Bones to Pick with Bourdain

By Karen

In another new episode of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain shows us around Dubai for almost 5 minutes before plunging his fingers into mush that looks like vomit. Except for one scene in a deserted Gordon Ramsay restaurant where he wields a knife and fork, it’s finger food everywhere else, even if it has the consistency of sour cream.

My highlight is Bourdain on skis on a snowy slope manufactured from desalinated water in the Mall of the Emirates. His well-honed sense of the absurd also gets a good workout.

But I still can’t wait for him to get to Rome and Paris, where people don’t eat every meal like toddlers.

Must confess I finally abandoned The Best American Travel Writing of 2008, which Tony edited, due to its everywhere-but-Europe emphasis. I understood why he was drawn to the essays he picked, but enough’s enough.

I call “Bullshit!” on “Where it All Began” when Bourdain asserted he hardly considers writing a “craft” and has learned nothing about it because he just writes the way he talks.

Yeah, and all his first drafts are publishable.

Tony originally aspired to be a novelist with Bone in the Throat and Gone Bamboo. He had to know something about plotting, pacing, character development, dialogue, description, point of view. There’s much more to crime fiction than “writing the way you talk.”

Granted, he finally hit one out of the park with Kitchen Confidential, which he just called his first “real” book on his blog. Of the 7 books he’s produced since, 6 have been nonfiction (The Bobby Gold Stories is the exception).

But his next book will probably be a novel, since he’s got personal appearances here through at least February 2011 and the Vietnam book still seems iffy.

And now for my coup de grâce…

The other night I caught about 20 minutes of Samantha Brown in — guess where? — Vietnam. I hadn’t seen her in while, and she seems to be over her “Golly, gee, I’m just a dumb American, but ain’t everything lovely!” phase. She met people and tried things most tourists would probably never do. She ate bun cha, but didn’t dwell on it. Vietnam through her eyes seemed more appealing than Tony makes it.

There, I said it.

Tony and family have been enjoying some much-needed R&R in Italy, but there’s a little news…

Jonathan Sorof at The Improper Bostonian did an interview some time in June with Tony where I learned that Brussels sprouts are part of his Thanksgiving dinners. Yeecchhh!

Here’s the article and photos of the Bourdains in the July 5 People, in case you missed it. collected Bourdain’s best one-liners from “Where it All Began.”

Blogger Scott D. Parker did write a review of the Medium Raw audio book, which he devoured. Scott, just for the record, No Reservations’ 100th episode isn’t until September 6, and it will be in Paris, returning where Tony filmed the first episode. Travel Channel is advertising for tributes.

Village Voice reports that a panel of editors will select the finalists from which Bourdain will choose a winner in the Medium Raw essay contest, which is now up to 1,300 entries. He was checking the site and commented on a few in the beginning, but the chances of him reading your essay now seem pretty slim.

The New York Post, still referring to Les Halles as “Bourdain’s flagship brasserie,” reported that the restaurant received a B grade on a recent Health Department inspection for “evidence of mice, problems with plumbing and food left out unprotected from contamination.”

9 Responses to Bones to Pick with Bourdain

  1. Adele says:

    Next week NR in Rome! I can hardly wait. I have to say, if it hadn’t been Bourdain, I never would have watched a show about Dubai, and it’s certainly not on my vacation wish list. I knew about that “ski Dubai” run, but watching skiing in a mall was just bizarre.

    Even though SATC2 was supposedly set in Dubai, as I recall, they filmed in Morocco, because of the conservative political climate in Dubai, right? I did think that last night’s scenes with at the Emirati family’s house were interesting, and I thought some of the food looked pretty good; it was a beautifully set table.

  2. catsworking says:

    Adele, the episodes of No Res I’ve been watching in advance (Thank You, Brandon at Room 214!) don’t have commercials, so I didn’t realize Rome is next. Yippee!!

    I know I sound like the worst ugly American, but India is a particular UNfavorite country of mine for highly irrational personal reasons, and I have no inclination whatsoever to visit any Arab country where women are veiled or treated second-class in any way, so the past few weeks of the show have been rough going.

    And I don’t know why it bothers me, but watching a bunch of men sit around pawing at a communal trough just turns me off completely. The only thing that kept me watching was their conversation. They sounded a lot more intelligent and enlightened than their table manners made them look.

