Bourdain & Waters Face Off: Reconciliation or Duel?

By Karen

On May 14, Anthony Bourdain hops over to Hartford to be on a “Food for Thought” panel at the Connecticut Forum with Alice Waters, the California restaurateur who “bugs the living shit” out of Bourdain for advocating that everyone eat fresh, locally-grown produce, even when it’s prohibitively expensive. Cheekily nominating herself to be on Obama’s “kitchen cabinet” to ensure he gets the country eating right was what landed her between Bourdain’s crosshairs.

Now, Michelle Obama did dig up the White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, but admits she enjoys sneaking to Five Guys for a burger, and President Obama and Joe Biden lunched at Ray’s Hell Burger last week. Obviously, fresh veggies only go so far with the First Family.

I’m guessing it will take more than a fruit basket to quell Bourdain’s philosophical clash with Waters. Oh, and the unfortunate bystander on the panel will be The Ace of Cakes’ Duff Goldman.

In other news…

Shades of Grey writes about recently discovering Bourdain. Where has she been? (Warning, annoying music accompanies her post, but you can silence it. Scroll down to the “Spring Mix” heading and click the largest button in the purple playlist.)

And here’s some video of Bourdain and others being asked to compare various recording artists to food for Average Betty at the UCLA Extension 13th annual Restaurant Industry Conference.

Bourdain would appreciate this rant that he and Iron Chef inspired in Chatterbox Sara against Semi-Homemade’s Sandra Lee. I just recently read a bit about Lee’s nightmarish childhood and wonder if all this abuse will ever make her crack. (I know, Tony would say, “Too late.”)

And blogger hungry4morefoodie, who uses the tagline, “Who exactly is this Anthony Bourdain?” and claims her favorite book is Kitchen Confidential, still has the temerity to wax eloquent about a lunch at Olive Garden. Adding insult to injury, she also doesn’t think Applebee’s sucks. Her affection for the chains Bourdain always mentions as what’s wrong with American cuisine makes her brazen hijacking of his catch-phrase (in lieu of composing something clever herself — you know where Cats Working stands on that) seem like blasphemy.

To end on a side note, Top Chef judge Toby Young was recently hit by a car while bicycling around London — in the middle of the night — so his lack of wit would seem to extend beyond the judges’ table.

27 Responses to Bourdain & Waters Face Off: Reconciliation or Duel?

  1. Bob says:

    Seems with spring all of the bugs are crawling out from under the basement eh… Hello Tony’s been around so long now he’s in danger of becoming OLD news…

    I can’t wait to see what happens with him and Alice, though with his new attitude of late he will probably try the olive branch before he smacks her over the head with the “ORGANICLY GROWN TREE”.

    So where have all the other regulars gone??? Hope they haven’t jumped ship….

    Watched the Basque Spain Episode last night with a New Ottavia sighting.. She sits down to dinner at the end of the show with Tony and the Resturants owners.

    Damm made me hungery almost couldn’t get to sleep after that……

    Hope all is well…
    A Chicken in every pot and Kibble in Every Bowl.


  2. catsworking says:

    Hi, Bob. It has been eerily quiet around here lately. I know Adele has lots of computer problems, so maybe she’s unable to get online. Morgan and the others are MIA.

    There’s a photo around here somewhere of Ottavia in the episode you just saw. I think it’s nice that she got to participate in such a great meal.

    I’m going to be very eager to see reports on Bourdain’s appearance in Hartford. Fortunately, the forum has its own blog, so they should cover it. If Alice Waters comes across as smug in any way over the WH garden, I’m afraid she’ll be setting herself up for a smack-down. And Tony knows if he caves and makes too nice with her, on the heels of going all kissy-kissy with Rachael Ray, his fans will be very disappointed.

  3. Adele says:

    Wouldn’t think of jumping ship, but though I read last week’s posts, I was feeling really uninspired, and I did have an unusually busy week. Alice sends her best, as well; she wondered whether Fred, Yul and Adele celebrated Mother’s Day with Karen. I told her I thought not, because just as she calls me Adele, the Cats Working gang calls Karen, Karen and probably consider her a senior colleague.

