Tag Archives: Anthony Bourdain

Thanks Be

Dear Mary Frances,
Thank you for pioneering the genre of food writing.  Your smart prose blazed the way for thousands of writers today – most significantly, female writers –stripping stigma from a field once thought to be solely esoteric and reminding us that food offers so much more than its nutritional content.  Your writing rallies interest in the pleasures, no matter how modest, of the plate.  I have read The Art of Eating at least half a dozen times, and I always discover new meaning with each reading.  You are my idol.

Cher Jean Anthelme,
Your immortal words set the tone for each episode of Iron Chef.  What would the tone of the show have been without them?  Would Chairman Kaga have appeared so Chairman-ish?  The Iron Chefs so ennobled?  Your keen attention to the virtues of culinary enjoyment is rivaled only by your witty social commentary.  I really appreciate that level of attention.  I’ve been wondering… If I believe that wine, cheese, and bread are major food groups, does that mean I’m actually French?  Do tell, do tell.

Dear Julia,
I’m thankful that we share a common first (and nick) name.  I’ve often envied what I’ve read about your marriage to Paul.  He wrote you lyrical love poems for your birthday, for goodness sake!  Together, you created personalized valentines to share with friends each year.  You had what truly seemed like a passionate storybook relationship.  I envy that.  But I also envy – perhaps I should say admire – your robust sensuality.  You would have been so fun to party with! I would have loved to watch you at work in the kitchen.  Sometimes I pretend to be you. (My daughter, Rory, finds these reenactments hilarious.) I think of you every time I accidentally drop a piece of food.  Thank you for making it okay to use the five second rule.

Dear Laurie,
Your writing gave me the idea to host a tea party in honor of my daughter’s birthday.  As I draped beaded garlands over the lights and scattered lavender buds across the table, I thought I heard your voice calling out in singsong approval.  Thank you for writing about your daughter with warmth and affection.

Dear Calvin,
Though I think your wife, Alice, was spot on when she coined the term “food crazies,” and though chances are likely that I am one myself, I appreciate your sustained interest in all things food-related. Thank you for being a “food crazy.” Your version of the first Thanksgiving is far better than the one I learned in elementary school.  I fully support your campaign to make spaghetti carbonara the official Thanksgiving dish.

Dear Harold,
You know you’ve got real cred when chefs all over the world refer to your tome as their “McGee,” as in, “I’ve got my McGee right here!”  I thank you for your tome and your cred. You’ve helped me through many a food inquiry.  I hope you don’t find this too creepy, but I think of you as Uncle McGee.  You seem like the type of person I’d enjoy spending time with on my deck.  As the sun descends over the western mountains, I might casually turn to you and say, “So, Uncle McGee?  Tell me the story about when you wrote your book.  Did you have a grant to fund your daily expenses as you researched?”  And you might chuckle, take a sip of your Malbec, and say, “Well, it all started back in the eighties….”

Dear Jeff,
You are an enigma when you guest-judge on Iron Chef America and Top Chef.  You share the same name as one of my first “real” crushes, a sous chef named Jeff who worked at the finest dining establishment in my college town.  The state he left me in was not funny, but you are.  Thank you for giving your assistant a comically disproportionate amount of work to do and for fielding so many marriage proposals. Thank you for accidentally poisoning yourself with taro leaf and writing about it with humor.

Dear Jane,
Mushrooms, onions, butter, sour cream, and dill…  Who knew? I serve your sour cream sauce over a big bowl of rice.  The mushrooms whisper, “We are so happy,” and so am I.  Thank you for loving fungi enough to dedicate an entire book to them.

Dear Tony,
I started watching your television show before I read any of your work.  I (unfairly) assumed you had writers.  Then I read your books, and your writing bowled me over. I couldn’t believe it!  Your prose is tight!  I haven’t had the good fortune to travel the world like you, but your writing amazed me with its ability to make me ravenous.  I’ve never tried pho, and yet I feel as if I have tasted it with you on the streets of Vietnam.  In my imagination, we traipsed across the globe throughout A Cook’s Tour, loosening our belts and belching happily.  I was your Zamir.  Thank you for making me hungry.  Even though No Reservations is over, never stop being hungry for more, okay?

Cher Jean Louis,
Will you ever find me indispensable? I think the world of you and would gladly be your scribe.  Thank you for renewing the zeal of my Francophilia.

Dear Readers,
Thank you for reading my work. I’ve been busy with a new job and haven’t been in the kitchen as much as I’d like, but I really appreciate all of your continued support. I am thankful for you.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Love, Jules

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Eat With Care

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this book review are deeply personal and self-reflective, and, as such, are not intended to evoke or provoke offense.  I honor libertarianism in most circumstances.  I just have to get this out.

