“Appetites” by Anthony Bourdain: A Book Review

November 23, 2016

By Karen

Since Anthony Bourdain hit critical mass, turning whatever he touches to triumph, it’s unsurprising that Appetites: A Cookbook is hitting best seller lists and getting rave reviews.

It’s beautifully produced under his own Ecco imprint, with recipe titles in a font that must be called BourdainHand. Its many full-page photos include several of wife Ottavia and daughter Ariane (never full face; he explains it’s her decision on how public to go when she’s old enough). Ottavia’s grappling dummy and Eric Ripert even make appearances.

Overall, the photos and artwork are intended more to shock and awe than illustrate. Bourdain told a talk show host (one of the Jimmys) that bookstores are wrapping the book in paper because the cover art is disturbing. Inside are gratuitous animal parts and guts, including a pig bladder inflated to float like a balloon.

appetites

I’m surprised the photo of Tony (page 176) armed and barely recognizable in camo hasn’t been hijacked by the alt-right. He could be Donald Trump’s poster boy.

It’s probably the only cookbook you’ll ever own with the words fuck and shit sprinkled throughout like condiments.

It’s dedicated to Ariane and Jacques. No, not Pépin, but Ariane’s BFF, the son of her Filipino nanny (see page 246).

As a Bourdainiac, I was fascinated by his deconstructions of what we’ve seen him eat. The dishes reflect his constant globetrotting, and perhaps unintentionally drive home that someone else cooked and cleaned up later. The book’s a towering testament to how thoroughly out of touch he has become with how regular people eat.

He claims the recipes are from his childhood, his travels, and “food memories” he shares with his daughter. If that’s true, Tony and Ariane are the creepiest father-daughter duo since Gomez and Wednesday Addams because 9-year-old Ariane must be possessed of the presence of mind to ask, “Daddy, can I have a Roast Beef Po’ Boy?” two days before she wants to eat it, because that’s how long it takes to make one (page 81).

Many recipes have a two-day lead time, not including shopping at specialty stores or Amazon to assemble myriad ingredients you’ve probably never heard of. This makes them also very pricey and will leave you with a pantry full of slightly used shit you’ll have no idea what else to do with.

For example, Korean Fried Chicken (page 165) looked good until I realized I was fresh out of gochugaru, gochujama, and cheongju, not to mention four QUARTS of oil, and I needed two days to fry it twice.

His whole steamed chicken, “Poulet ‘en vessie,’” (page 168) seems reasonable enough until you need to grab four whole truffles and 4 oz. of foie gras out of the fridge.

With each recipe, he thoughtfully includes a list of any special equipment needed. This often consists of a plate “lined with newspapers” for draining.

REALLY??!! Does he ever gaze out over his adoring, hip young audiences during personal appearances and see people who would ever dream of buying an actual newspaper? Would they even recognize one if they saw it?

Otherwise his cooking instructions and advice are pretty spot-on, if snarky, with occasional lapses into Les Halles-speak. For example, as an alternative to tossing his Salad of Boston Lettuce with Radishes, Carrots, Apples, and Yogurt-Chive Dressing (page 29), he suggests leaving everything “segregated, as for salade composée.” Got that?

My current idol, Jacques Pépin, gets mentioned in the first two recipes involving eggs for his cracking and stirring techniques. But Bourdain reveals himself as the unPépin of home cooking. Where Jacques relies on ordinary ingredients and simple preparation, with an eye always on the budget, Bourdain’s recipes are the polar opposite.

I noticed Tony lifted one recipe, Linguine with White Clam Sauce (page 126) from Pépin, which was named after Pépin’s wife, “Gloria’s Linguine with Clam Sauce.” The only differences are that they prefer different types of clams, Bourdain throws in butter (he uses vats) and he doesn’t mention topping with parmesan cheese.

