Tis’ the Season for Great Gift Titles

Tis’ the season to pick titles for the lit lovers in your life. Below is this week’s shopping list for those of you looking for great reads to put under the tree. For a little gift-giving on the side, each title below is linked to one of Michigan’s fabulous indie bookstores where you can order and support our literary arts right from your merry little home.

– Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell  (award-winning Michigan author)

– The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (hot fiction – more on McLain)

– The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (Pulitzer-winning Michigan author)

– Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton (more on chef Hamilton)

– Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (award-winning Michigan author)

– The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011 Booker Prize for Fiction)

– Annabel by Kathleen Winter (shortlisted for this year’s Orange Prize)

– Sister by Rosamund Lupton (debut mystery)

– The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (debut bestseller)

*Support your local bookstores, libraries and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

On the Side: Gabrielle Hamilton’s ‘Blood, Bones & Butter’

Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir Blood, Bones & Butter currently sits at #18 on the NYT Bestseller list. Not bad for a writer who happens to also be a full-time chef (and mom) running her own restaurant in New York City. While you can read a full review of Hamilton’s work here, I thought it might be nice to have a little extra book info “on the side” to spice things up. And by the way, I highly recommend.

As a child Gabrielle Hamilton’s mother called her by the pet name Prune, and it’s Prune that appears on Hamilton’s thriving restaurant at 54 East 1st. Street in New York City’s East Village. In her kitchen at Prune, Gabrielle Hamilton is now well known for serving up American fare that she shares is “very personal, it’s food that I grew up eating or that I have a very close experience cooking, or that I personally know from the ground up and have made and loved.”

The East Village rests in the borough of Manhattan and lies east of Greenwich Village. Much like the maverick chef herself, the East Village has a rich history of both rebellion and creative vision, making it the perfect location for Hamilton. Once the upper part of the Lower East Side, the East Village began its transformation in the 1940’s as a hub of countercultural thought and artistic activity that drew bohemians from around the globe and continues to house the avant-garde to this day.

For more on Gabrielle Hamilton, try this podcast on Splendid Table or this video of Gabrielle at Prune from Savory New York. For more on the area’s fantastic history and bohemian culture, try this episode from the PBS series American Masters.

*Quote from Video: Savory New York

-Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Sink Your Teeth into Gabrielle Hamilton’s ‘Blood, Bones & Butter’

Cover ImageReader beware – chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir Blood, Bones & Butter is smoking hot! Serving it up raw and gritty, Hamilton is absolutely fearless as she slices through the chapters of her life. From her idyllic childhood as a girl in rural Pennsylvania to the tough, renegade chef presently rocking NYC’s East Village, Hamilton cranks it from page one with her edgy literary style.

The “blood” of Hamilton’s title is literal and tightly establishes Gabrielle’s ties to both her parents and her four older siblings who together “ran in a pack – like wild dogs.” As a child Hamilton was captivated by her artistic parents and drank them in in great, awe-filled gulps. “My parents seemed incredibly special and outrageously handsome to me then. I could not have boasted of them more or said my name, first and last together, more proudly, to show how it directly linked me to them. I loved that our mother was French… that she had been a ballet dancer at the Met in New York City when she married my father.”

Hamilton tenderly takes her time to lay the family foundation that will both form young Gabrielle as a child and shatter Hamilton as an adult. She warmly observed and absorbed the eclectic cooking style of her mother, and from her father “…learned how to create beauty where none exists, how to be generous beyond our means, how to change a small corner of the world just by making a little dinner for a few friends.”

Through the simple joy of childhood memories Hamilton solidifies the family bond, and no event makes a deeper impression on young Gabrielle than that of her father’s legendary annual  lamb-roast. It is this magical “feast” for hundreds of friends from “as far away as the townhouses of New York City” where Hamilton’s recognition of family and culinary senses become inextricably bound.

When Hamilton’s parents suddenly split up, Gabrielle is left alone amidst the busted bones of her now broken family. Cash-strapped and only thirteen, she begins to work it the only way she knows how. Finding her way to the familiar, Hamilton begins to grind it out kitchen after kitchen working her fingers to the bone from New York to Ann Arbor through Europe, and back again. Ultimately, the all-nighters, crusty floors, endless prepping and the sordid yet seductive world of food serve to sharpen Hamilton’s artistic skills and caustic wit.

Blood, Bones & Butter is not just for foodies. Though you will find seasoned passages on “ceviche and Israeli couscous and mushroom duxelle and robbiola cheese” among others to relish, they merely serve to strengthen and fortify Hamilton’s solid story threads. Be warned however, that Hamilton’s style is not for the faint of heart and she makes no apologies for who she is. Her smacking, straight-up honesty is highly acidic and a bit hard to take at times, but eventually Hamilton settles into herself “like butter on toast.”

I could toss up the cooking metaphors all day long, but in the end chef Hamilton writes like a rock star. Every page holds a killer quote and Hamilton’s hard-core intensity is intoxicating. Blood, Bones & Butter has serious moxie driven by the love and language of all things culinary, and its promise of family, friendship, and food is sure to please.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

**The edited version of this review can be seen at BookBrowse.com.