    Hard to say how the Tony/Alice Waters meeting will turn out. I think one thing we’ve discovered is that Tony’s easily disarmed, and when someone, he’s thoroughly bashed, turns out to be very civil to him, his snark is reduced. I hope info about the panel is readily available. I don’t find Alice Waters evil, just very unrealistic. We’re no longer an agrarian society and even at farmers’ markets, locally grown, organic food is more expensive than at supermarkets. Whether a person can choose local,organic,sustainable and humanely treated food usually has to do with income. Of course in my perfect world, food, just like education and medical care, would be equally available to everyone, but I AM a socialist and proud of it. If I ever get another cat, it will be male and named Eugene, after Eugene V. Debs.

    BTW, I saw Leonard Cohen in concert last week and was transported. Karen, his music might not be your cup of tea, but his lyrics are pure poetry of a very interesting turn. I’m still on a high from the concert. Bob, you should be proud to claim his as a countryman, albeit from Montreal, rather than the west.

  4. catsworking says:

    Welcome back, Adele!

    I can’t agree with you on Tony caving to Alice Waters if she’s nice to him. What sets her apart from the people he’s snarked on before (Rachael Ray, Emeril, Sandra Lee, to name some) is that their differences go MUCH deeper than his issues with the way she cooks or her skills as a cook, like it basically is with the others.

    I think she gets his back up because she’s preaching something out of the reach of many ordinary people, and he identifies with us after struggling his whole life to make ends meet. Just because he can now afford to pay more for food doesn’t mean he wants to or thinks anyone else should.

    If she gets on one of her organic food soapboxes, I hope he will slap her right off it. And since she’s as passionate about her position as he is about his, there could be fireworks.

    BTW, in our working relationship the cats do like to keep it professional and call me by my first name like a colleague, but when it’s time to open the cans, scoop the boxes, or be the lap they watch TV from, I turn into Mom.

  5. Bob says:

    Well we are VERY proud of Leonard Cohen here in Canada.
    He was actually just here in Winnipeg the other week a couple of my Co Workers went to see him… Even the papers gave the show 5 out of 5. Not bad for a graveled voiced Montreal native..

    I may be posting a bit more in the near future, I am taking advantage of our health care system here. Twisted my ankle and knee at work yesterday so I am in a cast from my foot to my knee and on crutches and off work for at least two weeks…

    Double header of Bourdain coming on the tube in a few min… so I should run and convalesce.

    Limp Limp

  6. Adele says:

    Good grief, Bob, have you become accident prone? Still, it sounds like you’re making the best of it, by watching Bourdain. I trust your cast is the removable kind. I remember having a plaster cast up to my knee and showering with a big trash bag tied around it. In any case, heal fast, and I hope you have some good pain killers.

    Leonard was fabulous — great band and singers, and at age 74, he was still able to sing several songs down on one knee. I keep remembering his recitation of the first lyrics from “Tower of Song.” “My friends are gone; my hair is grey,and I ache in the places where I used to play.” But there’s still a twinkle in his eye. A real inspiration.

  7. Bob says:

    Unfortunately my cast is not removable. So a garbage bag is in my future, I haven’t showered in 2 days and I need to get clean tonight be it a sponge bath or a bag on the foot.

    Canada thankfully is Codeine friendly.. So I have Tylonol 3’s with codeine.. it takes the edge off the pain,, the hardest thing is trying to move stuff around while hobbling, trying to grab a glass of water from the kitchen is “FUN” Thank GOD for Tupperware.. and travel mugs.

    So I have a week at least with the cast on, off work for two weeks or more..

    Just watching Tony and Eric at Les Halles I negotiated the stairs and am watching on the big screen in the basement rec room..

    Thank Goodness for Tony and Playstation I am going to need it !!!!

  8. catsworking says:

    Been there, done that with the garbage bags over the leg cast — twice in my life. Bob, I don’t envy you. I bet the tape you’ll need to keep the water out won’t tickle being ripped off a big hairy man leg. Keep the Tylenol handy.

    But at least you aren’t there all alone 24/7, right?