Appetites probably won’t be your go-to cookbook when you need a quick and tasty meal on the table. If your idea of what constitutes a good recipe matches mine…

  1. Is it straightforward and uncomplicated?
  2. Do I already have most of the ingredients?
  3. Can I make it without destroying the whole kitchen?
  4. Can it be done in one day?

…for most of Bourdain’s dishes, the answers are no, no, no, and no.

I did like his tip on making a Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions (page 84). Instead of butter, he slathers the outside of the bread with mayonnaise for a nice brown crust. But then he blows it by recommending freaking Japanese milk bread, whatever the hell that is.

There’s no dessert chapter because Tony says he’s not a pastry chef and would rather have cheese.

Pépin, on the other hand, has many dessert recipes from his childhood that often call for a simple store-bought dough or cake, with fruit and preserves. They require no special skill, they’re quick, and they look tasty.

Bourdain’s chapter on Thanksgiving seems useful until he recommends roasting a small “stunt turkey” for looks and then a “business bird” you actually carve and eat — AND making stock with an additional 5-7 lbs. of wings and necks.

Blogger Treehugger totally went off on the stunt turkey, so I’ll let her handle that.

The book’s best, most usable chapter is Sides. I’d definitely try the Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame (page 241) because jazzing up cauliflower is a thing for me. And I’ve already tried Korean-Style Radish Pickles (page 251) because I had an abundance of radishes, although not the daikon he recommends.

It’s only been two days (he recommends three), but here they are. They look more like chopped hot dogs now, but they taste OK, slightly sweet, with a tad of bite.

pickledradishes

I consult my two Pépin cookbooks almost daily, Appetites isn’t meant to be like that. It’s more of a grand “Fuck you!” to the cookbook genre.

I’ll let it sit beside Tony’s also little-used Les Halles Cookbook and maybe ask for an autograph if he ever passes through Richmond again and forgives me for this review.

BONUS VIDEO: Tony recently stopped by to cook with Mario Batali on The Chew. They made Budae Jjigae, a Korean SPAM stew (page 58).

BONUS PLUS: Michael Brendan Dougherty in The Week had an interesting take on Appetites, comparing it to Alton Brown’s new book, Everyday Cook, as spiritual autobiographies.

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Catching Up with Bourdain

May 26, 2015

By Karen

It’s impossible to “catch up” with Anthony Bourdain anymore. He’s always going at full steam in a dozen directions, but these are some noteworthy developments I’ve been tracking.

We’re mid-season with Parts Unknown on CNN. I particularly enjoyed Miami. I’ve been there a few dozen times, and did a double-take upon seeing our paths virtually cross for a split second when he flashed the Colony Hotel’s Art Deco façade. I stayed there in October.

Back in Tony’s Travel Channel days, you’d never imagine him becoming comedy fodder for the likes of Billy Crystal. But a recent episode of The Comedians on FX began with a parody called Unknown Parts, with Crystal strolling around in a silver wig, and then tasting several courses of human testicles, which all caused him to projectile vomit onto his co-star.

And then Tony popped up on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in a shot of his younger self out in some wilderness, saying armadillo tastes like chicken.

Speaking of popping up, something that has pooped out is a fourth season of The Taste on ABC. Not even Bourdain’s Emmy nomination as best host could save it.

I’ve always said the premise of cramming one meal onto a spoon was ridiculous, and the dwindling audience apparently agreed. It was the culinary equivalent of Dancing with the Stars staging all routines in a phone booth, or forcing aspiring American Idols to sing into an empty mayonnaise jar instead of a mic.

If The Taste accomplished anything, it was to give Nigella Lawson refuge and camaraderie while she was going through a personal nightmare. And it spawned worldwide franchises that may very well keep it a nice income stream for years to come.

Coming up June 2, Bourdain will be inducted in the RealScreen Awards Hall of Fame in Santa Monica as Person of the Year. Parts Unknown is nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Reality Series, and Tony for Best Reality Series Host. A&E is supposed to broadcast the awards live May 31.

