Food Gal Giveaway — Chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s New Book

Chef Gabriel Hamilton's new memoir.

“Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef.” The title says it all, doesn’t it?

It’s the new memoir (Random House) by Chef-Proprietor Gabrielle Hamilton of much-loved Prune restaurant in New York, which is adored by other chefs for its soulful, no-nonsense approach, as well as for its roasted marrow bones, fried sweetbreads and extensive menu of Bloody Marys.

I’ve always been impressed by the articles Hamilton has penned for the New York Times Dining section. With a Masters of Fine Arts in fiction writing from the University of Michigan, she’s one chef who really knows how to craft a beautiful, evocative sentence.

I just started reading her book (which I received a review copy of). It’s  a frank, honest recounting of her rather bohemian childhood, raised by her set designer father and former ballerina mother in a burnt-out, 19th Century silk mill in rural Pennsylvania, where they threw great parties complete with baby lambs roasting on spits and wine bottles chilling in the nearby creek. That life came crashing down when her parents split up when Hamilton was only in her teens. She started smoking, shop-lifting and got her first job washing dishes in a restaurant when she was only 13.

She spent many tumultuous years trying to find herself, before opening her restaurant, which she called “prune,” after the nickname her mother had for her as a child.

As she wrote about her vision for the restaurant, “There would be no foam and no ‘conceptual’ or ‘intellectual’ food; just the salty, sweet, starchy, brothy, crispy things that one craves when one is actually hungry. There would be nothing tall on the plate, the portions would be generous, there would be no emulsions, no crab cocktail served in a martini glass with its claw hanging over the rim. In ecstatic farewell to my years of corporate catering, we would never serve anything but a martini in a martini glass. Preferably gin. I wanted all of that crammed into this little filthy gem….”

Meet Hamilton when she visits the Bay Area this week. She’ll host a dinner with Book Passage at Left Bank restaurant in Larkspur, 6:30 p.m. March 10. Tickets are $100 per person or $170 per couple, and includes dinner and a signed copy of her book.

March 11, she’ll conduct a book-signing at noon on March 11 at Rakestraw Books in Danville. Tickets are $20 each. Reservations are required by calling (925) 837-7337. Then, that evening, she’ll be the guest at a special dinner at Camino restaurant in Oakland. The evening starts at 6 p.m. with Negronis, hors d’oeuvres and a book-signing, followed by dinner at about 7 p.m. Tickets are $100 per person. Reservations are required.

March 12 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., Hamilton will swing by Omnivore Books in San Francisco for a book-signing.

If you miss those events, you’ll be glad to know that Food Gal is giving away one free copy of Hamilton’s book.

Contest: Entries, limited to those in the continental United States, will be taken through midnight PST March 12. Winner will be announced March 14.

How to win?

Tell me which woman in the food world — living or deceased — most inspires you and why.

Here’s my own answer to that question:

“Two women tie as most inspirational to me. The first is the late-great Julia Child, whose gusto for life and food, came across in everything that she did. Plus, who can’t help but love a woman whose philosophy about eating was so simple and so right: ‘Eat everything — just in moderation.’ The second woman is my late-great Mom, who showed me every day of her life how important, how nurturing and how vital cooking is to our well-being. I’ll never forget that following the stroke she suffered, which left her right side weakened, the one thing she most wanted to regain was her ability to cook in her own kitchen again. Months later, as my Dad hovered nearby just in case, my Mom stood at the stove again, stirring a simmering pot, while looking proud, satisfied and hopeful again.”

Winners of the Other Contests: Last week, I held two Food Gal contests. In the first contest, I asked you to describe something you’ve eaten that was concocted of seemingly disparate flavors or ingredients that when put together actually was enjoyable. Two people will each receive a $20 gift card to Pinkberry.

