In case you didn't know, I love Anthony Bourdain. I read Kitchen Confidential back when I was still working in restaurants, and immediately knew that if I could ever hang out with any chef around, this was the guy. Smart, snarky, no bullshit, arrogant, and a fabulous writer, not to mention he can cook. I've been hooked on No Reservations for all seven seasons, so when I learned that Anthony Bourdain was going to be the next participant in the Michigan Theatre's Ann Arbor Conversations series, I jumped. I wasn't sure what the format of the show would be, but I didn't care; I just wanted to be there.
Decked in his typical skinny jeans and cowboy boots, Bourdain (aw heck, let's call him Tony), spoke a little nervously for almost two hours about food, TV, celebrity chefs, travel, and stupid Americans. While he started with a promise not to make any Rachael Ray or Sandra Lee jokes (while the audience moaned their disappointment), he didn't keep it. He has apparently discovered a modicum of respect for Rachael Ray after learning that she booked The New York Dolls for a music festival, but it's clear he still thinks Sandra Lee is the antichrist. The show was hilarious, interesting, and worth every minute, as long as you weren't an uptight vegan or a cousin to Alice Waters.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the night:
"Chlamydia, just because it sounds Italian, doesn't mean it's good."
"I spent 28 years working the line, hanging with cooks and talking dick dick dick dick dick."
"I like money. I'm all for selling out."
"She [Rachael Ray] sent me a fruit basket. The card said, 'Please don't shoot the puppy.'"
"Cooking is about dominance and control. Eating is about submission."
I've heard this last one a few times on the show, but unlike the other quotes I've listed, this one hits on more than my funny bone. I don't remember which episode it was when I first heard him comparing the experience of eating a meal to submitting, but I do remember how much that statement connected with me. Eating for me is about opening yourself up to whatever is coming, allowing yourself to experience it fully. That doesn't mean there aren't times when I stand over the sink, hoovering down a turkey sandwich because I'm late for work. It just means that I respect food and the people who make it enough to truly enjoy and learn about it as much as I can. I don't get people that don't like eating. Those people who eat just because they need sustenance. They don't know what they are missing!
Cooking for me, like everyone in my family, has always been a labor of love, but even before I could cook, I was all about food. Almost every family memory I have is connected in some way to food. My friend Sophie told me a story that night about standing in a shop and tasting a piece of pastry, when she was suddenly pulled back in time to her childhood. That bite brought back a moment so vividly and palpably that she had tears in her eyes. Sometimes food can be that powerful. If you're closed off to it, you miss it, and that's just sad.