Boudain hits the road July 7 for a 10-city personal appearance tour called Close to the Bone. Unfortunately, he’s coming nowhere near these parts. (I’m waiting for Tony to get wind of Richmond’s growing reputation as the newest foodie utopia and drop by for a few bites.)

And then there’s literary Bourdain. Still no word on the novel, but October 20 he’s got a prequel to his graphic novel, Get Jiro!, coming out. It’s called, Get Jiro: Blood & Sushi.

In addition, he’s co-authoring with Lauri Woolover a new cookbook called Appetites to be published by Ecco imprint in fall 2016. It sounds more down-to-earth than the French recipes and techniques he covered in the Les Halles Cookbook.

Speaking of Les Halles (as in, the market in Paris), Bourdain’s vision of a vast American counterpart in New York City took another step toward reality, after many months of speculation.

Bourdain Market will reputedly occupy 100,000 square feet (double the size of Mario Batali’s Eataly) in a new facility being constructed in the Meatpacking District on the Upper West Side at West 15th Street, Pier 57, on the Hudson River.

Here’s an excerpt from the linked Commercial Observer article…

Stephen Werther, Mr. Bourdain’s business partner, said that the food hall will ‘include a farmers market with an oyster bar, bakery, tapas bar and much more,’ according to Eater. It will house 100 vendors – some permanent, some for a few weeks at a time – and will include a rooftop beer garden.

The new food court will cost between $20 million and $30 million to build, Eater indicated.

‘We will work with the tourism boards to create a complete experience of the place. Not just prepared food or packaged food but serving ware, cookware, cookbooks, cooking demos, everything to promote the area,’ Eater quotes Mr. Werther as saying.

It sounds like a place where you could easily lose yourself for a weekend.

And, finally, in spite of the utter contempt he’s always shown toward the James Beard Awards, Bourdain’s series, Mind of a Chef, won for Best On-Location Food Program for the 3rd straight year.

If there’s one thing nobody can ever accuse Anthony Bourdain of, it’s being lazy.


Bourdain’s Got a Bone in the Throat: the Movie

March 20, 2015

By Karen

Not all fans may know that Anthony Bourdain was a chef/moonlighting novelist before he hit bestsellerdom with his nonfiction restaurant exposé, Kitchen Confidential, in 2000.

Bourdain published his first crime novel, Bone in the Throat, in 1995, followed in 1997 by another one, Gone Bamboo.

Over the past few years, Bourdain’s career hit critical mass and now he’s on a roll, with one success after another. I knew he’d arrived when his birthday appeared last year in the “Born This Day” list of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Anyway, actor Ed Westwick plays Will Reeves (called Tommy Pagana in the book), an aspiring chef who works under this guy, whom I don’t believe ever gets named…

The chef, the tallest one, was pale and thin, with long brown hair that curled out from under his chef’s hat. He held a copy of Larousse Gastronomique and was turning the pages furiously. He wore the hat high on his forehead and pulled straight back like a skullcap. A cigarette dangled from his mouth.

In chapter 18, we get more description of this chef…

His face in the bathroom mirror was pale and bloodless. Tiny pupils floated around in watery, bloodshot eyes. His thick brown hair was too long, sticking up at odd angles, and his sideburns were uneven…. One tooth was missing on the right side, but you couldn’t see it; there was one crumbling molar on the left, also invisible to the casual observer, and a chipped eyetooth.

The chef moved his eyes down over his naked, bony chest: protruding ribs, the stomach that was showing the beginnings of a paunch. He examined his arms. There were no tracks to speak of, only a small, yellowish bruise in the crook of his left arm.

Remind you of anyone we know?

Well, I’m sure the paunch must be gone since he took up MMA and lost 30 lbs., and his arms are now covered with tattoos.

