I was all wrong about the Prune cookbook, which I bought yesterday. I don’t have a problem with the recipes, it’s the writing I hate. Hate. It's likely my feelings will change and change again, but we’re capturing the moment, here.
In case you don't follow cookbook news, Gabrielle Hamilton owns a tiny, celebrated Manhattan restaurant called Prune and Prune is her long-awaited cookbook. A few years ago she published a stunningly well-written memoir, Blood, Bones, and Butter, which I adored. She was clearly an imperious, thorny, stormy, difficult woman, but I didn't care. We weren’t going to be friends. I just loved her writing.
But the relationship you have with a cookbook is, in fact, a bit like the relationship you have with a friend. The author is speaking directly to you and offering advice and instructions. And I really don’t like the way Hamilton talks to me.
In case you haven’t seen Prune yet, which 99% of you haven’t, the book is supposed to resemble the fat binder of recipes in the kitchen of a successful restaurant, a compendium that has been spilled on (there are fake stains on the pages) and endlessly amended. No friendly headnotes telling you how a dish is going to taste or where you might start looking for, say, caul fat. Just commands and notes scribbled in the margins in black marker. Scolding notes. Needling notes.
|one of the stains and another snotty note|
It's definitely original. And you could argue that Hamilton is just showing how it’s done in a restaurant, nothing more, and we should admire her wit, vision, and chutzpah. I'm open to this argument. Please, someone, make it! I want to discuss.
|I can't believe how annoying I find this.|
Personally, though, I think there’s more to it. She strikes me as a bully to core. The choice to write her cookbook in this way was a choice to talk to the world -- to you and me -- exactly the way she talks to her disappointing underlings at the restaurant. But with deniability.
|I think you are a nightmare and it shows.|