Now that it is summer I am taking a break from reading about institutions and contemporary art. Instead I am taking walks to the local park or lake with a novel tucked under my arm and I am packing memoirs into my carry-on as I head to the airport.
I am back in Munich and while I was away the city made the transition from spring to summer. Such weather makes the transition from reading for knowledge to reading for pleasure even easier. However, a good writer always tucks one underneath the other - pleasure tucked beneath knowledge or knowledge tucked beneath pleasure. The photo above reveals that Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef has been my most recent read. It has also been the best I have had in a while.
When I was in high school I took a class on African American Literature (it was an alternative high school; I was lucky). I remember when our class was assigned to read Toni Morrison's Beloved our teacher passed around sheets of paper that had a small illustration of the author but that were otherwise blank. "While you are reading Beloved I want to you to write down the sentences that knock you on your ass," she instructed. I nodded, like the good student I was and still am, and scribbled down a title on the top of the page: Sentences from Beloved that Knock Me on my Ass.
While I was reading Blood, Bones & Butter I was reminded of this assignment. Gabrielle Hamilton writes with such brutal honesty. She owns her own life mistakes and scars with so much commitment and pride it is hard to not to feel slightly winded as a reader. She narrates her life according to food but in a way that is neither fluffy nor precious. Food is about survival. It is about hunger and need and supply. It is about belonging to a family and negotiating the ups and downs of that belonging. It is about fucking up and then learning how to take care of yourself. It is about being with others and learning how to share. Food is a medium; it always communicates so much more than breakfast, lunch or dinner. Blood, Bones & Butter demonstrates all of that.
It also demonstrates that food is more than recipes or restaurants or dining. It is about arriving someplace hungry and being greeted by a near-stranger with a plate of two eggs fried in olive oil. Or perhaps milk with honey and apples. When Gabrielle described this in the book I immediately made a note in my mind to buy some apples (I was in Sweden so I was without my usually well-stocked kitchen). I made this drink the next day and the simple three ingredients magically melted into one another to make something very satisfying. A day later I made it for a friend and she said that she would happily choose milk with honey and apples over a more classic milkshake for the rest of her life. It really is too simple for a recipe, but I have included one anyways.
Milk with Honey and Apples
inspired by Gabrielle Hamilton's 'Blood, Bones & Butter'
1 glass of milk
1 apple, cut into chunks
1 tbsp honey, plus more to drizzle
In a blender combine the milk, apples and honey until the mixture is completely smooth and resembles a milkshake. Pour into a glass and drizzle with honey. Serve immediately.