“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.


Bourdain Slurps Noodles with Obama

September 23, 2016

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain’s CNN series Parts Unknown is worth watching Sunday, September 25, 9 p.m. ET. He’s in Hanoi, Vietnam, and shares noodles and beer with President Obama in a small local joint.

Obama’s approval rating is at about 58%, so having a beer with a popular guy like Bourdain can only reflect well on Hillary. In fact, it’s a shame it’s not Hillary.

The intended contrast with Donald Trump is unmistakable. Not only would Trump never be caught dead in such humble surroundings, but you know he can’t use chopsticks and he’s incapable of small talk.

Luckily for Bourdain, Angelina Jolie’s divorce from Brad Pitt immediately eclipsed the Bourdain breakup announcement. The Bourdains can’t hope to have drama that remotely compares to allegations of Pitt being a substance- and child-abuser.

Today I read this Washington Post article where Tony mentions being in London during the Brexit vote (Parts Unknown to air Oct. 23) and did a double-take at the undated CNN photo of Nigella Lawson making Tony breakfast in her home.

Breakfast?!

As I’ve pondered Bourdain’s post-Ottavia life, the woman who sprang to mind as his next potential companion was Nigella. They’ve known each other for years, and he was there for her when her marriage fell apart while they were filming The Taste together.

I am absolutely NOT implying any illicit behavior, but if Tony does end up on his own, he could do a lot worse than Nigella. In fact, he DID do a lot worse before he met Ottavia.

On Parts Unknown last season, Bourdain wore no wedding ring. I should have mentioned months ago that it was his best ever, winning his 4th straight Outstanding Series Emmy. I’ve forgotten details, but every episode touched me in some way — tears, laughter, sheer wonder at the amazing cinematography.

Ottavia published an article in August on Lena Dunham’s site Lenny about how she got into MMA. Her byline included her maiden name and mentioned only her daughter, as if she’s a single mother.

So hints about the breakup were out there, even before the big announcement.

Bourdain has a new home-cooking book coming out on October 25 called Appetites. And he revealed in a recent interview with Uproxx that he’s about to start another book. I wonder what happened to the novel he’s been working on for years?

BONUS: Bourdain’s Russian sidekick Zamir Gotta has permanently defected to Buffalo, New York, to launch Zamir Vodka. And Trump’s worried about Mexicans.

DOUBLE BONUS: Here’s Bourdain’s latest episode of Raw Craft, a series he does for Balvenie Distillery featuring expert craftspeople. This one is in North Carolina with a pearl-wearing metalsmith named Elizabeth Brim.


Page Six Reports the Bourdains Have Separated

September 20, 2016

By Karen

Late yesterday afternoon I got one of those shocks that feels like an elevator going into a sudden plunge when I read this Page Six article announcing that Anthony Bourdain and his wife Ottavia have been separated for some time.

I’d noticed Ottavia seemed scarce on Twitter. And Tony didn’t wear his wedding ring through most of Parts Unknown last season, but I told myself it was all jiu-jitsu-related.

Today, their separation is all over the media. MSN, E! Online, Us Weekly, even the Daily Mail in the UK. But they all just repeat Page Six without additional detail.

Thinking back, I don’t know the exact date I first discovered Anthony Bourdain, but I stumbled upon an early No Reservations on Travel Channel one night and was instantly charmed by his looks and wit.

I had no clue he was a writer until I found A Cook’s Tour at a remaindered book sale. On its cover I learned Kitchen Confidential had been a bestseller. I’ve been in hot pursuit of every book he’s published and have read them all to date. And seen every episode of his four travel series (A Cook’s Tour, No Reservations, The Layover, Parts Unknown). And his lamentable cooking competition, The Taste.

My first dedicated post in Cats Working on him was about his 2007 No Res Christmas special. It’s apparent I knew quite a bit by then, and Ottavia was intriguing me. I finally found her in February 2008. Thus began my regular chronicle of the Bourdains, which led to several personal encounters, most recently when he came to Richmond in 2013.

But sites like Eater and Grub Street began stealing my thunder and getting all the best scoop straight from Bourdain himself, so I stepped back. But I never lost interest.

I will declare with no reservations that Cats Working pioneered coverage of Anthony Bourdain before anyone else was paying much attention. If you search the archives, you’ll find a ton of his history, professional and personal.

I will try to learn more on this unfortunate development, but this post will give any Cats Working die-hard Bourdainiacs a place to comment. Tony has written about being at loose ends before he met Ottavia. This split, real or not, is no picnic for them, so please be kind.