The story for the movie was transported from Manhattan to London’s East End for some reason, and premiered March 14 at a film festival at the Alamo Ritz in Austin, Texas. Here’s the trailer…

The Austin Chronicle gave it a positive review.

Variety, not so glowing.

The movie’s official website includes some recipes, although food isn’t a central character.

I doubt this flick will ever make it to a Richmond screen, but that gives me time to reread the book before I get my hands on it.

Having read both novels years ago, I remember little about the plots. But I do recall laughing out loud at Bourdain’s sharp dialogue and vivid, witty descriptions of the seedy gangster underworld his imagination dwelled in.

Diving back into his fiction is one task on my To-Do list that I eagerly look forward to doing.


Would Bourdain Call Frito Pie a Manly Meal?

October 7, 2013

By Karen

My new DVR has changed my TV viewing dramatically, but somehow I always come back to Anthony Bourdain, who still surprises me after all these years.

Last night, I binge-rewatched the first 3 episodes of Parts Unknown Season 2, with Season 1 “Prime Cuts.” After his visit to Israel, I’m still trying to wrap my head around Tony’s claim that he grew up totally without religion.

None of his books have a freaking index, and I’ve been unable to find where I KNOW I read that he was once an altar boy. Tony the innocent little Catholic kid is part of his persona to me, and I know it’s not backstory I dreamed up. I was as surprised to read he was that deep into Catholicism as I was to just learn he’s half-Jewish.

Not that his religion matters either way, but he’s been accused by various drive-by commenters at Cats Working of periodically reinventing himself, and I’m wondering if we’re seeing some of that now.

Google didn’t help, but I did find this one-liner Eater quoted from No Reservations: Naples in 2011…

“I’m not exactly a good Catholic. I do have the paperwork to suggest that I might be.”

Not exactly a good Catholic? Those don’t sound like the words of an atheist, or even an agnostic, as he proudly claims to be now.

Anybody else out there remember anything?

And then he went and ate Frito pie in New Mexico. Ever since, my Bourdain Google alerts have been filled with outrage — even though Tony said the disgusting mess was “delicious.”

The butt-hurt sprang from his snarky voiceover that Frito pies are made with “canned Hormel chili and a Day-Glo orange cheese-like substance.” If you haven’t seen it, here’s the offending scene…

The fallout was immediate and widespread. A blogger for Houston Chron asked if Bourdain is a “mindless cretin” or “culinary fraud.”

Note: Check the comment under that post from Oct. 2. Hmmm… any guesses on who the mysterious Texan-baiting “B” might be?

Frito pie chili is homemade and the cheese real. Bourdain has apologized for intimating otherwise.

I tried to imagine a dish as gross, and came up with a dessert…

  • Take one bag of unopened Oreos and smash it.
  • Slit the bag open down the side.
  • Warm a jar of peanut butter to soften, then put two big scoops onto the broken Oreos.
  • Douse the whole thing liberally in Hershey’s chocolate syrup.
  • Dig in and enjoy!

I recently read Bourdain’s new short story, “The Ten Manliest Meals in America,” in the Summer 2013 edition of Lucky Peach. Yes, I actually shelled out $12 to read 4 pages.

I wouldn’t call it a short story, but an 1,800-word character sketch of an unnamed 65-year-old, twice-divorced New-York-based food writer at a men’s magazine who drinks and ruminates on writing the article that constitutes the story’s title.

Perhaps there’s a nod to Ottavia in the character’s first wife who, he recalls, ordered a T-bone for two, then…

“Polished it off in ten minutes flat, picked the bone up with manicured fingers and gnawed the thing down to a shine. The Serbian waiters masquerading as Italians had clapped admiringly and cried ‘Bravissima!’ She’d never looked so beautiful. He’d never felt so in love.”

And was Tony waxing autobiographical when he wrote…

“His mother had been the strength of the family. He’d loved and been loved by two magnificent women in his time.”

For me, the piece was Bourdain’s vision of his future self had he not met and married Ottavia.