    And if I want to see food like that, all I have to do is reach for the Fancy Feast and pop a can. 😉

    You’re right about SATC2. Dubai decided that the whole premise was too racy and wouldn’t let them film there, so they moved production to Morocco. I think the movie was also banned in Dubai.

    Dubai offered $100 million for QE2 while she was still in service, and Cunard jumped at it and retired the ship, realizing it was probably the best offer they would ever get. The plan was for the ship to become a static attraction, more lavish than the Queen Mary in Long Beach, so everyone was thrilled she would be spared scrapping.

    Then we heard they were going to remove the funnel and turn it into a penthouse and some other crazy things (don’t know if any were ever confirmed). Then the work stopped. I think the ship is just sitting there, and may still end up at the scrappers’. Why Dubai ever wanted an historic British liner in the first place is anybody’s guess.

  3. MorganLF says:

    I think Sex in the City was Abu Dhabi wasn’t there a line about Dubai being so yestrday? Anywho you’ll never catch me thre either and the food all being pawed by men and their stink fingers….uggghhh!

    Ps I just saw a podcast done in November with Alan Richman (aka Douchebag of Medium Raw Fame)and none other than Ripert! He has Eric at his house and makes a souffle and things from the local Costco! Its on “you tube”.

    The essay contest is amusing because the comments are getting nasty especially over the really bad ones that are getting thousands of votes irrationally.

  4. catsworking says:

    Morgan, you are absolutely right! I do believe they were in Abu Dhabi because that Arab guy at Smith’s premiere told Samantha that Dubai was passe. Thanks for setting us straight.

    I’ll have to look up that YouTube video, but I wouldn’t know Adam Richman if I ran over him.

    I haven’t spent much time checking out the contest. The number of entries has become overwhelming. Good to hear that the commenters are keeping it real.

  5. Adele says:

    The last family meal on NR-Dubai actually had women sitting at the table, and I believe forks were used.

    That’s so said about the QE2. I have a friend, who thought he was dying of AIDS (then the drug cocktails came out), so he went around the world, first class on the QE2 in 1995, I think. I know he had very fond feelings toward her.

    You’re right, Morgan, it was Abu-Dabi in SATC2. Traveling in the Arab world doesn’t hold much interest for me, either, although a cruise down the Nile and seeing the pyramids would be somewhere on my list. And speaking of cruises, one of the cruises I’ve always wanted to take is the Venice to Istanbul cruise, with stops at the Greek Islands. Of course, I’d want to stay in Venice for several days; it’s one of my favorite places.

  6. Zappa says:

    I’m with you ,Karen. I am un-PC enough to say that any place where women are second class citizens would never get my vacation dollars.India looks just gross.There.I said it. I do,however,eat with my hands on occasion.

    Zappa mom

  7. catsworking says:

    Adele, I was just recording the Dubai episode and watched the last meal. Yes, the men were eating with forks and spoons (fork in left hand, spoon in right), and they cut the meat with a knife and used big spoons for serving, but the father looked like he was only using his fingers. Old school, I guess.

    I never sailed on the QE2 myself, but was told by many people she was my kind of ship and I would have loved her. She had a VERY loyal following and they were dismayed at first about the sale to Dubai, but since the alternative was to eventually end up being torn to pieces by two-legged termites on some filthy beach, most likely in India, they came to see it as a blessing.

    I would also love to cruise to the places you mentioned. I’ve never been to Italy, and it’s high on my list.

    Zappa, I eat a lot of stuff with my fingers, but not things like potato salad, cole slaw, mac & cheese, baked beans, soup. It’s the mess factor. Of course, these other cultures often use bread as a scoop, but the last thing we Westerners need is more bread!

  8. Dana says:

    I’ve never commented here before, but I just have to get this out! In the article scan from People, it shows Anthony “serving up roasted pig.” But look at their plates! It’s pasta! No pig to be seen! Why on earth did People feel that they had to photoshop in more interesting food?! Arg, it’s so silly!

    Thanks for letting me get that out. 🙂

  9. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Dana! I think People blew it on that caption. Someone wrote it without looking at the photo.

    In the table of contents of that issue, which you don’t see in the online version, there’s a picture of Tony standing in his tiny narrow kitchen in oven mitts with the head of the roasted pig sticking out of the oven. I think it’s a papier mache fake. Since he’s well known for loving pork, the photographer must have thought it would make a cute prop at the table. But that pasta on their plates looked like it might have come out of a can of Chef You-Know-Who, and it wasn’t the type of meal anyone would add a side of roast pork to.

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