  9. Bob says:

    No I have the gf looking after me..
    Don’t know how I got so lucky but she’s pretty damm good to me. 🙂

  10. Nancy (Not THAT Nancy) says:

    Hey gang, I still try to check in about once a week. Things have been a little crazy around here.

    I don’t get the beef with Alice Waters. I agree about eating locally grown organic produce even if it’s more expensive. I started doing it last year and it really isn’t more expensive in the long run. If you buy from a local farm it doesn’t go bad as quickly, the food tastes a lot better than supermarket stuff. And it’s better for you in the long run.

    Bourdain has been happy with his animal fat, cigarettes and alcohol diet for a long time and I think it makes him feel justified to sneer at Alice Waters.

    Both ways of eating are fine with me, nobody should impose one’s views on another, and nobody should get on their high horse. We all have choices, and ample ones at that, that’s what makes it so nice.

    Now on to my brown rice and fresh guacamole breakfast…

  11. catsworking says:

    Nancy, I’m still waiting to see a detailed account of the forum with Waters, but reports so far are that Bourdain went really easy on her.

    Maybe for people who live in really temperate climates where produce is available year-round, what Waters advocates is doable. But the rest of us pay through the nose for certain things in certain seasons, and that’s what Bourdain has a problem with.

    And when Waters offered to dictate to Obama what he should eat, that counted as getting on a VERY high horse. If Obama were eating that badly, he wouldn’t be the trim, healthy guy he is today, so Waters’ implication that he could do better was pretty cheeky.

    Also, there are all these boutique, gourmet supermarkets springing up — Whole Foods, Fresh Market, etc. — who sell beautiful stuff — for about 3 times what you’d pay in Food Lion. Most families simply cannot afford to eat that way every day.

    Waters runs a restaurant where one meal costs the price of a family’s week of groceries, so she’s obviously got her head up her ass at what average Americans are willing to pay for food.

    I’m sure Bourdain doesn’t disagree that a Waters diet would be healthier, particularly compared to his. But Bourdain has eaten with so many dirt-poor families around the world, making the best of whatever they can find for pennies, he’s rightfully (I think) contemptuous of Waters’ contention that we should all eat nothing but the purest and freshest of everything, no matter what the cost.

  12. MorganLF says:

    No ship jumping here, but since the IT do nothing overpaid, company-car driving, porn downloading, nothing but overhead aholes blocked me from this site I can’t post as often. We have tons of system glitches and projects not done yet these douche bags get paid to sit around and block out internet access. The latest? We can’t get news. W-T-F? My productivity is compromised by checking the headlines on CNN?

    Since I have a lap top at home that only gets wireless internet in the dining room I rarely log on, except weekends and lately I’ve been joy riding around in my new car. The car has Sirius Satellite Radio and I’ve become reacquainted with the Howard Stern show…before Bourdain he was my passion, and the show is funnier than ever with expletives not deleted.

    I have been known to sit in the car listening for a half hour howling into the air…

    Let me say this re Alice Waters f’ her! I grew up in the suburbs with a mom that did not drive. My dad took her for a once a week food haul at the Shop Rite. With three kids and no way to market daily she did a pretty good job of raising tall healthy athletic ( well my brothers anyway) kids on frozen corn and LeSeur Baby peas, which yes I still like!! We always had a salad on the table and yeah sometimes it was just iceberg and hothouse tomatoes. In the summer my dad’s puny tomatoes and fresh basil and mint hit the scene. It’s not like we never had local fresh I mean this IS Jersey and summer corn and tomatoes and blueberries were on the menu too. We ate wonder bread on sandwiches and Restucci’s fresh crusty Italian that my Dad bought warm after mass to go with Sunday gravy.

    If Ms. Waters was a 50’s housewife stuck in the burbs feeding a family and paying a mortgage on a moderate salary she’d get off her micro green, organic, artisinal ass and throw some Mrs. Pauls fish sticks in the oven and open a can or cream corn!

  13. catsworking says:

    Morgan, you should have sat in for Bourdain at the CT Forum the other night. From what I’ve read so far, he gave her a free pass. More on that later.

