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Anthony Bourdain’s “Medium Raw”

7 July 2010 2,518 views 15 Comments

I don’t think of myself as a food reviewer and I’m definitely not a book reviewer. When I visit a restaurant or read a book, I just know what I like. Sure, I guess I could break down (with the help of friends) the elements that worked for me and those that didn’t. But for me, the pleasure is in the enjoyment of the thing, not the dissection of the sum of it’s parts.

medium raw

While not a book review, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite parts of Anthony Bourdain’s new memoir, Medium Raw. I devoured it in less than 48 hours — gobbling up word after word like Ms. Pac Man does blinking pellets.

I borrowed the book from the Statesman‘s Addie Broyles, who writes in her books and encouraged me to do the same. I must say that there was something so satisfying about underlining passages and writing notes in the margins. It felt rebellious and freeing – kind of like smoking a cigarette or eating bacon on challah.

Anyway, some of Bourdain’s words hit home with me and I wanted to share them with you here. For those who read Kitchen Confidential or are restaurant industry groupies like me, I recommend reading Bourdain’s new book yourself. For others, it might be too “inside baseball.” Without further ado, here are some of the passages I underlined with my black ball point pen:

“If cooking professionally is about control, eating successfully is about submission. You should be pleasingly oblivious to the movements of the servers in the dining area and bus stations, only dimly aware of the passage of time. Taking pictures of your food as it arrives, or worse, jotting down brief descriptions for your blog entry later–is missing the point entirely. You shouldn’t be forced to think at all. Only feel.”

“I should be able to walk into any restaurant in America and order my hamburger — that most American of foods — medium fucking rare.”

“I am not a fan of people who abuse service staff. In fact, I find it intolerable. It’s an unpardonable sin as far as I’m concerned.”

“It’s no longer enough to cook well, to be able to run a kitchen. You have to be able to identify and evaluate all the peopel who might hurt you–and (as best as possible) neutralize them ahead of time. One memorably bad review can punch a hole in a restaurant’s painstakingly acquired reputation, letting the air out of one’s public profile in a way that’s often hard to put back. One snarky Web site, early in a restaurant’s life, can hobble it in ways that might provide fatal in the long run.”

“In a business where something as nebulous and unmeasurable as “buzz” is seen as a vital factor for the bottom line, everybody with a keyboard is a potential enemy.”

“Just feed them for free. You’ll never have to remind them about it later. They may not  be able to help you directly–but they’ll at least make an effort to not hurt you. In addition to singing your praise early and often….they can act as your proxy, shouting down those who might question your magnificence.”

“Few are the people who, when passing the smiling woman with the clipboard from the restaurant’s PR agency, want to find themselves off that list the next time a restaurant opens–particularly if it’s a high end, high-prestige operator, or if there’s a hotshot chef involved. The thinking is: “Okay, I hate this place. But if I take too ferocious a dump on it, I won’t be welcome at the next place–which might be really good!”

“Will we, after terrifying consumers about our food supply, fetishizing expensive ingredients, exploiting the hopes, aspirations, and insecurities of the middle class–have simply made it more expensive to eat the same old crap? More to the point, have I? Am I helping, once again to kill the things I love?”

As a blogger and restaurant and food nerd, much of Bourdain’s critical commentary on the frantic tweeting, photographing, and reviewing of restaurants by non-traditional food media hit home.

As a food blogger who doesn’t consider herself a “foodie,” and as an enthusiastic participant in social media who unfollows others for over-sharing, I’m constantly trying to balance my own interest in enjoying and sharing food and cultural experiences with others and continue to respect the food that I’m eating and the people who prepared it and are enjoying it right next to me.

One of my favorite quotes on food blogging came from a dear friend Jane, who described eating a meal with me to her brother-in-law Garth as: “Where some people might ask a blessing over food before starting to eat, she takes a photo.”

I do think that taking a moment to photograph a dish before inhaling it can make us all more appreciative of the work and miracles of nature that brought it there.

For more organized and well communicated thoughts on the new book, check out The Hungry Engineer and the Statesman.

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  • Addie Broyles

    Loved reading your take on the book, Jodi! I definitely agree with you about photography (and sharing your best bites) being part of the enjoyment now.

  • Addie Broyles

    Loved reading your take on the book, Jodi! I definitely agree with you about photography (and sharing your best bites) being part of the enjoyment now.

  • Jamizakem

    You rule, Jodi. I love you and your blog.

  • Lindajbart

    What a great blog, today, honey. I really found it interesting and will definitely look for this book. I hate people who are rude to the wait staff. It has such an air of entitlement that really annoys me.

  • jodibart

    Thank you so much for letting me borrow (and mark up) your book! Can't wait to discuss this one with our book club!

  • jodibart

    Thank you so much for even taking the time to read my blog with all you have going on in your life. I miss you guys so much!

  • jodibart

    You taught me well (at least in that area). Love you, mom :-)

  • jodibart

    Thank you so much for letting me borrow (and mark up) your book! Can't wait to discuss this one with our book club!

  • jodibart

    Thank you so much for even taking the time to read my blog with all you have going on in your life. I miss you guys so much!

  • jodibart

    You taught me well (at least in that area). Love you, mom :-)

  • Lindajbart

    What a great blog, today, honey. I really found it interesting and will definitely look for this book. I hate people who are rude to the wait staff. It has such an air of entitlement that really annoys me.

  • jodibart

    Thank you so much for letting me borrow (and mark up) your book! Can't wait to discuss this one with our book club!

  • jodibart

    Thank you so much for even taking the time to read my blog with all you have going on in your life. I miss you guys so much!

  • jodibart

    You taught me well (at least in that area). Love you, mom :-)

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