LC Book Club: Blood, Bones & Butter

Blood, Bones, & Butter

Click here to join the discussion below.

Pull up a chair. Grab yourself a knife, a fork, and a—book? Yes! At Leite’s Culinaria, we aim to feed not just your body but also your mind, spirit, and sense of community. That’s why we’re launching the new online LC Book Club. Think of it as having a “Literary Lunch Break” with friends, rather than all by your lonesome. The first title for the Book Club? Gabrielle Hamilton’s much-hyped memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef (Random House, 2011).

Our Book Club discussion will take place starting Saturday, April 23, 2011, so you’ve got plenty of time to start reading. We’ll host the conversation over on our Twitter stream @LeitesCulinaria, using the hashtag #LCBookClub to unite readers in what we’re sure will be a spirited conversation about Hamilton’s memoir.

Of course, we’ll also field comments here, for those who either don’t have a Twitter account, or who would like to discuss the book in thoughts longer than 140 characters. If you plan on participating in the book club (here or on Twitter), or if you have thoughts to share about the Book Club in general, please take a moment to introduce yourself in the comments section below—we’d love to hear from you.

Finally: Participation counts. We’re happy to announce that a $100 certificate toward a meal at Prune, Hamilton’s NYC restaurant, will be given away at the end to one lucky (and active) participant; it’s our way of saying “Welcome to the (Book) Club!”

About Blood, Bones & Butter:

Not only did Hamilton’s sharply observed memoir earn a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, but Anthony Bourdain has gone on record saying that Blood, Bones & Butter “is, quite simply, the far-and-away best chef or food-genre memoir…ever. EVER,” and that it “kicked the hell out of my Kitchen Confidential.”

Enchanted and strange, inspiring and tough-as-nails, the book reveals Hamilton’s unconventional journey from being a somewhat lawless adolescent child of divorce in rural Pennsylvania to her opening of Prune, the incredibly successful restaurant she established in 1999 in New York City’s East Village.

In Blood, Bones & Butter, you’ll meet a French mother who cooked “tails, claws, and marrow-filled bones” in high heels, a father who built sets for the circus, and then follow Hamilton’s own various incarnations as waitress, freelance caterer, camp cook, graduate student, and restaurant entrepreneur. All with tightly crafted prose, the heat of the kitchen, and more than a pinch of emotional honesty.

Entertaining? Yes. But also food for deeper thought. We hope you’ll join our Book Club on April 23 and share your views of Hamilton’s memoir.

In the meantime, if you’re hungry for more, chow down on Gabrielle’s Brown Butter Pasta recipe or take a look at these Literary Lunch Break writings:



  1. *** ANNOUNCEMENT ***

    We’d like to congratulate @mmarksshih for winning our $100 gift certificate toward a meal at Gabrielle Hamilton’s restaurant, PRUNE.

    Of course we’d also like to stress that in our view, when we get together to share ideas and opinions (sometimes kindred, sometimes dissenting) about the books we read, well, we’re clearly all winners.

    Each and every person who picked up a copy of Gabrielle Hamilton’s book, read along with us, left a comment here and/or on Twitter, enriched the experience.

    Please keep watch in this “Literary Lunch Break” space for the announcement of our next book pick. We’ll reveal the next title on Friday, May 6.

    Meanwhile, please feel free to keep commenting on this post if you have more thoughts to share about Blood, Bones & Butter.

  2. Hello, everyone! Our first book club discussion—Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton—is now officially open. We are holding a real-time conversation over on Twitter, with the hashtag #LCBookClub, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST today. Of course, you may continue to leave your comments here. As an opener, we’d love to hear what struck you most about the book.

    Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, you might find Gabrielle Hamilton’s article in the May issue of Bon Appetit a very interesting epilogue: Blood, Bones & Baked Eggplant (Thanks to book clubber @mmarksshih for the link!)

    1. Was a great, entertaining read. Some parts seem a bit far-fetched to me, however. For example, GH phoning up her OB/GYN to schedule a more “convenient” date for induced labor via petocin drip because of unanticipated staffing issues??? I’m guessing that OB/GYN has bullet-proof malpractice insurance. Anyone else find this an unlikely scenario? Other examples?