    Right now, we’re all getting ready to watch the Preakness. Adele is freaking out over this filly, Rachel Alexandra, who seems poised to kick the boys’ asses, including Fred’s favorite, General Quarters.

  14. Bob says:

    Missed the race today who won?????

  15. Adele says:

    Morgan, good to hear from you. What kind of car? You should drive it in the best of health. Bob, how’s the cast/ankle, etc; has the cast started to itch, yet? From the one thing I read, it did appear that Bourdain gave Alice Waters a free pass, although I did like the fact that when Alice said that it was worth any price to feed school children locally grown, organic, healthful food, Tony said something like, “What about literacy?” I started to think about what you said, Morgan, and it’s true, when we were kids, and I think I’m the senior contributor, here, we all ate a lot of canned food; except for carrots and potatoes and apples and oranges, most of our fresh fruit and veg consumption was in the summer, at least in places that have real winters, and processed stuff like canned soups was the basis for many a casserole. Yet childhood obesity was nowhere near the problem that it is now. Of course, we had PE in school, we played outside; soda was not allowed with meals; in my house, we had stuff like chips only for picnics (and of course on top of tuna noodle casserole), and even I, who preferred reading books to almost anything and was far from a tomboy, occasionally ran around. When I think of how much, not just PE, but art and music classes, has been cut from schools for lack of funds, my blood boils that Alice Waters would think that high class feeding is the most important thing the schools can do. There are so many societal problems that have gotten us into this fix . . .

    I know Adele is excited about Rachel Alexandra — Alice and I watched the Preakness and thought she is a great looking horse. We’re sorry about the General on Fred’s behalf, but I’ll bet he was excited about Rachel, too.

  16. catsworking says:

    Adele, you are so right. My grandmother was a school cafeteria cook, and one of her favorite ingredients was this canned stuff called Veg-All, a mix of all sorts of veggies. I hated it. But I think it was actually considered healthy in those days.

    In addition to PE in school, we were very active, playing outside every day, riding bikes, climbing trees, running. Now the kids just sit around waiting for something to entertain them. I NEVER see kids playing outdoors in my neighborhood. The most anybody does is walk a dog.

    Soft drinks were a treat for us, and I don’t remember there ever being a lot of junk food in the house, I’m sure because we couldn’t afford it. We had to drink milk with meals, except if we were having pickles or Italian, because my mother didn’t think milk went with those and would make us sick. I think maybe we had Kool-Aid (made from packets that required REAL sugar).

    When I lived in Mass., it seemed we could steal some kind of fruit some somebody almost year-round: Macintosh apples, pears, plums, Concord grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries (they grew wild). We were always eating.

    My grandfather had a whole lot behind his house that was a garden, so we’d get tomatoes, corn, peppers, cukes, and other stuff from him.

  17. MorganLF says:

    Adele, you nailed it. Childhood obesity is epidemic. Tony has commented on that a lot.

    We ate bologna but went outside to play. I remember the ugly white gym outfits and jumping jacks!! Never were allowed soda, remember Hi C or Tang? That was a big treat. Chips?? For class trips or parties. There was no Mickey D’s. Rarely we’d head to a burger joint called Goody’s on the highway and get a sack of squashed burgers. My mother cooked every night and when my father was traveling we had a huge treat, breakfast for dinner!! The car is one of those German machines. Look I am big into buy American, but when you build a better mousetrap…..

    Bob there seems to be a pattern here with the CW crew, Karen had a sprain, I broke an ankle and now you!! Adele & Nancy watch your step!

    Did not see the race but here is a bit of trivia, the Preakness was named after a horse that came from the town I live in way back when. Someone with that name an early town father was apparently a horse breeder…forget the rest of the details. I don’t much follow the sport but when I was a kid living in Puerto Rico I remember going to the track with my parents when I was about seven, (apparently it was ok for kids to go). I was allowed to make a bet and chose a horse named Cha Cha. It won and I was delirious with ecstasy, imagine my own horse!!! I can also remember the red-faced shame when at the ticket window ready to retrieve my prize all I got was money!!

