With a successful restaurant and a newly published memoir, Chef Gabrielle Hamilton seems to be the buzz of the food scene. Her book Blood, Bones & Butter explores her life with food, sharing memories — good and bad — of adventures along the way. Here, we ask a few questions about the book and, in case you haven’t picked up a copy yet, share some clips of Hamilton reading from it. Let us know what you think of the book!
You mention in the book that Prune is a nickname that your mother used to call you, how did that start?
I’m not sure. I think some people just get food nicknames as children like lamb chop or sugar plum, but I’m not really sure how it came about. Maybe I stayed in the pool too long?
In the book you discuss your relationship with your mother and cooking and then with your mother-in-law as well, how did these maternal relationships affect or influence your cooking?
My mother taught us how to eat, cook, clean, and get everything out of an ingredient. She was nose-to-tail cooking before it was a trend. So we were eating food at home like the claws, tails, etc. She was had a garden, so we had a lot of fresh produce. We also farmed, milked cows, and composted. These are all things that were a part of my life growing up. She was a very good cook also, so we ate, I wouldn’t say sophisticated, but well-made food.
My mother-in-law, she’s so sweet, she’s an 80-year old woman who is the matriarch of a large family. She cooks simply in the Italian home-cooking way. She boils the vegetables, not to death, but almost and basically drowns everything in her olive oil. But what I really love is that food is not the point of the meal, it’s just what’s on the table to allow the meal to occur. Italians have a culture were they really eat to live and not live to eat and that’s the way that I try to live my life.
Press play to hear Hamilton reading a passage about her relationship with her mother-in-law and food.
What do you think you need to be able to write about food effectively?
I’m going to tell you what I really think. You’re a writer or you’re not a writer. Writing is a skill set of its own and there’s no food writer, travel writer, or sports writer. You need to know your subject of course because a reader will trust someone who is informed, but I don’t think there needs to be a category before writer. I don’t identify myself as a food writer. I actually don’t know that much about food. I know about cooking and being around food, but there are some people who can really tell you about meringues, for instance. Or write about some random ingredient in Spain that I’ve never heard of.
Hamilton shares why she decided to leave the kitchen for her M.F.A. Press play to listen.
Is there anything that you didn’t include in the book that you wanted to?
Not at all. I was in charge so I edited out what I didn’t want to be in the book.