Monday, March 12, 2012

Blood, Bones and Butter

Where have I been?

Blood, Bones & Butter came out last spring...a year ago. Was I so wrapped up in all of nothing that I missed this? Apparently so.

Here are some of the things I wished as I read this book:
1. I wish I knew Gabrielle Hamilton.
2. I wish I was still cooking in a restaurant kitchen. To this day, I tell people it was one of the toughest but one of the most satisfying jobs I've ever done. Each day I had a list of things to accomplish. Each day I accomplished those tasks. Each day I shut down, cleaned down and left work satisfied, with nothing hanging over my head. And I was a good line cook.
3. I wish I could pick up the phone and make a reservation at Prune.
4. I wish I could interview Gabrielle.
5. I wish I could spend a couple of weeks working the line at Prune.

The book recounts how Hamilton fell into cooking. It was the job that put money in her pocket no matter where she was in the world. She captures the sense of both hard work and satisfaction she gets from the job. She talks about how she translated her ideas for the restaurant--wanting people to have an experience. Without the experience being pretentious, that is. She writes about why it is important to enjoy food around the table, why we really connect with family through food.

So here's the passage that hit so close the the bone. Hamilton devotes an entire section to heading up to CIA to talk to female culinary students there about "where have all the women gone?" I found myself recalling the all-female line--hot and cold--at lunch at Union Square Cafe in NYC. We were good. We were really good. Egos were left at the door, we banged it out and we met 300 covers in three hours some lunches. I still have a vision of Karen, our then sous chef and lunchtime expeditor, watching the dupe machine (the machine that printed out the orders after servers entered those orders into the computers at their stations) spit out order after order after order after order. The paper spilled onto the floor. We were getting slammed. Karen? She just put her head down and did her job, as did we. There was no yelling, there were no tears...But there was enormous satisfaction.

Oh, back to that passage...
...we know perfectly well where the women are. They jumped to publishing, and are now busy with idolizing the male chefs who make it impossible for them to continue cooking in restaurants and they are so busy writing features and articles about them that they don't have time left -- or column inches -- for the female chefs who actually toughed it out.  Women have self-selected out of the chef life, which can grind you to a powder, and have become happily married recipe testers and magazine editors, or private chefs, working moderate hours for good pay and benefits while successfully raising several small children whom they do not damage...

It kind of made me sad. I jumped ship. I self-selected out of the kitchen life. I write and test recipes. But I could be cooking.

Maybe I should be cooking.

Gabrielle Hamilton writes AND cooks well...I finished this book, told as many people as I could to read it, then started it all over again. I looked up Prune's website. Checked my calendar to see when I might get myself to Prune to eat.

Then I got up to cook.

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