  18. Nancy (not THAT Nancy) says:

    I will watch out for my ankle. I don’t know if it counts but I broke my foot back in 2000 when I stepped in a pothole gawking at the sights crossing Park Avenue in NYC. I cannot believe how painful it was! So my sympathies to all you guys with the injuries.

    Loved the story about you thinking you won the horse, Morgan!

    Karen, we used to eat Veg-all at my house, too, and I hated it. It was so bland and mushy. My mother was all about convenience foods and we always were eating canned or frozen foods: succotash, lima beans, pot pies, even those awful TV dinners. My mom and dad loved beef so we had a lot of that, and a lot of pork. I don’t know how I grew up so thin. I guess maybe it was the physical exercise (I walked or rode bikes to school, plus took PE) or maybe it was because we didn’t have high fructose corn syrup in everything. I grew up in NJ and always loved the tomatoes in the summer time.

    I live in Florida and I guess I am spoiled a bit by the fresh vegetables here all winter, and then we are able to import a lot of them in our summer when we don’t grow much here but melons and okra.

    Flash frozen veggies are very good and our local health food store carries organic frozen vegetables. I don’t always buy organic but I do when I can, when it doesn’t break the bank. Some of the markets are priced so ridiculously. The farmer’s market is really the best place to get organic food reasonably. And I do try to grow as much of my own as I can. Especially herbs.

  19. Nancy (not THAT Nancy) says:

    Oh, one more thing, if you do like to occasionally eat good vegetarian dishes, I just bought three terrific new cookbooks. I highly recommend them.

    Vegan Fire & Spice by Robin Robertson
    Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry
    The Tropical Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein

    Even if you don’t eat vegetarian/vegan, you can eat these as side dishes, salads, soups, etc. and then add cheese, eat a meat dish along with them, or even incorporate some kind of meat/fish/poultry into the dish. The recipes are fantastic. I know a lot of people like to find interesting and different ways to cook vegetables and so these books are great for that kind of thing.

  20. catsworking says:

    Morgan, when we were living in Ohio (I was 10-14), our big treat for dinner was for my father to bring home McDonald’s. One hamburger and a small fry each. I think the burgers may have been 15 cents then. When one burger got to be not enough for a growing girl, I was overjoyed when I asked him to bring me 2 and he DID!

    My gym outfit, which I bought in 7th grade and wore all the way through 12th, was a navy blue shorts one-piece thing. Unfortunately, we moved several times in those years and my new schools’ gym suits were different colors, but my mother refused to buy me a new one every time because the old one was perfectly wearable, I was always the oddball in blue.

    When I got to college, the gym suit for the University of Richmond freshmen girls (there were 2 colleges strictly segregated by gender in those days) was a white polo shirt and a navy blue SKIRT with little navy panties underneath. I weighed about 90 lbs., and the smallest skirt they had hung about mid-calf, and I could have stuck my whole head through the armholes of the shirt.

    I must have looked like I was playing dress-up in Mommy’s clothes.

  21. catsworking says:

    Nancy, another big treat for us was TV dinners, but if my mother wasn’t in a good mood she’d make us eat the peas, which I detested. I still hate them, but will eat them if I have to.

    We also ate a lot of beef and pork. In fact, meat every night unless we had pasta. My mother wasn’t a casserole type. To this day, she doesn’t like her food mixed together.

    My grandmother, the Veg-All Queen, for dinner laid a piece of Wonder Bread on the bottom of the plate as a sponge to soak up the gravy from some Veg-All and mystery-meat concoction. I’m sure it was a school recipe because they were always putting sodden bread on the plate. I couldn’t bring myself to choke it down. It was like eating puke.

    Fortunately, just as she set this abomination in front of me, my father showed up to take me home. He said, “Hey, what’s for dinner?” I pushed my plate at him and he wolfed it down. It’s what he grew up on and he LOVED it!

    My grandmother would also butter both slices of bread for bologna or tuna sandwiches, even though they might have mustard or mayo, too. She said, “But the bread is so dry!”

    My father admitted he used to throw his lunchbag into the woods on the way to school when he was a kid because he couldn’t stand butter on a bologna sandwich, then felt guilty all day for wasting food.