      1. Elaine, thanks for chiming in. So glad that you enjoyed reading the book! About the labor induction… maybe it’s a New York City thing. I didn’t blink an eye at it, because although I admit it sounds totally crazy and it’s not a choice I would ever make, I do know quite a few people who have scheduled labor around various work-related concerns. So I took this as a given.

        What I thought interesting, and I know it’s come up in some conversations around here somewhere, are the little fissures that threaten any memoirist’s task: that is, are things as we remember them, when it concerns our childhoods especially. There were some questions that arose among the Hamilton siblings, about where everyone was that fatal summer that the family dissolved. The hardest part for me to imagine (though I don’t disbelieve, either) was how GH could have been essentially abandoned to such an extent at that young age, left to fend for herself more or less.

        And this abandonment clearly drives so much of the book, the journey, the reason why the act of being fed and feeding others is so important in GH’s life.

        I’d love to hear about whether people think that GH, as the protagonist of the book (forget that it’s her real life for a moment), changed enough or came to significant enough realizations to create the payoff we would expect from, say, a character in a novel…?

  3. Hi Allison,

    Nice to see you again, after the Key West Literary Festival!
    I’m really excited about this idea. I’m on chapter 3 and it’s really hard to put down. Forgive me, I haven’t read the whole comments thread yet. Are we tweeting along as we read, starting Saturday or will we be talking about the whole book? Cool if it’s just something more amorphous. One thing I miss about being in school is sharing with others about what we are reading together.
    I am in Miami still, freelance writing and doing public radio, and also working at an elementary school, part time. Grabbing any spare moment to read this book, though!

    1. Hey, hello. So glad to see you here. You have no idea how many times in the past few months I’ve wished to be back in Key West! Well, maybe you can imagine. And I have thought about that time often while reading Blood, Bones & Butter, too—because of the great excerpt read aloud by Ruth R.

      The idea is that on Saturday, we will start discussing the book. Many (most?) people will have finished, so all parts of the book are fair game for discussion. Which means there could be “spoilers” if you haven’t read all the way through. But I hate that term, really, because a good book is never spoiled, even if you know all the best scenes and/or the outcome in advance.

      Glad to hear you’re finding time to read in addition to everything else, and hope to chat with you Saturday.

  4. I think Blood Bones & Butter would be very interesting to read. I used to butcher my own meat and I made Butter. I would like to learn to cook the food that I used to grow.

    1. Sue, I hope you do read this memoir and join in our conversation. It would be great to have your insights.

  5. I’m in cannot wait for this to start. What a fab idea. Sure I’ll learn a lot from all you experts. Looking forward to this to begin.

    1. Ann, Thanks for chiming in. We’re glad to have you with us. Can’t wait to hear what you think about the book.

  6. Love the idea of the book club. We were married at Prune on Halloween 8 years ago and Gabrielle was very involved in the menu and wine selection with us. She was wonderful to say the least and made our day even more special. No better book to begin !!

    1. What a great, personal moment to bring along on your reading experience. Nice to hear how involved GH was with your special day. And we’re really happy to have you join us in reading her book. Welcome to our Book Club.

  7. Greetings from the south of France! I’m American, living and working here as a private chef since ’08 and couldn’t be happier. Love, love, love LC so thanks to you all for the great work. Certainly looking forward to this book club.

    1. Elaine, where in the South of France? My husband, The Frenchman, is from the Southwest. It’s a lovely part of the country, to be sure. As for the rest… Thank you so much for the compliments; we’re glad you love our site, and we’re really happy to have you in the book club. A bientôt!

      1. My frenchy hubby and I live in Lorgues, a small village about 30 km inland from St. Tropez, in the heart of the Cotes de Provence wine region. And yes, it is idyllic in so many ways. Don’t hesitate to contact us if ever you’re in the neighborhood… Just finished Hamilton’s book (via Ipad, hurray for ebooks!) can’t wait to chat.

        1. Fabulous area, indeed. Thanks for your warm invitation; I will definitely keep it in mind next time we’re heading to France (never as often as we want it to be).

          Glad you finished the book and will join us to chat! What did you think of the cover art? (There’s a thread a bit higher up here in comments, if you’d care to chime in on that.)

    1. An, so happy to have you join our book club. I, too, lament the lack of time for pleasure reading, so this will be a great experience to share.

