The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
by Gabrielle Hamilton
I generally hesitate to give any press (if you can call my blog press) to a book that is already so widely read. This one certainly isn't lacking for readers.
However, this is one of the books I devoured while on vacation in April. Almost literally... devoured. Not until I read this book did I ever imagine food -- the preparation and cooking of food -- to have such high literary quality. This book, I suppose it is something of a memoir... an autobiography... but first and foremost, it made me want to deepen my relationship with food. It made me want to appreciate my food. Love my food. Get more creative and adventurous in the preparation of my food.
I wouldn't classify this as a food book, however.
It is the very personal story of a woman. A woman who happens to write so beautifully you find yourself wanting to drink in and, yes, eat her words. It is a woman who writes her own story so openly that, as a writer, I was mesmerized by her honesty, as well as her ability to pull me along from one page to another. How little I could relate to; her life and background and experiences so different than mine. Yet how much I could relate to; motherhood and figuring out one's self, piece by piece, bit by bit.
As much as I loved the book, thankful all the while I was on vacation and could keep turning pages till the deed was done, the ending left me feeling flat and maybe even dissatisfied for several days. I like happy endings and I'm not altogether convinced that this book provided one. Although it wasn't particularly unhappy either. And as it was/is real life, I continue to ask myself, "Who am I to judge?"
In my perfect world the end would have included the business, the babies, and a couple growing old together, till death do them part. Call me naive. I came home and dove into my own version of gourmet cooking -- throwing out the recipes and determining that finding a way to make chard--in this season of farmers market abundance--palatable.
Almost every time I've spent time in my kitchen in the last several weeks, I've found my mind drifting back to Gabrielle Hamilton's stories and contemplating just how limited my view of happily-ever-after has become. And maybe, in doing so, I feel a little bit of a pressure valve releasing. My own one-way, right-way, known-way gaining some flexibility. I think about how what Gabrielle thought she wanted to do with her life (writing) never quite fit in the way that she thought it might. And how what she did with her life (cooking and kids and eventually writing) kind of happened in spite of herself. And that makes me think of the places I have gotten in spite of myself, as well.
Needless to say, I loved this book. It's been several weeks and the words haven't left me. Several trips to the library later, I still look for it on the shelves because I think I'd like to just open a page at random and drink in a few phrases. I add it to my highly recommended list.