  22. MorganLF says:

    Nancy your post made me think about my one vegetarian episode.

    I dug through my cook books and found one my ex-husband bought for me, “The Book of Whole Meals” by Annemarie Colbin. I never really used it, it’s pretty out there with recipes like Millet croquets and Tahini-apple custard. I remember yelling at him what the hell is a TAHINI!??

    This was when we were living in Hoboken yuppie heaven and my yoga instructor (yoga-dear God!)hosted a formal dinner party to which we were invited and the entire menu came from this book. She was this corn-fed Swedish chick.

    It was about 6 couples and it was all vegetarian with at least 4 courses. He loved it and I admit it was pretty tasty but I could not wait to dash home for a butt and a proper cocktail (she served sun tea..ich!)

    The publisher of the book was actually there, one of those skinny, bespectacled, bearded types.

    Needless to say not my scene. Even now looking at the recipes I’m baffled..what the hell are agar flakes? Gimme some TV dinners I absolutely loved them!

    Karen, my grandmother ALWAYS buttered the baloney sandwiches because the bread was “too dry” yecch I never ever ate them and never have. I LIKE dry sandwiches and convulse at the thought of mayonnaise and butter separately together? I’m getting dry heaves!!

  23. Adele says:

    Hi Morgan, come to think of it, my grandmother was a member of the sandwich buttering school, as well. I love butter, but hated bologna and butter sandwiches. Of course Gram still had favorites that no doubt were part of Depression cuisine. I remember that when she’d make baked beans, she’d slather two pieces of bread with butter, and make a sandwich — the same with sliced onions and fried potatoes. She also firmly believed that lard made the best pie crust, although in later years, she switched to solid Crisco.

    I’ve toyed with cooking vegitarian, and I find the recipes in the Moosewood Cookbook to be very good — Moosewood uses dairy and eggs, which broadens the horizon considerably. Millet, yecchh! I once saw a nutritionist for awhile, and she was big on food combinations. Millet appeared pretty frequently. I remember going to a park with a friend, thinking that I’d enjoy my wretched food more al fresco. I tried to give some millet to pigeons, and they spurned it.

  24. catsworking says:

    Morgan, you are a breath of fresh air.

    You know, I go many days without eating meat, and I really don’t buy a lot of meat because I never grill outside, so I guess you could call me an occasional, accidental vegetarian.

  25. MorganLF says:

    Adele my mother was a depression child and ate mayonnaise and onion sandwiches…hurl!

    I don’t eat meat EVERY day. In fact I’m making lentil soup. But as Tony says everything goes better with pork. So I start with a base of sauteed onions and smoky pancetta. Positively delicious.

    I also make a mean broccoli cheddar quiche ( when I am in a quiche, salad and white wine mood). However I admit freely that a big fat steak is a favorite meal, and don’t hold back on the sour cream for my baked tater.

  26. catsworking says:

    And I thought MY grandmother invented that bologna and butter thing.

    When I was a baby and my father was a grocery store employee, he talked about bringing baked bean sandwiches for his lunch and said they were very messy, but that’s all we could afford. My parents also said they ate popcorn for dinner a lot.

    One of my earliest memories is of smuggling my mother into drive-in movies. She’d make a lot of popcorn and put it in a foil-lined shoebox, then lie on the back floor of the car covered with a blanket, and I’d be instructed to stand on her so the ticket seller wouldn’t notice her. Once we were in, she’d come out and sit up front.

    I think I saw The King and I and Gigi like that because I seemed know the music almost from birth.

    OK, now maybe you guys can tell me about edamame. What is it and how does it taste? It looks like lima beans to me, but I’ve read that it can be SNACK food. I’m tempted to try it, but want more info before I buy it. Also, fresh or frozen?

  27. catsworking says:

    I’m with you on the steak, Morgan. I don’t care what they say about red meat. And give me a baked potato with butter AND sour cream.

    Tonight it’s crab cakes for me. Got them at Sam’s Club and they are DELICIOUS.

    I am also guilty of eating pot pies for lunch, as well as ramen noodles, whose fat and sodium is off the charts. I’ve tried the kind that are “good” for you and they taste like crap.

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