  8. One thing I’d love for us to talk about, even before we dive into the book itself, is the cover. Having a design background, I know how easily a cover can sell (or unsell) a reader.

    What do you think of the cover?

    1. OK, David, I’ll bite. I’m sold on the cover. The red is an immediate attention grabber, and I think the black and white illustrated rooster head is so much better than if, say, they’d gone for a photographic version. The upside-downness of the illustration sparks interest, and I think hints at what’s inside: a lack of convention. Of course, when I start thinking more about what’s being depicted… a decapitated rooster in a sea of red… Well, suddenly I see how someone might be put off. But it *is* a chef’s memoir, and a blunt one, so still it seems fitting to me.

      Does the cover make others squeamish at all?

      1. Yeah, I see all kinds of blood and gore and guts. Yum! The decapitated head reminds me of the dead chickens hanging upside down in European butcher shops. In all, it’s so graphic, and from what I’ve read of the book, that blunt graphic quality is reflected in the writing.

        1. Granted, I have zero design expertise but I was put off by the cover because I think it resembles one of those silly “trying-too-hard-to-be-a-badass” Ed Hardy t-shirts. Having just finished reading, however, I’m glad I didn’t judge this book by its cover.

          1. The designer in me, right away fell for the cover. I love the simplicity of the graphic, partly grotesque yet so very rudimentary and a simple sight seeing for the European I am. Of course a red cover always calls the attention whether in a good or bad manner. Red is powerful, the color of strength, power, blood, life and death. From the moment I read the title and its sub-title and knowing it will have to do with food, the imagery then transports me to fine recipes with chicken and its own blood. Called bookstores around the area and none had it. Decided to give a try at my local library (mind you a small town outside Milwaukee) and to my disbelief they had it and I am picking it up tomorrow!

            1. Sofia, I’m so glad you are picking the book up at the library! We are going to be so happy to have you in this first installment of the LC book club.

              I’m also glad the cover appealed to you. I think you’re right about the arresting quality of red: to provoke, shock, grab our attention, of course… but also evoking power, strength, the life that is in blood (not just death).

          2. Elaine, I’m so glad you pushed past the cover, seeing as it didn’t do anything for you. I totally appreciate what you’re saying about Ed Hardy T-shirts, by the way. I’d never have thought of that, but I get it. Avoiding any spoilers, did you end up thinking of GH as having earned, transcended, or unnecessarily exploited the “badass” persona?

    2. I like the cover, because I love old style looking line drawings. But that asparagus in human blood in the inner leaf freaks me out a little. I think about that now every time I look at the rooster. Don’t be turned off though, it’s a great read so far!

      1. Yeah, kind of disturbing, that asparagus is. A bit too contrived, though, I think. I mean, even if creating it was a genuine act (hopefully not of a habit), the decision to include that blood drawing in the book was obviously deliberate. I tend to resent anything that seeks expressly to provoke a response from me in this way.

    3. The first time I saw the cover of Blood Bones & Butter I was not sure what it was about. The red cover jumps out at you. The title made me think of a murder mystery until you get to the word Butter. lol I was not sure I wanted to read a chef memoir. Not until I saw this site doing a book club on it and knew it would be worth getting into.

    1. Judith, glad you’re willing to sink your teeth into Blood, Bones & Butter—and our new Book Club. You won’t regret it, and we’ll be looking forward to your responses to the book. Happy reading!

  9. I’m really looking forward to this! I bought this book when it came out b/c I was so excited to read it and haven’t found the time. I’m happy to have an excuse now :)

    I’m a professional food, product & family photographer that lives in Brooklyn, NY. I’m relocating to Chicago in three months and really excited about the prospect of discovering a bunch of great new restaurants. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

    1. Jessie, any excuse to read a good book, right? I’m so happy we could be your excuse and that you’ll read BBB along with us. Looking forward to having you in book club.

      As for Chicago… I don’t know that I could give recommendations anymore, it’s been too long, but I used to live there and loved every minute. Great things were always happening in all my favorite areas: food, literary scene, music, theater, and visual arts.

    2. You must try Hot Dougs. Their tag line is “Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium.” And on Saturday they have duck fat fries. ‘Nuff said.

      Great Lake Pizza in Andersonville is wonderful–crust is a magic balance of crispy, chewy and yeasty, and the toppings are unique and fresh.

