Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How I Spent My Last Two Days

This is not a review.
I'm just about finished reading Anthony Bourdain's new book, Medium Raw. One may have issues with Bourdain, but one loves this book.
I saw somewhere that it might even outsell his breakout book, Kitchen Confidential, which is (gasp) ten years old now. It's brisk, brash and full of braggadoccio, as you might expect.
But it's also tender and humble and hopeful. And nice. Bourdain's a fat old daddy, now, after all. No more boozin' and chasin' skirts. Well, he might still be boozin' but he's off the drugs and even the cigarettes.
What's it about? It's a series of essays, mostly unrelated. He tells about the reckless, drunk, stoned heiress he found himself following around in the Caribbean until she got to be too much for him, and he... ditched her! Flew off the island, left her bills unpaid, got his sanity back.
There's a chapter on his heroes and villains in the restaurant business. Rachael Ray is neither. (Well, she might be, but she goes unmentioned. He ragged on her so relentlessly in an earlier, ugly incarnation of himself that she... sent him a fruit basket! His heart melted, and now he leaves her alone.) The heroes and villains include names like Gael Greene, Fergus Henderson and Jamie Oliver. Guess which is which. (Alice Waters gets her own, whole chapter.)
My favorite chapter is not about Bourdain. It's about the guy who skins, guts, scales and filets 700 pounds of fish every day for Le Bernardin. Jeez, Tony! You're being a reporter! It's a good read, charming, clinical, almost (but never) emotional. Anyone who gets weepy, you're just a sissy-ass.
Oh, yeah, the language. Still vintage Bourdain, so if you wither at the thought of four- and three- and seven- and (sheesh, how many?) letter words, take a pass. I found it very natural and a lot of fun. It just made me want to start a new blog where I use my "other" vocabulary. My louche lexicon.
Bourdain is a damn good writer. It's what he does now. He's no longer a chef; he's a damn good writer.
This sounds like a review, doesn't it? Eek, sorry.


Chilebrown said...

I am a fan of Bourdain and Cookiecrumb, two of my favorite writers.

Zoomie said...

I've seen it in the bookstores and been tempted. Sounds like a fun one.

kudzu said...

Yeah, I have a soft spot for the bad boy, too -- even though his first book made me angry and turned me off. I was caught up when he started his food/travel series and have followed him quite willingly ever since.

Greg said...

Old age, a new young wife and child may have tempered the guy. Maybe. Do you think he has a AARP card?

Anonymous said...

Don't know in which planet I've been living, but I did not know about his new book until reading your post.

I will put it in my wish list, definitely!

Elizabeth said...

I saw him here in Portland, on tour in June, promoting his new book - got an "autographed" (read: scrawled) copy of it and read it in two days as well. My only complaint was that the people at the Q&A at the end wanted him to be the badass foulmouthed old Tony, and I wanted to ask him how he was going to leverage his fame and TV exposure to promote his new appreciation for local healthy baby-safe food. But when someone before me in the audience tried to ask such a question, they were booed, and the next question was something along the lines of "if you could have Jamie Oliver eaten by fire ants or pecked to death by ducks, which would you choose?" I'm sorry he let them choose his persona for the evening. But I did like the book.

Little Pots & Pans Co. said...

Sounds like a worthy two days to me. I aspire to lounge on my couch and polish off an engrossing read like this, repairman or not!

Kelly said...

Never had much to do with Bourdain down here in mainstream media Oz. But i got acquainted with him well on a long haul flight from UK to OZ watching every series back to back of his food tours of the world- Best long haul flight E.V.E.R- 24 hours of Bourdain. Heaven. Thank you Cathay! Gonna go grab that book. thanks for the non-review.

cookiecrumb said...

Chilebrown: Eternal thanks to you for recommending the book. I am your biggest fan.

Zoomie: If you've read and enjoyed Kitchen Confidential, yes, I'd try it.

Kudzu: This poor dear almost sounds like he's atoning for his previous gross behavior toward humans. (He owns his own gross behavior toward himself.) Be warned, he uses the d-bag word... a lot.

Greg: Isn't that the truth? (He's old enough for AARP, but it sounds like he's not worried about much anymore, at least in the financial realm.)

Sally BK: I know! I wouldn't have known about the book either if it hadn't been for Chilebrown's review on his blog (Mad Meat Genius). Have fun with it.

Elizabeth: What a GRAND story!!! Poor dude was manipulated by a meathead crowd. Well, he made his bed, and now he's writhing in it. Thank you so much for sharing your funny night.

Little Pots: Repairman came, said nothing was wrong. And if it breaks again, call him. I kid you not.
Enjoy your loungey read!

Kelly: You realize, of course, that I thought for a minute you were sitting next to Bourdain on that flight! Hah! What a happy experience for you, to discover him on an occasion that needed distraction.

Ms Brown Mouse said...

I'll give it a go, salty language is no problem for me :) It adds spice to the mix.

namastenancy said...

I enjoy his show and even more now that he's mellowed. As Greg said, a new young wife, a child (now three?) and financial success seem to have mellowed the dude. I'll look for the book at the library. I had stop buying books - it was either me or the ever-increasing stacks of books. Plus, when I review a show, I always get a catalog as a gift. So, I'm off to the library.....as soon as I finish reading my last stack of "must finish these books"

cookiecrumb said...

Mouse: He's so witty with the profanities, I was laughing.

Nancy: Yeah, library is the way to go! You can even have them reserve it for you.
(When we feel lush and generous, we actually GIVE our new, just-read books to the library. They are SO grateful.)

Kailyn said...

Thanks to you and Chilebrown I am now reading the book. Started last night and should be finished by midday tomorrow. I keep trying to step away and do something else but it keeps calling me back. I enjoyed Kitchen Confidential but I like this one even more. Besides it seemed apropos to read it over this weekend after seeing him as a guest judge on "Top Chef" this week.

cookiecrumb said...

Kailyn: I appreciate your approval. I suddenly felt I'd been so gaga, I must have been wrong. Yay!

Amy Sherman said...

Can I please use Louche Lexicon as my next blog, business, pseudonym? Something?

cookiecrumb said...

Amy: Sure! Go ahead and use it, ya louchebag. :)

I had a linguistics professor who left academe and went into the business of making up names for products and companies. BlackBerry.