Congrats to the winners:

1) Shafe, who wrote: “I served in the Peace Corps in a tiny country called Paraguay. My running water, no electricity, no phones, no stores… and no refrigerator!! My food options were slim: dried goods like pasta and rice, canned food, a few veggies from a garden and a few chickens running around in my pen. After a month or so I had exhausted every possible combination of food one could imagine. So I had to imagine more. Here are two of my creations:
After frying and sauteing chicken every which way but loose I came on an idea: soak the chicken in a mixture of COCA COLA, honey, red pepper flakes and corn starch. I pan fried it as I basted and it came out black as night but deliciously sweet/spicy and crispy. I called it Black Sugar Chicken…
I would go into the capitol once a month to get supplies (a five hour bus ride) and towards the end of the month, when my supplies would run out, it would always get a little dicey around my kitchen. Sometimes i would just eat a half dozen eggs but when even that got tiring I would dip into the darkness of canned mortadella. Mortadella as you probably know is a type of spiced sausage. Like bologna it was supposed to be all of the undesirable leftovers of the slaughterhouse. It was also supposed to be pork too but in Paraguay it was horse meat. I owned a horse in Paraguay so it was a bit unnerving but when the supplies run low and you’ve tried everything in the last 28 days, that crazy itch starts to grow on the brain for something new… Hence my second creation:
Pan fried Mortadella with fresh pineapple, coconut and lemon. What I liked to call Riding the Tropical Horse. And what a dark, delirious ride it was. Pan-fried to extra crispy, the horse meat lost its gaminess to the smoky, blackened crust that was softened with the sweet fruits but not altogether forgotten with the tart citrus accent. Sounds nasty looking back on it but back then, when I was in the middle of the bush in my little hut, surrounding by wild animals, hungry after a day’s hard labor and desperate for new flavors, it really hit the spot! Sometimes I think my horse wouldn’t look me in the eye after one of these dark nights but that might have been the mortadella talking. Besides, I was serving my country. If I wanted luxury I would have stayed in the States!”

2) Chef Barbie, who wrote: “When I was a kid we were pretty poor. My dad used to send me to school with mayonnaise and dill pickle sandwiches. I actually still eat them.”

In the second contest, I asked you to tell me about one of your most memorable visits to a winery. The winner will receive a pair of tickets to the March 11 Berkeley Wine Festival at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley.

Congrats to:

Cheri O’Neil, who wrote: “It was the birthday of my 70-year-old Scottish mother-in-law, and her daughter treated her — and the rest of our family—to a special dinner at the Monticello Winery in Napa Valley. We sat at tables in a room with all the wine barrels, where we tasted unbelievably fine wines. And then, at the end of the evening, a bagpiper walked in, playing his instrument as he walked among us. I told myself right then and there that when I’m 70, that’s exactly the kind of party I want.”

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  • I am most inspired by the real women around me and on the internet (who do not have personal assistants, etc) that are able to have a sucessful career while also being able to feed the people they love with wholesome and quality food. Deb from Smitten Kitchen blog is a good example…

  • My mom has always been my inspiration. When I was growing up, she did it all. Cooking, baking, canning, gardening, etc. She has two green thumbs, I swear, and her pies are famous among our family and friends!

  • THe woman who inspires me most is my grandmother. I hope to grow up to be half the woman she is. She is smart, independent, keeps herself fit, and always there to lend a hand.
    Unfortunately I don’t qualify for this giveaway, but I’d love to get my hands on this book. I saw Anthony Bourdain tweeting about it on twitter.
    *kisses* HH

  • I can already tell that my daughter will be the woman who will inspire me most in my life. She thinks – knows – she can do anything and she wants to try everything. When her first try doesn’t work out she tries again, and again and again. She takes the time to laugh at silly things and isn’t afraid to just “let it out” when things are tough. My little girl is just 3 years old but she teaches me great new lessons every day.

  • Wow. Such a tough question. In many ways I struggle to think of a single woman because I think there have been many who have made interesting contributions in the world of food and beyond. I love that Alice Water brought the US a sense that we should be eating better – eating more local food, eating slowly, letting the food be driven by great ingredients. I like that she was so stubborn about what she believed in and thanks very much because of her we now see the White House with a garden. I admire all the women who held rallies so I could have the right to vote and all the little things that were done along the way that have given me the life I now have as a women in the US.

  • Hard question to answer! I think for me it is Ruth Reichl. I love her writing and she is so terrific!

  • My late Aunt Rosie is by far the most inspirational woman to me, kitchen-wise, at least. She was a Chinese American woman who married an Italian American in 1950s San Francisco–in addition to facing the melding of two families and cultures during a time when interracial marriage was not only uncommon but illegal in some places, she also learned to blend two kitchens. While cooking the homestyle Chinese fare she was brought up on, she also learned from my Uncle’s mother her specialties–stuffed veal pocket, swiss-chard stuffed ravioli, porcini mushroom sauce. She truly had a gift in the kitchen that came from an excellent palate and an openness to try anything. She also proved that you don’t need a fancy set-up–she cooked on the same humble electric stove for decades, yet still turned out amazing dish after amazing dish.