But was it a glimpse into the novel he’s been writing, or discarded pages? Or just a one-off for his buddy, David Chang?

I guess time will tell. But even if it’s a throwaway, I still love his dead-on eye for detail, which shines in his description of the perfect manly meal…

“Chicken wings at a no-name strip club, blacked-out windows, meth-head bouncer, the bar lined with flabby, middle-aged men like him, most of them neutered by diabetes, gout, and high blood pressure, pawing at cold-eyed girls who despised them and their hot-sauce stained fingers.”

BONUS: Tony talked to The Guardian about his family values, with more on his late father than I’ve ever seen anywhere.


Does This Collar Make My Butt Look Big?

September 25, 2013

By Karen

No, that’s not the opening of a joke, but the title of a new diet book for cats by feline humor writer Dena Harris, who claims, “In less time than it takes to cough up a hairball, you too can be fit, feline, and fabulous!”

DoesThisCollar

I think this is the most comprehensive diet book on the market today for cats, and Harris recommends various popular diets according to specific cat types, such as comatose, OCD, ADD, chronic dieter, and psycho kitties.

(My own recent regimen is recommended for chronic dieters in a chapter entitled, “Catty Craig Versus Weight Stalkers.”)

Harris begins with a Quizzzz to help kitties identify their type, with questions like:

When I eat, I most resemble a

a. DustBuster (compact, goes everywhere, picks up every last bit)
b. Dyson Vacuum Cleaner (innovative technology!)
c. Shop-Vac (works on wet or dry food — industrial strength!)
d. Pimped-up Hoover (powerful suction!)

I’ve always wondered if my pink and silver sparkly collar makes my butt look big, but after reading Dena’s book, I now feel confident it doesn’t. Between the calories I expend dodging my two dimwitted “brothers” and plotting ways to kill them, I manage to stay fit and fabulous from every angle. —Adele

Harris also has exercise recommendations to help flabby felines feel the burn, such as Psycho Kitty Workouts, which include paragliding off kitchen countertops, freefalling off doors and cabinets and, of course, the three-hour nap.

One morning I woke up to discover that overnight I had gone from lithe kitten to tomcat with an embarrassing pooch looks like a furry fanny pack. This book inspired me to kick my favorite sport of door-slamming up a notch because I now realize that it not only scares the bejeebers out of Karen, but every time I lunge for (and miss) the doorknob, I’m working my triceps, gluts, and abs and getting a great slam. It’s a win-win!  —Max

Cats will be inspired by the tail tale of Madame Puss, a slender French chatte who acquired the eating habits of Americans who adopted her, with predictable results. When her owner had to glue 2 flea collars together to fit her, Puss took matters into her own paws to restore balance and her joie de purr. Her Magical Eek! Soup is made from chewed food, dust bunnies, and dog’s blood. But rather than eat it, you let your human think it’s souris (mouse) guts and lavish treats on you for being such a fit hunter.

This book is really thorough, so I was surprised Dena didn’t include my diet secret. I call it “The Chipmunk Chew,” and here’s how it works: Stuff kibble in your face until your cheeks bulge. Then chew slowly while sauntering all over the house, dribbling a trail of spitty kibble. By the time the mouthful is swallowed, you’ve left half of it on the floor. You cut calories while getting an aerobic workout, and your human gets some cardio while cleaning up after you. That’s how I stay on the good side of the vet’s scale. —Cole

As you can see, this book has got the Cats Working kitties all abuzz. Does This Collar Make My Butt Look Big? has some laugh-out-loud moments and is a high-quality hardcover by Ten Speed Press, retailing for $12.99.

Cats Working gives Dena Harris 12 paws up — and a bag of Temptations® treats.


Marilyn Hagerty, Kindred Spirit

September 3, 2013

By Karen

The book deal Anthony Bourdain forged with Marilyn Hagert bore fruit on August 27 when an anthology of her newspaper columns, Grand Forks, a History of American Dining in 128 Reviews, was released by Bourdain’s imprint at Ecco Press.