Disclaimer: I still eat meat and poultry, albeit very rarely these days. Trying to eliminate meat from my diet – or at least severely restrict it – has made me even more grateful for it.

Disclaimer: I am entirely in the Bourdain camp of Using and Eating All The Animal Parts.  I can’t personally attest to the flavor of some delicacies with any authority because I have yet to sample them, but if an animal must be killed for consumption, it only seems like common sense not to waste any of it, for goodness sake.

Disclaimer: I would also consider eating alternative proteins, such as insects or invasive species.  A recent Atlantic article featured a Netherlands company called Bugs Originals that is perfecting the culinary science of bug cuisine with notably flavorful success.

Disclaimer: Sometimes I make myself physically and existentially ill worrying about the world.  Global meat-consumption is skyrocketing and its effects on the environment are evident.  What’s it going to take for the world to rethink and revise the ‘traditional’ Western diet?  America created it – can’t America re-create it?  Who do I contact to start seriously lobbying?

Disclaimer: Jonathan Safran Foer wrote one of my very favorite books, Everything is Illuminated.  His non-fiction prose is as engaging as his fiction.  He is, coincidentally, married to Nicole Krauss, who wrote one of my other very favorite books, The History of Love.

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“The eat with care ethic didn’t become obsolete over time, but died suddenly.  It was killed, actually.” – Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer’s scalding treatise against factory farms, Eating Animals, is worthy of attention even if it fails to convert readers to vegetarianism.  Eating Animals contains interviews with a wide variety of farmers, ranchers, butchers, and animal rights activists, and it documents in graphic, unrelenting detail the “farming” of agriculture today. Foer’s compelling research lends gravitas to the proposal that adopting a vegetarian diet is ultimately a more sustainable and ecologically ethical alternative to the Western diet.  I earnestly wish that I could share a copy of Foer’s book with everyone in the world, because maybe that would promote change to current practices.  But I recognize, as does Foer, that readers have to want to change and effect change.  I could in theory buy copies of Eating Animals for everyone I know, but I can’t make them read it, though I wish with all my heart that they would.  As a poultry farmer named Frank Reese confided to Foer: “People care about animals.  I believe that.  They just don’t want to know or to pay… It’s wrong, and people know it’s wrong.  They don’t have to be convinced.  They just have to eat differently.”  I get that.

Eating Animals is not an enjoyable book.  It is a train wreck from which this reader could not break her compulsion.  Foer’s book explicitly details some of the least palatable, most depressing, and most diabolically concealed realities of modern meat and poultry factory farming.  Pages 175-180 are ecologically terrifying.  I forced myself to finish the book, however, because the author did his research well and because I write about food, so I’d better know my stuff.  Barbara Kingsolver had nudged me, Michael Pollan pushed me several feet towards the edge, and Eric Schlosser brought me directly to the mouth of the abyss.  But it was Foer who finally and successfully thrust me into radical dietary change.  Foer convinced me to rethink my diet and adopt a new, almost exclusively vegetarian stance.  Not an easy decision for an enthusiastic omnivore.

“So the question is not whether we forget but what, or whom, we forget – not whether our diets change, but how…  I love sushi, I love fried chicken, I love a good steak,” writes Foer, who is now an ardent vegetarian.  “But there is a limit to my love.”  The essential kernel of insight I took from his book, along with a colossal hell bummer of an education, is that it is possible and, indeed, necessary to choose to change my diet as a statement of concern for the environment as well as the ethical treatment of the animals we eat.  “Ranchers can be vegetarians, vegans can build slaughterhouses, and I can be a vegetarian who supports the best of animal agriculture,” he writes.  I would add that his book gave me the notion that I can be an omnivore who supports the best of animal agriculture and who makes the conscious choice to spread information in order to educate others.  Though our proposed diets are fundamentally different, I profoundly appreciate the influence of Foer’s research on my own worldview.  I’m a masochist like that.

Foer’s work should be recognized for its skillful scrutiny of the worst cankers of the factory farming industry.  “Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else?” writes Foer.  “If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is?  And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?”  Central to his (very direct) entreaty is the fact that diet is a decision – something to be made and, moreover, something that can change.  People adopt dietary change all the time for their own health, as in the case of diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease.  After reading Eating Animals, I decided to change my diet for the health of an entity whose health is so very much more important: the planet.

I elect to eat with care.  I can’t un-know what I learned from Foer.  But I believe that openly and objectively addressing the uncomfortable has the potential to promote positive change.  And that is why I wholly recommend his book to anyone brave enough to read it.

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