Gabrielle Hamilton’s 2011 is a funny, occasionally dark, look at her life and how she came to open Prune, the successful New York restaurant. She grew up with a French mother and an American father.
While my mother is Italian, I can connect deeply with the inherent sense of “other.” Like Hamilton, I have always reveled in my “otherness,” emphasizing my Italian heritage.I enjoy pronouncing things as authentically as possible and didn’t grow up with traditional American snacks and desserts.
Hamilton married an Italian doctor and returns annually to his family’s villa in Puglia. My family is from much further north, near the border with Switzerland, and we certainly don’t have a villa. But like hers, our country house is crumbling slowly. Whenever my family would go home to Italy, we always stayed at my grandparents house where everything stays the same. I can understand her desire to get out, to see more of the country, to change things. Feelings I expect my father, the American, feels. His grasp of Italian has never been strong and while he is beloved by my Italian relations, I’m sure he feels the desire to get out and adventure.
My mother and I (and now fortunately, my husband) lack that instinct. To sit in the kitchen together, go to the market and the bakery everyday, that is enough. I have been spoilt with other opportunities to travel around the country and am more than content to spend my days sitting in my grandparents’ dining room, listening to old stories and cooking dishes from our past.
Hamilton manages to blend her many experiences into her cooking with a skill that I hope to someday acquire. For now I will content myself with trying to get to her restaurant and try the dishes, now that I know the stories behind them.
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