Book Club: Medium Raw

It’s no secret that I’m addicted to Anthony Bourdain.

I’ve blogged about him three times, writing about his trip to Provence, his Christmas trip to Austria, and his visit to El Bulli before it closed. Each episode of No Reservations is a treasure to be savored and watched over and over again.

So it’s not surprising that I finished Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook before I started on the Mount Library TBR stack.

It’s classic Bourdain, but in my opinion, a more humble and slightly gentler Tony than in his previous book, Kitchen Confidential. Bourdain’s writing is clear and beautifully imaged — he’s really showing us a secret side of the food business rather than just telling us. I pretty much couldn’t put Medium Raw down and I encourage you to read the book if you are a Tony fan.

Despite being older and wiser (and it shows in the book) he’s still got a few people that he savages, including Sandra Lee and her Kwanzaa cake episode. I had to see for myself whether he was just being snarky or whether it was really that bad and insensitive. I will leave you to make your own decisions.

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Provence Week: Anthony Bourdain in Provence

Provence “looks like the inside of Martha Stewart’s head.”

Thus says Anthony Bourdain, host of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations. Although I had totally forgotten that I had seen this before, I got all excited about an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations that was filmed in Provence. My brother even texted me to tell me it was airing, I’m that obviously hooked on both Tony and Provence.

This episode actually makes Bourdain seem normal and almost humble.

As Tony learns to make aioli from an elderly Provencal woman, he is respectful of both her process and her experience.

It’s very gentle, the process…You gotta be careful.  You have to keep your voice down.  Show a little respect for the process…

It makes me want to learn how to make aioli.

Sorry, I had to delete the video because it’s no longer available. 🙁

There are lots of good scenes in this episode.

Tony and friends do a wine and charcuterie tasting.

He tours a winery.

His friends tell him that if you ask for Ricard instead of pastis, the locals know you know what they drink.

It’s really funny to see the usually brash Tony worrying about cooking for his Provencal friends.

Apparently I’m not the only person who’s dreaming of Provence; this remains my top post of all time because of the beautiful photo of Provence I used. I guess it’s time to use it again!

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22 Days of Christmas 2011: Christmas in Austria

Does your cable channel carry Anthony Bourdain? If not, you should picket your cable headquarters until you get it. Bourdain is the most irreverent-while-being-fascinating host on television today (I LOVE hyphenated adjectives!).

I blogged about Anthony Bourdain earlier this year when he visited El Bulli, but his Vienna show really hit home with me. It’s a long story– are you ready for it?

I had never been to Europe prior to our Spring Break trip in 2003. Our family friend Lara spent her junior semester abroad in Vienna and it seemed the perfect place to initiate the Europe virgin (that would be me) into European culture. I mean, really, how many books had I read about Marie Antoinette at that point? I was pretty sure I could handle Vienna. I don’t speak German, but my mom did. Isn’t that enough? I speak some passable Spanish and NRB speaks some passable French. Between our passable Romance book-languages and Lara, we figured we could probably get by.

Fast forward to nine years later. I’m looking for something fun to watch on the tube on the eve of my Veterans’ Day holiday off from school. Usually we don’t get Veterans’ Day; we trade it for an extra day before Thanksgiving or something. This year, we got both. It was a rare gift. I scrolled through my DVR’d programs, not finding Glee. What happened? I watched a bit of Hung on HBO. Really? I’m going to have to come back to that one. So I settle for Anthony Bourdain in Vienna which I know doesn’t require me to remember any backstory.

Yet I had my own personal backstory.

Tony visited Schloss Schoenbrunn, the childhood home of Marie Antoinette and so did I.

Tony toured Vienna, and so did I.

Tony didn’t go to Salzburg, but it wasn’t a trip to Austria for me without paying homage to Maria Von Trapp and Mozart. This is kind of a cheesy video, but does give some interesting information. If you keep clicking through the videos, you’ll get the whole Salzburg story.

We also took pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. We bought our first digital camera right before this trip and were still learning how to use it. As I looked through these photos, I realized that in my rose-colored view of our vacation, I had forgotten how cold and often rainy it was in Austria in March.

The Austrians love Christmas, and there were Christmas stores everywhere. Of course we bought an ornament at this store and I’m getting ready to hang it on my tree this year along with all of my other vacation memory ornaments.

For your Austrian music companions to today’s post, I chose The Best of Christmas in Vienna and Christmas in Vienna. Both feature Placido Domingo with friends.

As I look at this 22 Days of Christmas post from last year, it’s hard to believe that we were anticipating snow. Today was a balmy and sometimes rainy day in the upper 40s. If it’s not global warming (as some of my students and their families believe), Mother Nature sure is playing tricks on us. See you tomorrow, and be sure to comment!

Food Cult: Anthony Bourdain Experiences elBulli

Anthony Bourdain is said to be an arrogant, snarky, self-promoting, witty New York restauranteur and chef with a sexy voice. He eats bugs and guts and is politically incorrect. He seems to enjoy that his continual swearing has to be bleeped out on his television travelogue/food show. Sometimes I love his show and sometimes I am grossed out and even offended by it, but mostly I think this guy is the most interesting host on television.

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If you are already an Anthony Bourdain fan, you probably watched Tony’s visit to the legendary elBulli. If you are not already a disciple and you love food and travel, set your DVR  to let Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations into your life. The complete El Bulli episode airs again on the Travel Channel on Monday, September 5 (Labor Day in the U.S.), at 3:00pm Eastern, as part of a No Reservations marathon that starts at 11 E/P. Even if you are able to watch it live, I still recommend that you record it so that you can watch it again. It is truly a special show and one that blew away all (well, most) of my Bourdain prejudices.

Bourdain’s visit to the amazing elBulli was one of the best documentaries I have ever seen, probably because even though he’s got some cooking chops of his own, Bourdain was clearly in awe of founder and head chef, Ferran Adria. Tony blogged about his visit to what foodies considered to be the most innovative restaurant in the world, and his childlike wonderment about being in the presence of a personal idol practically jumps off the screen when you watch the episode.

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Ferran Adria closed the doors of El Bulli to restaurant-goers on July 30, but will continue to run a renovated state of the art compound as a think-tank for chefs who are ready to push the boundaries of food preparation. After having seen this episode, I’m heartbroken that I never got a chance to eat at elBulli. I will have to settle for reading the book my son got me for Christmas and maybe even trying a recipe or two.

Bourdain’s No Reservations has finished its season of first-runs, but he continues in reruns at several times on the Travel Channel. There will be more Tony to love starting on November 21, when his new series, The Layover, begins.

P.S. If Anthony Bourdain’s rough-rider style isn’t your cup of tea, Travel Channel also features Samantha Brown, who’s kind of a cross between Rachael Ray and Bourdain. She visits lots of interesting locations, but I doubt if you will find her drinking tequila with the guys in the desert or eating fried bugs in Asia.

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