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. 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. 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.

    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. 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. 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. 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!

          3. 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).

    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!

  2. 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. 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,

        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!

      2. 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. 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.

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