  • My vote would be for someone most have never heard of, a dear friend named Pam Hunter, who passed away recently. Pam was one of those people who knew and liked everyone in the food world, and whom everyone knew and liked in return. She ran a small public relations outfit in Napa until she died late last year.

    Pam was the first person I’d met who said I might be able to make a life in the food world. She saw what I was doing in my spare time with hunting, gathering and cooking, and urged me to start Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. I did, and things started to happen.

    Then, right after I was nominated for the James Beard award, Pam told me I would need to prepare myself for the idea of doing this as a living. I thought she was crazy. But she wasn’t, and here I am. I owe her a debt I will never be able to repay. Rest in peace, Pam.

  • there are so many women in the culinary world that inspire me, but i think in this case i have to say it’s Cat Cora. She has showed me that a woman can be every bit as successful as a man in this highly competitive world. she is also a philanthropist. she created the charity Chefs for Humanity.

  • Growing up in the flair of middle class Midwestern suburbia, I had the opportunity to be taught by a number of the stay-at-home moms in our neighborhood. My favorite was our next door neighbor who made a killer homemade version of macaroni & cheese that to this day trumps any other wannabe out there. My other great inspiration is my grandmother who has a knack for homemade organic meals with a Mediterranean twist that always seems to creep into my cooking nowadays.

  • My mom inspires me daily, she has a way with her kitchen , they seem to flow together in their own dance..her kitchen smells like heaven!!

  • What a great title for a book! And loved your answer Carolyn 🙂

  • My Mom is the biggest influence in my life when it comes to food and cooking. Before I discovered the culinary world, my Mom was my primary and favorite chef. Now, she continues to be one of my favorite chefs, especially in the realm of vegetarian cuisine. She inspires me with her love of cooking meals for the family.

    Although we live 4 1/2 hours way from each other, many of our phone conversations revolve around food, whether it be talking about what we’re cooking for the week or giving each other tips on how to make our specialty dishes. I always look forward to visits with Mom because I know our visits are likely to be packed with many delicious, home-cooked meals, which make each visit memorable and often educational as she shows me family recipes that I’ve been eager to learn how to replicate in my own kitchen.

  • My grandmother inspires me because she is confident in her ability to cook. She always knows exactly what to put into a pot to make the best cabbage & noodles or stuffed peppers. (This also means it’s ridiculously difficult to get her to commit a recipe to paper. It took years of attempts to get her to finally confirm her recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing.) She has made me the confident cook that I am, and she still makes the best mashed potatoes in the world. I can only try to replicate them.

  • For me, that would be my boss. I’m amazed at all she’s accomplished in her lifetime, and how she refuses to give up on this very difficult path she’s chosen, even in such difficult financial times. Her passion is practically tangible, and it’s just a joy to work alongside her.

  • I’m a bit confused on whether it has to be someone well known in the food world or not. If not, then it would be my grandmother. She can make amazing food with very few and simple ingredients. She told me she had to live 7 people in a tiny garage when she was younger (during the depression) and was lucky to get milk and bread to live off of. She is by far the kindest person I know…and ALWAYS makes sure I’m well fed. If it has to be someone well known in the food world, then I would say Dorie Greenspan. I love all of her recipes and she seems so friendly and humble.

  • I had the pleasure of attending a cooking class by Gabrielle Hamilton on Sunday. She demonstrated brunch dishes from Prune and then signed copies of her book. (so please exclude me from the contest, but I’d like to answer the question anyway)

    Martha Stewart’s exacting standards, dedication to her business, and interest in educating has inspired me for years.

  • I had a friend that once worked for Gabrielle. I loved it when he made me dishes that he learned while working for her.

    I also felt inspired by Julia Child. She seemed extravagant and simple at the same time. My mom is an amazing cook. I always had such a hard time wrangling a written recipe from her. She always wanted to make a dish for me instead of teaching me to make it on my own. I think that was her way of expressing her love.

  • This contest is now closed. Come back Monday to find out who won and to enter a brand new contest.

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