- Fritzi Newton
I’m going to Brooklyn to visit my daughter, and as with every excursion to the “Big Apple,” I make a list of must-see places. Usually I include a tea house, a photo gallery, and a farmer’s market. (If you’re a locavore, NYC’s markets are BEYOND compare!). But this time I’m making a reservation at Prune--Gabrielle Hamilton’s acclaimed West Village restaurant. Coincidentally, Hamilton is also the author of Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. Her book, like her food (or so I’ve heard), is exceptional!
Hamilton’s childhood in rural Pennsylvania was unconventional and idyllic. Her father was a stage designer, frequently involved with Broadway productions; her mother, French and a former dancer, spent her days aproned in front of a six-burner stove. The clan lived in a crumbling, 19th-century silk mill. They regularly hosted legendary parties—complete with spring lamb roasting on a spit and an endless variety of creative themes.
The magic ended when her mother and father divorced. Neither parent had the energy to raise the children still living at home. So, unsupervised, Gabrielle, at the tender age of thirteen, chose an unsavory path. At this point in her life and, repeatedly in the future, it was food that became her salvation. Even while pursuing a graduate degree in writing, preparing meals provided a buffer from frequent exposure to pompous academic types.
From a variety of jobs including dishwasher, waitress and catering assistant to world travel and international cuisine exposure, Hamilton’s possible career choice as restauranteur seemed obvious. But opening her own place wasn't even a consideration, until an acquaintance approached her about an available (but derelict) space. She had the foresight and chutzpah to see something that others might have dismissed.
Blood, Bones & Butter follows Gabrielle Hamilton as she molds Prune into a nationally recognized establishment. It also recounts her courtship and marriage to an Italian-born researcher, the birth of their two sons and their yearly pilgrimage to her husband's birthplace, an area where food reigns supreme.