25 September 2010

Japanese Porn Makes the Germans Look Well-Adjusted, or What I Learned from Anthony Bourdain

Photo credit: NOT mine.
Last night, some fellow booksellers, my buddy Liz,  and I were working at the Anthony Bourdain event in Springfield, MA.  We'd been invited by the folks at Symphony Hall to sell his books before, during, and after his event, as well as at the VIP reception immediately following his presentation.  As a reward, we, in turn, got to attend the event for free, meet Mr. Bourdain, and get our own books signed.

What did I learn from Tony?  Other than he's taller in person (6'4") and just as irreverent as his television persona?  Well, for starters, I learned that Japanese porn is apparently very disturbing (it "makes the Germans look well-adjusted").  But that's neither here nor there.  He's still angry with his usual targets: the Food Network. Celebrity cooks who have laid claim to the un-earned title of "chef." The dumbing down of the American palate, courtesy of chain restaurants that have muddled simple, traditional cuisines beyond all recognition: Chili's. Applebee's. Macaroni Grill. ( Or in the words of Tony himself: "The Olive Garden--sure, it sounds Italian.  So does 'chlamydia.' Don't be fooled. It's not Italian, and it's not good.")

He's still not too happy with Alice Waters, either.  Or with the King, the Clown, and the Colonel.  Bourdain is neither burdened by politesse nor inclined to mince words.  But just because he's playing to an audience for shock value doesn't mean that it's not riotously funny and thought-provoking by turn.  I missed a good 30 minutes or so of his presentation because our staff members were rotating in and out of the auditorium to keep watch over our bookselling tables, but I did get to hear his rules for travel, and I have to say, I couldn't agree more.

1. Be curious.
2. Be polite.
3. Be grateful.
4. Observe local custom.
5. Dress appropriately (Tony's reaction to underclad tourists on a trip to Istanbul: "Presumably you wouldn't wear a Speedo to the Vatican. So why the hell would you wear booty shorts where half your ass hangs out to the Blue Mosque?").
6. Eat everything.
7. Drink everything.

Hear, hear, say I.

I received a comp copy of his new book, Medium Raw, last week (thanks, HarperCollins!)--just in time to get it read for last night's event.  Much of his show is derived from the book, and in turn the tone of the book is as conversational as his show.  Occasionally Bourdain shows a brilliant turn of phrase, but most of the time it just feels like he's talking to the reader without much forethought, but what he lacks stylistically he makes up for with his colorful language.  Though I grew weary with his macho, sexually charged metaphors and I zoned out a bit during the long chapters about chefs I've never heard of, I found the book to be engaging, for the most part.

If my worldview and Bourdain's worldview were depicted as a Venn diagram, the intersection of our circles wouldn't be particularly large, but it would showcase some of the areas in which I am most passionate, and growing more so by the year--food, travel, and the way I want to comport myself on this planet.


Where A=As the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) and B = Bourdain


Check out this guest blog that Bourdain did a few years ago.  It pretty much sums up the extent of his snark.

2 comments:

  1. Splendid blog! I look forward to all your writing and roamings. And what a lucky bastard that Mr Moser is. I am in love with you myself and may have to find him and kick his arse.

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  2. Thanks for pointing me over here! I too concur with Bourdain's travel rules, and will use them on my trip to NYC next month.
    Who could be bored on Virgin Gorda? (my fave's Jost Van Dyke...)
    L

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