When I read the memoir Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by the chef Gabrielle Hamilton a few years ago, it spurred me to finally visit her restaurant Prune. I have been back a few times and hold it in high regard. It is one of the only places I would consider having a proper brunch at, and one of the few that I think that can pull off the too-tight, pseudo-bistro appearance and attitude that so many other downtown restaurants just cause me to roll my eyes at. When I think of that book now, it has nothing to do with food or restaurants. Something in the stories and details Gabrielle shared made me think of my own life, made me admire her, and made me wonder if I could similarly present as being resolved about who I am. With respect to her personal and professional choices, she strikes me as someone who DGAF what others think or say. But this not-caring is not combative, it just is; there is no need to prove anything with her honesty, she is just being honest. Or herself. It is not hard to find less-than-flattering tabloid stories about her personal life, ones that question her scruples more than the indiscretions she writes about in the book. I don’t look up to a perfect person, but at one who doesn’t endlessly apologize for her imperfections.
A post on the blog Alexandra’s Kitchen about a sandwich inspired by the book really brought things close to home. Alexandra’s three fats sandwich—prosciutto, butter, and olive oil—was inspired by one made for Gabrielle by her ex-husband. As she wrote in the book:
I sat eating my sandwich, deep in my coat and sweater, thinking the oil tasted very good, buttery, and acidic at the same time, but wishing there was more meat and maybe a smear of cool waxy butter also. I love the perfection of three fats together—butter, olive oil, and the white fat from prosciutto or lardo.
“These could use one more slice of meat, maybe.”
He was silent.
“And maybe a little sweet butter.”
And he has made them that way ever since.
(Passage from here.)
Are you thinking, so what? When I read that passage again because of the blog post, I did think about how amazing those three fats would be together and subsequently made the sandwich, but I thought more on her subtle criticism and schooling. It felt like something I would do, like things I’ve already done. It felt like all the times I’ve suggested how something is good but not best, or how it could be better, often directing my comments at those who have done nothing but something nice for me, those who are closest to me. Yes, it’s just a sandwich, but it’s always just something small in our minds that cause large wounds for others.
I bring this up not because Gabrielle made me feel bad about myself or that she should feel bad about herself. These kinds of passages and the reveals about her personality raise that unapologetic attitude that I have trouble cultivating. I have hurt others, I do hurt others, I will hurt others. I admire Gabrielle because she does not appear to wallow in self-hatred. I know that she has to reconcile her sins, and she didn’t choose to do so necessarily on the pages of her book. I admire that she can separate that from a retelling of a story that’s ultimately about perfecting a sandwich. As I write that, I think, but you’re absolving her. I’m not. I just like that she can relate who she is, warts and all, without having to dissect each wart, and that you are to take her as she is. I am not able to do that in my own life. I want to be that way, but I feel too much guilt for my warts. I want to GAF less and just be, which is how I idealize Gabrielle. It’s why I have a crush on Prune. It’s why I relish the simplicity of this sandwich.
Three Fats Sandwich
It’s a perfect sandwich for the season. No cooking, all assembly, picnic-ready. Alexandra’s addition of a dark green like arugula or watercress is great if you would be into a bit more texture and the accompanying bitterness. Don’t be shy with the butter. You want to feel its waxiness between your teeth and its slick trace on your lips. Get your prosciutto shaved paper thin so that the only resistance is from the bread. Good olive oil only here, please. I just pick up a baguette, but I’m sure the airiness of ciabatta works better.