The book for April is Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton. We have posted information about the author and a reading guide. It might be helpful to take a look at the reading guide AFTER you read the book but before you attend the meeting. The guides always seem to provide good insight, and help to facilitate better discussion. The Meetup will be held at John J Jeffries Restaurant in Lancaster, PA. Hope to see you in April!
About the Author Gabrielle Hamilton is an American chef and author. She is the chef/owner of Prune, a restaurant in New York City, and the author of Blood, Bones, and Butter, a memoir. Michiko Kakutani, reviewing Hamilton's book in the New York Times in February 2011 calls it "brilliantly written." Anthony Bourdain describes it as "simply the best memoir by a chef ever." Hamilton received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan and received the James Beard award for best chef in New York City in 2011.
Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, is just what a chef's story should be--delectable, dripping with flavor, tinged with adrenaline and years of too-little sleep. What sets Hamilton apart, though, is her ability to write with as much grace as vitriol, a distinct tenderness marbling her meaty story. Hamilton spent her idyllic childhood on a wild farm in rural Pennsylvania with an exhilarant father--an artist and set builder--and French mother, both "incredibly special and outrageously handsome." As she entered her teens, however, her family unexpectedly dissolved. She moved to New York City at 16, living off loose change and eating ketchup packets from McDonald’s; worked 20-hour days at a soulless catering company; traveled, often half-starved, through Europe; and cooked for allergy-riddled children at a summer camp. The constant thread running through this patchwork tale, which culminates with the opening of her New York City restaurant, Prune, is Hamilton's slow simmering passion for cooking and the comfort it can bring. "To be picked up and fed, often by strangers, when you are in that state of fear and hunger, became the single most important food experience I came back to over and over," Hamilton writes, and it's this poignant understanding of the link between food and kindness that makes Blood, Bones & Butter so satisfying to read.
1. What does food mean to the author? How did your particular attitude toward food develop?
2. What challenges do writers and chefs share? Are they unique for those professions?
3. What saved the author from a life of substance abuse and crime?
4. Gabrielle Hamilton’s mother-in-law is a central figure in her book. Why did she become so important for her?
5. Being invited by Misty Cailles to prep for a large dinner party and, later, to work in her restaurant were milestones for Gabrielle Hamilton. Why were these experiences significant for her?
6. Gabrielle Hamilton writes about her ambivalence in wedding her husband. Why do you think she married him?
7. Getting one’s needs met is a recurring theme. How do you think Gabrielle Hamilton feels about this and how has it influenced her journey?
8. Is Blood, Bones and Butter a funny book?
9. Many have commented on the “honesty” of the book, suggesting that such candor and intimacy are uncommon. Are readers mostly responding to the way Gabrielle Hamilton writes about her own family, or does the “honesty” manifest elsewhere? What is her point or objective in being so forthcoming?
10. Did you like/not like the ending, and why?