Saturday, August 21, 2010

Medium Raw

A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
by Anthony Bourdain

Initially I thought this book was not really for me. His chapter on "lust" is definitely beyond me. I don't lust after chicken innards or blood soup. I'm not quite that adventurous when it comes to food. I get the idea of "food porn," I do, but eels don't exactly get me hot and bothered. Plus, he mentions so many restaurants and chefs of which I know absolutely nothing.

However, I enjoyed and whole-heartedly agree with his chapter on "virtue," where he talks about basic cooking skills which every human, at least every adult, should possess. That I believe in. I particularly appreciate his opinion that:
[...] it is only right and appropriate that before one sleeps with someone, one should be able--if called upon to do so--to make them a proper omelet in the morning. Surely that kind of civility and selflessness would be both good manners and good for the world. Perhaps omelet skills should be learned at the same time your learn to fuck. Perhaps there should be an unspoken agreement that in the event of loss of virginity, the more experienced of the partners should, afterward, make the other an omelet--passing along the skill at an important and presumably memorable moment.
I don't think that's too much to expect. I absolutely support the idea of people learning to cook for themselves, enjoying the endeavor as I currently am.

His chapter on meat is also excellent and a little terrifyingly eye-opening.

I agree with his basic assertion that we have rich douchebags to blame for over-priced shitty food. Douchebags are ruining cuisine for everyone, driving up prices and lowering standards--making cooking for oneself an even more necessary kill.

I also love his "Grandma rule" for travelers:
You may not like Grandma's Thanksgiving turkey. It may be overcooked and dry--and her stuffing salty and studded with rubbery pellets of giblets you find unpalatable in the extreme. You may not like turkey at all. But it's Grandma's turkey. And you are in Grandma's house. So shut the fuck up and eat it.
But, as someone with IBS, I can't always accept Grandma's hospitality. In fact, I sometimes have to refuse, unless I want to be sick for a day or more which, generally, as a traveler, I do not (and I'm sure Grandma doesn't want that either). But if you are just a vegan/vegetarian self-righteous jerk, eat the fucking turkey.

When it comes to food, I personally like unpretentious food. However, I have never had the cash-flow necessary to give pretentious food a chance. If I did, I would go to Le Bernadin in NYC.

There is no real sense of time in this book, which initially annoyed me until I came to terms with the fact that this is not really a biography; a memoir of sorts, maybe. Nonfiction, yes; biography, no. Also, I have never known an author to like using dashes so much. But it's a small stylistic obstacle to overcome.

At time the book seems a little dense, especially considering my limited knowledge of big name, fancy restaurants and chefs. But the book is smart, satirically funny and genuinely interesting.

And everyone should know how to properly roast a chicken.

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