Tony did appear to be alone on the red carpet at the recent Creative Arts Emmy Awards, where Parts Unknown won its fourth consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Informational Series or Special.

bourdain-creativeartsemmys

The show was also nominated for Cinematography (Cuba), Sound Editing (Okinawa), and Sound Mixing (Ethiopia).

Bourdain was nominated once again for Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program (Borneo), but lost to a Netflix show, Making a Murderer.


UnFoodie’s Secret Crush on Jacques Pepin

August 25, 2016

By Karen

Before Anthony Bourdain’s new cookbook, Appetites, comes out on October 25, I must confess une affaire du tube with Jacques Pépin. Ironically, Bourdain introduced us with a No Reservations segment where Jacques demonstrated proper egg-cracking technique. At the time, I thought he was cracked.

Then everything changed.

PBS has been rerunning three Pépin series: Essential Pepin, More Fast Food My Way, and Heart & Soul. After just a few episodes, I became obsessed and bought the DVDs and companion cookbooks for the latter two series, and all summer I’ve been studying Jacques like a culinary school groupie.

(Essential Pépin is good, but uses more mis en place and time-skipping, which minimize all that’s really involved. In the other two series, Jacques’ cooking is more down-to-earth. Heart & Soul is my favorite. Alas, it’s said to be his last for PBS.)

On weekends, my mother becomes my sous chef. I send her the recipe so she can shop, then I go over and we watch Jacques make it on DVD before we try it.

So far, every dish has turned out well and my parents enjoyed them.

Every time I see Jacques chop an onion, “poetry in motion” pops into my head. I even bought a good chef’s knife and keep it sharp, but I’ll never come close to his dexterity.

Also thanks to Jacques, I now use herbs de Provence.

Unfortunately, no photos, but here are a few dishes I’ve done. Many recipes are available online.

Poulet à la Crème (chicken thighs elevated)

Gloria’s Linguine with Clam Sauce (loved it!)

Corn Soufflé (practicing for a Thanksgiving side)

Asparagus Fans with Mustard Sauce (finally, green sticks get some personality)

Soda Bread (so quick and easy, I’ve made it perfectly twice)

Not only does Jacques explain what he’s doing, but tells how he economizes, appreciates ordinary ingredients (white button mushrooms, for example), and even uses canned goods without getting snarky about it.

Years ago I learned Chinese cooking from Wok with Yan with Stephen Yan (no, not Martin). I also liked Emeril, but can’t say I soaked up any technique or made his dishes.

And then there’s Bourdain. He was never a celebrity chef, though they keep calling him one. He wasn’t famous at Les Halles, and he quit that job when Kitchen Confidential took off. I’ve seen him cook only a handful of times.

That said, he remains my biggest culinary influence. Just watching what he eats and says about food has opened new worlds. I know what mis en place means. I cook more creatively. I ate squid with ink in Lisbon. And now I appreciate top-tier chefs like Eric Ripert and Jacques Pépin and learn technique from them.

I’ve pre-ordered Bourdain’s book Appetites with expectations it’s more user-friendly than his Les Halles Cookbook and will join my two Pépin cookbooks as favorites.

So, thank you, Tony, for putting Jacques Pépin on my radar. And thank you, Jacques, for enriching home cooks by sharing your amazing knowledge with such charm and generosity.

Pepin


Bourdain Takes the Gold in Jiu-Jitsu

April 18, 2016

By Karen

I seldom write about Anthony Bourdain anymore, but I still keep up, and just saw something amazing I have to share in case any of my former fellow Bourdainiacs are still reading.

If you haven’t noticed, Tony has become a household word. Last week on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah and a guest threw the name “Bourdain” around as if the entire planet knows who that is. I also just saw him referenced in an article in Conde Nast Traveler as some standard for travel.

Tony took up jiu-jitsu a year or two ago, inspired by his wife Ottavia and daughter Ariane, who both practice the art. BTW, Happy Birthdays, ladies! (They both celebrate one in April.)

Upon earning his blue belt, Tony just competed in his first competition, in the Blue Belt Masters 5 Middleweight Division at the IBJJF New York Spring International Open Championship.

He won and took home the gold.

Here’s a video on Fight Sports of the whole match-up. It’s not exactly action-packed, but more a test of brute strength, with Bourdain mostly keeping his opponent pinned to the mat for about 5 minutes…

Flograppling.com filmed from another vantage point and included much more of Ottavia and Tony’s trainer cheering him on. At the end of the match, it also clearly shows the phenomenal shape Tony’s trained himself into. He’s approaching 60 on June 25 with six-pack abs and not an ounce of fat.

For old times’ sake, Cats Working extends 12 paws up and a hearty “Congratulations!” to Anthony Bourdain on his milestone victory, and wishes him many, many more.


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.


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