I still have no desire to read it, but I caught online last week this clip of Hagerty doing the Today Show.

Only in a galaxy far, far away would an author publishing 30-year-old material be getting even a nanosecond of air time on any national talk show. Indeed, during Hagerty’s interview, they flashed several pics of Bourdain, looking fetching, as if to explain why they were letting this relative nobody fill space between their commercial breaks.

But it was while Matt and Savannah had Marilyn taste and give a spot review on the latest NYC foodie obsession, the cronut, which Marilyn pronounced “chewy,” that it suddenly occurred to me…

In spite of all the attention she’s gotten from Bourdain and the foodie elite since her review of Olive Garden went viral, Marilyn Hagerty was, and always will be, an UnFoodie!

She eats at Taco Bell and McDonald’s. She eats things out of cans. She probably eats cheese slices wrapped in cellophane. And her readers do likewise. And they enjoy it.

In other words, like most of us, Marilyn Hagerty eats to live, she doesn’t live to eat.

As I watched Marilyn hold her own against that pair of New York sophisticates, possibly not even realizing she was defanging them with her innate civility and common sense, I felt great admiration for her.

In the airless, jaded realm of food worship, where the grosser and scarcer a thing is, the more tasty it must be, Marilyn Hagerty speaks with a clear voice for the goodness of a meatloaf made with ketchup and cheap hamburger.

(Yeah, I know Bourdain’s been saying pretty much the same thing while flogging her book, but somehow it rings hollow coming out of his ortolon-tainted mouth. I, on the other hand, have no dog in this fight.)

The plain food we UnFoodies eat is OK, too. Sometimes it’s even tasty. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We shouldn’t feel bad about being grossed out by bugs and animal guts. It’s OK if our cheese is wrapped in plastic so it doesn’t get moldy.

Marilyn, you go, girl!


Bourdain Goes Short (Story)

August 16, 2013

By Karen

Mark your calendar. Anthony Bourdain’s got a short story in the #8 issue of Lucky Peach, which is themed “The Gender Issue.” The magazine is on newsstands September 13. I think I’ve seen it in Target, so I won’t miss Tony’s latest foray into fiction. I wonder if it’s a preview of the novel he’s been working on?

But before that…

On August 27, Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews by Marilyn Hagerty, is being released by Bourdain’s imprint at Ecco Press.

UPDATE: Eater has published the full text of Bourdain’s foreword to the book. Nicely done, Tony. But the book still sounds like a snooze.

Since Grand Forks happens to be Hagerty’s stomping grounds, the title is brilliant, but the cover design evokes the ‘50s. I predict if sales are disappointing, that cover will become a scapegoat.

It’s only available in paperback and retails for $14.99. ($11.98 on Amazon.)

Hagerty is 86 now, and when not asking myself, “Why, God, WHY HER??!! I’ve been happy for her to finally see her work in bound form after all her decades in newsprint.

UNTIL I just learned the Grand Forks Herald published The Best of The Eatbeat with Marilyn Hagerty as a 99-cent, 59-page Kindle e-book last year after her Olive Garden review went viral and Bourdain started sniffing around.

AND in 1994, her paper published a hefty paperback anthology of her work called, Echoes, A Selection of Stories and Columns. It’s now out of print, but 2 autographed, exorbitantly-priced copies are available on Amazon.

UPDATE: One copy has disappeared since I started writing this, so some idiot astute collector must have snapped it up.

As for Grand Forks, my inner UnFoodie has this reaction to reading decades-old reviews of local joints in North Dakota, sandwiched between covers that remind me of My Little Margie, even if annotated with updates on their status today…

Who cares?

But it will be interesting to see if the foodie fire Hagerty lit with her earnest Olive Garden piece still burns hot and consumes enough copies to propel her to the bestseller list.


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