Butter is a food memoir, which I’m normally not a fan of.
Don’t get me wrong, I like food. And food writing, when done well, can be a joy to read. Gabrielle herself said in a recent interview that food writing is better when food isn’t the main focus, but instead that “it’s the context in which the larger story is happening.” And that in a nutshell is why I liked her memoir so much.
Blood, Bones & Butter is much more than a story about food. Gabrielle has had far too interesting of a life (prison, drugs, travel, MFA in fiction writing) for her memoir to only talk about her time as a chef.
I recently went to see Gabrielle Hamilton when she visited the Toronto Reference Library as part of their Appel Salon programing. I’m glad I went for many reasons, one of them being that she gave some really excellent writing advice, specifically about voice, that she herself had been given while writing her book years back. It was profound and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it:

“The voice is you talking to the smartest person you know about everything you hate about the subject with as much compassion for it as you can muster.”

You can read an excerpt of her book here, and for a great profile on Gabrielle Hamilton check out GQ’s Q&A with her here. And if you’re wondering what the title of the book means, here’s how she explains it in this interview with Epicurious:

“So, blood, I was thinking of family and bloodlines, and bones, I guess I was thinking of making one’s bones and maybe a few bones to pick. And butter was all the sweet, good stuff.”

To watch the entire Appel Salon interview with Gabrille Hamilton, visit the Toronto Public Library’s YouTube page.


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