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Blood, Bones & Butter

23 Jul

Sounds like Sunday dinner?  It’s actually a book.  It’s equally delicious though, which is exactly why it took me nearly three months to finish reading.

Blood, Bones & Butter is the biography of NYC chef, Gabrielle Hamilton.  I picked it up in an airport book shop on the way home from Kauai.  I was desperate for something to read, and following my philosophy of only buying food related books*, the decapitated chicken head on the cover caught my eye.   It wasn’t until the plane was taxiing down the runway that I noticed the glowing Anthony Bourdain endorsement.  Satisfied this was $16USD well spent, I hunkered down in my seat and ordered up a vodka soda, the first of many drinks that have accompanied the reading of this book.  Within the first page I was captured by the young girl growing up in a rural converted barn with a well-heeled french mother and circus set-designer father.

In a way that is both enchanting and grisly, Gabrielle Hamilton relates the stories of a childhood that alternated between abandonment and adoration – but never both at the same time.  At 14 she rolled up her sleeves and set upon a career in the kitchen that quickly lead from the dish pit to 40 hour shifts in a mammoth catering workshop filling shot glasses of pea-foam for 900 guests.  Gabrielle Hamilton’s life would be hardly be classified as ordinary, with or without the backdrop of the kitchens that have boosted and burned her career.

Like a full-fat panacotta, I reserved reading this book for particular moments.  Preferably a Saturday afternoon when the sun was high and hot and a negroni was within reach. Generally, however, before the ice had melted I was itching to finish the chapter and move this show into the kitchen.  That was the problem (if I didn’t hate quotation marks, I would have used them there) with this book.  It’s remarkably well written and likely the best thing I’ll read all year. (Shallow apologies to Suzanne Collins).

I recently read that Gweneth Paltrow has agreed to star in a movie adaptation.  I hate it when this happens.  If you need the big screen to appreciate this book then, in the words of my mother, you don’t deserve dessert.

In Victoria, pick it up at Bolen Books

*more on that topic later

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Ad Hoc at Home (truly)

5 Dec

After first visiting Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Las Vegas last year I’ve become obsessed with simple French food.   (If you haven’t been to Bouchon, it’s an culinary cove of civility tucked away on the tenth floor of the Venetian.  Far from the casino floor…unlike certain other Michelin starred restaurants). On our first visit, C and I gorged ourselves so much on the foie gras, salmon rillettes, and oysters that we didn’t even make it to the next course.  It also started a debate about how I could keep the foie gras cold enough for 24 hours to bring home.  I lost.  We had to eat it all then and there.  All 250ml/1000 calories/95 grams of delicious fat.  It did inspire me however to make both pork and salmon rillettes (more on that another time).

Now, I’ve long been of the opinion that unless you have a gourmet kitchen, endless hours to prepare, and unlimited patience, French food is generally best enjoyed when the preparation has been left to a professional.  Ad Hoc at Home changed my opinion.  The recipes are trustworthy, beautifully presented, and genuinely as enjoyable to make as they are to eat.

Buy online at Amazon for about $40

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