Anthony Bourdain Has Jumped the Snark

By Karen

I’ve finally seen the Laos, Saudi Arabia, and Uruguay episodes of No Reservations, and all I can say is … I’m worried about Bourdain. He’s like ice cream melting in the sun.

Granted, you ridicule Saudi Arabia at your own risk, but he seemed to enjoy it – even though their “no alcohol” culture basically put him in detox. Delirium might explain why he compared Jeddah to Las Vegas and found camel meat “humpalicious.”

I searched for Ottavia in the shadows under an abaya, but I’m guessing she gladly took a pass on that trip.

In Laos, he predictably loved everything, including ant egg omelets, calling it “magical” and “an enchanted place that no one knows about.” His old self came through only when he admitted wanting to spit out those salty swallows that had an “unpalatable aftertaste.”

One interesting reference to Ottavia came up in that episode. When one of his hosts graciously wished for him to “get lots of money, make lots of money,” Tony smiled and said, “My wife has the same wish.”

In Uruguay, Montivideo was “charming.” He seemed to relish his brother Chris’ company, and even shared valuable pointers on marathon eating: Skip the potatoes and veggies, and use bread only for sopping up sauce.

His lyrical wit peeked through when he described their pig-out on piles of meat at Estancia del Puerto as a “glorious, joyous miasma of meatness.”

But then he balked at killing an armadillo when he saw it trembling, calling it “deeply disturbing.” As they ate it, he said, “This will haunt my dreams – really.”

Perhaps he was considering an armadillo as Ariane’s first pet, one of the few animals he could promise Ottavia would never shed on the furniture.

As usual, the locales were lovely, the food intriguing, the company stimulating. The only thing missing was Tony’s trademark snark. It’s gone. Without cynicism, he’s doomed.

If he doesn’t snap out of it, he’s going to be washed up, No. 3 behind Samantha Brown (who’s experimenting with feistiness these days) and – ugh! – Andrew Zimmern.

I wish they’d make Tony go somewhere he’d be totally miserable, just to get him back on his game.

On second thought, that would be advocating torture of a fellow human being as entertainment, and I can’t go there.


21 Responses to Anthony Bourdain Has Jumped the Snark

  1. Daniel says:

    Thanks for the latest update on Bourdain. Maybe he should team up with Samantha to get an infusion of “feistiness.” Just an idea from us here at

  2. Bob says:

    Karen… If you look at his career in general, there have been weak points in his snarky nature. Romania although at its snarky best, was a freaking disaster.
    But Blame Zamir for that.

    There are places where is genuinely happy, and I am sure that Adriana has mellowed him.
    But has he “Jumped the Shark” or “Nuked the Fridge” I am going to watch a few more episodes before I pass judgment.

    Now Back to watching N R in the Pacific Northwest,,, MMMMM Salumi.

  3. Iis Kusaeri says:

    Thank you for the article. I just knew it.

  4. catsworking says:

    Bob, you’re right. I also enjoy seeing Bourdain in places where he is genuinely happy, like Vietnam. It just seems like he’s gone all “lollipops and rainbows” on us lately. He really can’t afford to lose his edge because he risks becoming something he himself would detest — BLAND.

  5. Bob says:

    There is hope, Tonights episode.
    Rock and Roll, Guns, and Ted Nugent.

    Nuff said

  6. catsworking says:

    Bob, tonight’s episode does sound promising. Since he’ll be relatively close to home, I’ll be Ottavia-watching as well.

  7. MorganLF says:

    Just so you can get an idea that the language is a jersey thing here is a snippet from Bourdain’s blog posted 7/26….

    “I’m not a pundit, an activist, an advocate for anybody. My political views are my own — and I try — really try, to keep them to myself. The last person I want to hear talk about politics or the nation’s conscience or obligation to the world is some Hollywood ****tard. Some well-paid douchebag who lives in a compound in Malibu has, to my mind, very little of value or interest to say to anyone who’s worried about the price of milk. ”

    The snark still is alive and well in his writing!

  8. catsworking says:

    Thank you Morgan! That’s what I was hoping. He may have gone marshmallow on the outside, but he’s still a bad-ass under the surface.

    I’ll have to check out his blog. I hadn’t seen that quote. We do know that he has no love for Bush from the comments he made while he was stuck in Beirut about seeing Bush at some summit stuffing a roll in his mouth without a care in the world.

  9. catsworking says:

    A note to anyone who has been following the comments on this post. I just deleted those by faustianbargain and all the responses that followed because I discovered that he/she wrote an incredibly vitriolic and personal attack against Cats Working’s coverage of Bourdain and my readers and linked it back here.

    I feel so used…

  10. MorganLF says:

    Aww that was some of my best work!

  11. petunia says:

    I looked up the blog by faustianbargain to see what was going on–I don’t agree that this site is a Bourdain “love fest”–there is plenty of criticism of him here. I think that some people who are vegetarians (and I get the feeling that faustianb is) are really pissed off about and fed up with Bourdain’s nasty comments re their food choices-and his comments are kind of beyond the pale–his intolerance for them (and let’s face it, vegetarianism is probably a more environmentally correct choice) is very much at odds with his “let’s be respectful of other cultures” schtick. I also don’t like his gibes at overweight people or sexist comments in the style of “I cried like a little girl”–this, from the father of a girl! But there is plenty to enjoy about his writing and sometimes the tv show. But I’m sure vegens find it so hypocritical that Bourdain is allowed to spew malicious tripe about them but if you criticize him on his website you are shouted down by loyal fans or have your posts deleted or get banned! And when his shows are criticized, he seems to get very defensive in his blogs—what, he can dish it out but he can’t take it?
    That said, I enjoy this site and don’t feel there is censorship here. I do think faustianb’s reactions have more to do with the ongoing vegetarian v. Bourdain flamefest than they do with you, so I wouldn’t take it to heart.

