I just got back from a short reprieve where I spent 4 lovely days on the island of Ponza, a small fishing island. The island is famous for Ulysses’s time spent with Circe, the witch that turned his men into feral pigs (see the beauty of Circe played by Silvana Mangano and Ulysses played by Kirk Douglas in the video below).
I had time to actually read a book from beginning to end, which seems to not happen too often for me these days. I could call it a “busy schedule” but I think it is part laziness and part distraction. I read “Blood, Bones and Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton. I am not big on books written by chefs. I haven’t read Kitchen Confidential by the infamous Anthony Bourdain for example, or any of the celebrity chef books like Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver etc etc. I have so many other books to read in my field of nutrition, but also lots of other books. I often find it strange that people read about cooking. Why not just step into your kitchen and cook instead of reading about it or watching it on TV?
But this book was much more of an autobiography of Gabrielle’s life, the role that food has played throughout, and how she came to make certain decisions. One being, to open a restaurant. I love that she had this rebellious upbringing, where it took her a long time to find herself underneath a cloud of drugs and juvenile decisions. I love even more that she went to get her MFA in writing, and realized that academia was not her thing – the pretentious nature of it all. I love that she admits that her marriage is not perfect, and her descriptions of Italy, Italians and Italian food resonate with someone like me, living in Italy.
What I liked best about Gabrielle, is that she is a worker. And that is probably what makes her restaurant in NYC, called Prune, so successful. She doesn’t make things look glamorous. Her description of the trials and tribulations of cooking in a kitchen, owning a restaurant, and catering (which she did for years) were humbling. But one thread throughout the book was her hard working ethic. I really appreciate this. She doesn’t seem to be into nutrition too much, or the whole foodie/organic thing, or even the hype around celebrity chefs (and female ones especially). She cares instead about work, doing it well and going hard at it (as they say, go hard or go home). Make no bones about it, this woman worked her ass off to get to where she is. It was a long journey for her up to this point, and I think she has earned the success that is coming to her with her restaurant and this book.