      Xoco’s cochinita pibil is one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a long time. Maybe ever. But do be careful–when they say the habanero sauce on the side is hot, they mean it. Like, REALLY mean it.

      Good luck with the move, Jessie, and I’d love your recommendations for Brooklyn eats and drinks. I live in Boston and make it down there fairly regularly.

      1. Erin, these are all great suggestions! I still haven’t managed to wait out the line at Hot Dougs (I go to Frank n’ Dawgs as a backup).

        Jessie, a few other dining recs in this incredible foodie city :)
        -Girl and the Goat
        -The Bristol
        -Riccardo Trattoria

        Look forward to conversing more with you all about the book! I’m an event planner, catering cook and personal chef in Chicago.

      2. Erin,

        I’m a big fan of Franny’s & Prime Meats in Brooklyn. If you want the really good explore Brooklyn Flea on the weekends. They’ve moved it to Williamsburg this year. Asia Dog and Solber Pupusas are my favs. The beer pretzels from the ladies of Liddabit Sweets are also very good. For pizza, skip Di Fara and Grimaldi’s and try Krispy Pizzaria in Dyker Heights. I swear it’s the best!

    1. Gilda, so glad you’re excited about the book club idea. We are, too! Looking forward to your participation.

      1. I relocated to Boston back in October. I’ve lived–and collected books–in many places. I subscribe to the Erasmus way of life: “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” I’ve never had any formal culinary training, but I love to take cooking classes and can usually be found in my kitchen cooking for humans or for my lucky dogs who eat homemade food!

        My taste buds are as eclectic as my taste in books! I enjoy reading “geeky” food books like Patricia Rain’s book Vanilla and Dan Koeppel’s Banana. I got pretty excited when Mark Bitterman’s Salted came out. I was born in Kentucky, so by rites, I have to love the essays of Wendell Berry and Barbara Kingsolver as well. I have an obscene amount of cookbooks, but if I could only keep three, they’d probably be Dennis Cotter’s Cafe Paradiso Seasons, Amanda Hesser’s The New York Times Cookbook, and Donna Hay’s The Instant Cook. I love the Ottolenghi cookbooks, too!

        I’ve yet to find great restaurant food in Boston, but I’m a big fan of Flour’s treats and of Taza’s chocolate. I love street food, and most of my travels usually end up being all about the food. Some of my favorite restaurants include Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon (Thai food); Rise in Sydney, Australia (modern Japanese food); and Proof on Main in Louisville, Kentucky (best food I’ve ever had in the Midwest). Some of my favorite ingredients are tamarind, cardamom, and fresh fennel. I’m also a tea fanatic! Mariage Freres’ Marco Polo is near the top of my list, but I’ll never turn down a good cup of green tea with roasted rice.

        One of the best things I have ever eaten in my life would have to be the pistachio ginger creme brulee tart from Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney, Australia. I still dream about those and wish I could fly back right now to eat ten of them!

        I’m looking forward to chatting with others about food books!

        1. Julia, my brief response is hardly worthy of your great details, but I’ll say this much for now: you fit right in around here! Leite’s Loves… Taza for one thing, and I am with you on cardamom, fresh fennel, and genmaicha tea. Your Erasmus way of life resonates for me as well. We’re really looking forward to having you in the book club!

        2. We have tea in common. (as well as cookbook collecting) My very favorite tea is Marriage Frères Legendes. You should give it a try. If you are not fortunate enough to live in Paris, it’s available online, through Dean and Deluca. I know you’ll love it.

          1. The teas look great, even the minimal selection at D&D. But, oh, god. Mariage Frères’ own site has tea jelly and tea chocolates and… matcha salt? Wow. Just another excuse to visit Paris, I guess. As if excuses were necessary. Thanks for chiming in, and hope you enjoy Blood, Bones & Butter with us.

  10. Hello, everyone. Welcome to Leite’s Culinaria’s new online Book Club! Come April 23, I’ll have read Blood, Bones & Butter along with all of you, and will be discussing it here and on our Twitter Feed, under the hashtag #LCBookClub.

    Can’t wait to take this literary journey with you. Please do introduce yourselves below, and get reading—you’ve got some brilliant pages awaiting.

      1. Dorinne, welcome! Hope you’ll enjoy reading the book. We’re looking forward to your thoughts about it.

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