  12. MorganLF says:

    Cats…I read its screed. Poor thing it’s a vegan… Needs a little protein. The writing skills are sophomoric without punch and just a bore to read. It needed to copy my pithy comments to punch up its rambling, vitriolic, no-sense-making pedestrian prose.

    It must have been sooo mad it even forgot punctuation! It has no friends or fans and is sooo jealous of a handsome 6’4″ rabidly funny, caustic, brilliant, sensitive Bourdain that it sat up all night plotting revenge. I am tickled pink that I got the silly douchebag mad…made my week!!!

  13. catsworking says:

    Morgan, I feel your pain. I deleted your stuff with reluctance only because if I’d left it in, the thread of comments would have made no sense.

    But talk about jumping the snark. Faustianbargain really did. He/she’s got a vegetarian axe to grind against Bourdain and did it on you and me with such venom it took my breath away.

    What I really took exception to was the claim that people who like Bourdain do so because they want to feel “superior” to other cultures. HUH??!! I can’t imagine anything further from the truth.

    People who want to feel “superior” ride through other countries in air-conditioned buses, looking down at the locals from upholstered comfort. They stay and eat only in hotels with American names. They experience places from such a distance, they might as well just stay home and look at postcards.

    Bourdain’s fans vicariously get to walk the real streets of exotic places (not just the main drags that appear on postcards), where real people work and eat, and through him, taste foods found on no menu in the U.S. and get a glimpse of other cultures right in their homes many times.

    To me, watching NR or reading his books is not about wanting to feel “superior,” but about wanting to feel ONE with the big wide world around us.

  14. catsworking says:

    Petunia, thanks for the words of support. Cats Working has never been a Bourdain “love fest” as far as I can tell, and the only comments pertaining to him that I have ever censored were faustianbargain’s and the responses to those. After reading that post on his/her blog about Cats Working, I felt a line had been crossed and it was no longer appropriate to give faustian space/exposure here. That’s also why I have not provided a link back to the offending post.

    Anthony Bourdain is certainly an equal opportunity offender, and I can’t say that I agree with his every notion. For example, I have nothing against vegetarians, and even admire them. But even when he’s offending me, he does it with such flair that, as a fellow writer, I can’t help admiring his way with words.

    I’ve also read that he can be thin-skinned, so it doesn’t surprise me to hear there’s some censorship on his blog comments. I get some negative ones myself, but I let 99% of them through because I don’t want to appear one-sided.

    But when someone calls me a “sewer rat,” I draw the line.

  15. catsworking says:

    Morgan, I found the writing of that post rambling and pretty pathetic myself. Someone needed to let it sit overnight, let it cool off, and do some editing with a clear head before clicking “Publish.”

    And the insult added to injury was that the author resorted to blatant copy and paste of the far superior literary efforts found here.

    If there’s one thing we never do at Cats Working, it’s pirate the prose of other bloggers or commenters to fill space and try to divert attention to ourselves. What you find here is always 100% original writing, unless it’s a brief, attributed quote.

  16. Nickole says:

    Apparently he’s smoking again a la this post from a tipster at Eater today:

    Granted, I like him better smoking, but it’s gotta catch up someday. If you take a close look at the Uraguay episode, he smoked a cigar on camera too.

  17. catsworking says:

    Wow, Nickole, you are really keeping a close eye on our boy, aren’t you? Thanks for the tip!

    It doesn’t surprise me that he occasionally lapses and smokes again when the opportunity presents itself. I understand it’s really hard to quit. And he may be feeling a bit uncomfortable with his new mellow persona, so he slips back into his old bad-boy skin when Ottavia’s not looking.

    I haven’t seen the new Southwest episode yet. Watching it tonight. I’m dying to see if Ted Nugent brings out the snark in him.

  18. Adele says:

    First of all, I love the fact that you have a cat named Adele; I’ve grown to like my name after many years, but I must admit that “Adele” would be a great name for a cat — better perhaps than for a human.

    With regard to Bourdain, I think the negative (well over 1,000 hits on his blog) response to the Romania show may have caused him to cut back on the snarkiness, but I also think he’s truly enjoyed most of the places he’s visited so far this season — Saudi Arabia is the outlyer, but he seemed to like and respect the viewer, who showed him around.

    When he blogs, there’s still snark, and I’m hoping he’s building up snark for his next written endeavor; I’m also hoping he’s really stopped smoking.

  19. catsworking says:

    It all started with my cat Ginger Rogers, who wasn’t orange, but a black and white tuxedo. I named my next cat, a pure white tomcat, Fred Astaire, hoping he and Ginger would become great buddies. Didn’t happen. Ginger never liked Fred, and then she died prematurely of kidney failure at age 8.

    My NEXT cat turned out to be a pure-white female miniature of Fred, so I named her after the real Fred Astaire’s sister, Adele.

    Fred and Adele get along great, just as their human counterparts did. I’ve never run into another cat named Adele, but I think it’s the perfect name for mine. She’s petite and graceful and elegant, just like Adele Astaire was.

    I’m glad to see that Bourdain hasn’t gone mild in his writing. Apparently, the evil thoughts are still there; he’s just more choosy about where he expresses them, and he obviously doesn’t feel constrained at the keyboard.

  20. Nickole says:

    Just a fun FYI. New Forbes list. According to them, Tony makes 1.5 million a year.–20080811

  21. catsworking says:

    Nickole, thanks for that link! I’m surprised Emeril Lagasse didn’t make the list.

    The site also contains a veritable treasure-trove of Bourdain articles I haven’t seen. I’ve made a note to myself to spend some quality time there.

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