The cats aren’t big Anthony Bourdain fans, but I am. They probably think he’s eaten a few of them in his travels.
I, on the other hand, pre-ordered his new book, No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach, and wrapped it as a Christmas present to myself so he’ll be under my tree on Christmas morning. How hopelessly devoted is that?
I’ve read and loved a lot of his non-fiction, Kitchen Confidential, A Cook’s Tour, and The Nasty Bits, as well as his novels, Bone in the Throat, Gone Bamboo, and The Bobby Gold Stories. I’m awed by his bitingly witty writing style.
When I learned he was doing a Christmas special on No Reservations on the Travel Channel, I marked my calendar, eagerly anticipating a peek into his new life as a born-again husband and first-time father.
The first surprise was that the show was filmed at his brother’s house in Connecticut, far from Tony’s home in New York City. The plush, affluent setting made Tony’s endearing cynicism toward everything seem a bit over the top, so it was probably wise to keep his brother and sister-in-law’s appearances brief.
Instead, they left the limelight to Tony’s thoroughly unlikable niece and his foul-mouthed little nephew/godson. I’m hoping Uncle Tony slipped some big bucks into their stockings to get them to put on an act and they really don’t ape his snarkiness every day. It’s very unattractive in children.
The turkey-selection/killing segment stood in stark contrast to other episodes where animals have been butchered by poor rural people who sincerely wanted to give Bourdain their best. His enthusiasm felt a bit unseemly.
I didn’t begrudge him his defense of foie gras by visiting good friend and fellow chef Ariane Daguin. The ducks did look relatively happy. But I expected him to at least mention he named his new daughter after Ariane, and he didn’t.
The incongruous presence of Queens of the Stone Age was a rebellion against smarmy Christmas carols I could appreciate, and it was fun to watch him chop down the Christmas tree and make his troll of a nephew drag it into the house.
But I really enjoyed seeing Tony in the kitchen, proving that he really knows how to cook. Then again, I’m turned on by the sight of any man doing something useful in the kitchen.
The biggest letdown was the climax, with Tony sitting at the table with his brother and his brother’s family. Where did he have his new wife, Ottavia, and their baby Ariane spending their first Christmas as Bourdains? Out in the garage? Bing Crosby was reputed to be a real bastard, and even he didn’t pretend he was single at Christmas.
The Bourdain brothers didn’t even include their own mother in the festivities.
Tony’s probably compelled to foster his image as a latter-day sex symbol, and he may personally want to draw a line between his public and private life by keeping his new family off-camera, but it certainly made for an incomplete Christmas special.
If he’s ever coerced into doing something like this again, I suggest a slant he’d be more comfortable with: Tony’s solitary search for the spirit of Christmas in the farthest corners of some non-Christian country. That would be worth watching.