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AlexForbes

Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw

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I read the book and liked it. I think the thrashings voiced here are for the most part innacurate. Calling him a windbag or asshole is one thing ... that's just opinion. But saying the book is just the same old crap leads me to think the critic didn't read it closely, if at all.

The book is a collection of essays, some covering old ground, some not. The ones covering old ground in most cases offer a revision of his previous views. He mentions a lot of factors, including expanded experience and diminished crankiness, behind his newer feelings. He also respects that he now has a broad audience, while he wrote Kitchen Confidential under the assumption that it would interest only a handful of derelect insiders like himself.

His criticisms of topics like vegetarianism and Alice Waters are nuanced. And I agree with them, for the most part. And if you haven't read the essays in question, you don't know what those opinions are.

My biggest criticism is that quality of writing seems uneven. There's evidence of the old Tony, and some sections where he betters his old self, but others where the prose falls flat. Some essays, like the very interesting one on David Chang, would benefit from some serious editing.

I pretty much completely agree.

Cheers,

Geoff

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The library finally had a copy of the book and I am currently in the process of reading it.

I will admit it is better (more entertaining) than I expected it to be.

To say it is not the “same old crap” is only somewhat accurate. Sure it’s not a republication of Kitchen Confidential, but Medium Raw is essentially a continuation of the same old crap. Sorry, but the book has a complete lack of continuity. It is either Bourdain’s attempt at stream of consciousness or is a compilation of Bourdain’s rather contradictory rants.

Also, I think Bourdain might have still been chasing the dragon while writing some of this. The chapter titled “Meat” is bizarre. Something about being entitled to a medium rare hamburger, but not having the government dictate food quality, Starbucks is to blame for charging $5 for a cup of coffee, hot dogs are bad because they are a German import and the future retro-hamburger will cost $26. If someone has had the opportunity to read this chapter while fully cranked up, please let me know if it makes more sense.

I’ve also noticed something from the book. Bourdain writes in a fashion that allows almost anybody to agree with him to some degree. He writes about how the rich eat differently than the rest of us, but he seems to forget the book opens with a scene where he is eating an illegally imported protected species as if the “rest of us” would find this to be acceptable. He writes about Hanoi pho as if I have the capacity to jump on a plane during my lunch break, fly to Hanoi, have a bowl of pho, and return to my job before the day is over. In the same sentence (yes, the same sentence) he dismisses Michael Pollard while calling his books “excellent.” No matter what your point of view is on Pollard, you can logically convince yourself that TB agrees with you. We can all relate to a bowl of pho, even if many of us have never been to Hanoi. We can all agree rich people on St. Bart’s eating a burnt chicken leg are a clueless bunch of dicks even though Bourdain is likely the only one of us to ever go to St. Bart’s to eat a burnt chicken leg with a clueless bunch of dicks.

As for the criticism of the criticism, I believe it to be likewise disingenuous. To accept Bourdain at face value is to willingly ignore Bourdain’s glaring contradictions. To say “if you haven't read the essays in question, you don't know what those opinions are” is to say that Bourdain has never voiced these opinions previously, which is entirely bogus. Bourdain has previously voiced his opinion very clearly in multiple TV shows on two different stations, including six seasons of No Reservations, multiple books, his blog posts, and a countless number of interviews, articles, essays, and stand-up performances. So far, I have not read anything new in this book. To suggest you can’t criticize Bourdain for these well known opinions is akin to saying someone cannot criticize Obama (or Palin) because they have not read The Audacity of Hope (or whatever the fuck the name of her book is) even though their opinions are so well publicized as to be commonplace. It's disingenous and ignores the fact that Bourdain's views on nearly all of these subjects exist in a format other than this particular book.

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Perhaps true, Florida, but that would be a Bourdain Review, not a book review. It doesn't add anything to the discourse if people pile onto every Bourdain thread and criticize *him*.

I guess I would accuse them of just saying the same old thing and offering nothing new.

Also, I certainly don't do crank, etc. and found the meat chapter quite lucid.

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I just finished reading the book. I enjoyed it though not as much as KC. I agree with one of the earlier posters that some of the chapters are very nuanced. His chapter about David Chang in particular. I kind of understood it to imply that David Chang is where Bourdain was towards the end of his cooking career. And I don't mean professionally. I mean in terms of what he wants from a kitchen.

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So the criticism of vegetarianism surprised me. Not because it was so well thought out or nuanced, but because it was so absolutely pointless. Beyond comprehension pointless.

Bourdain notes of vegetarians: I'm "not angry at them personally mind you - but in principle." He goes on to indicate the principal being the "Grandma rule" for travelers where you may not like Grandma's turkey, but you "shut the fuck up and eat it. And afterward, say "thank you, Grandma." But he also notes "I don't care what you do in your home, but the idea of a vegetarian traveler in comfortable shoes waving away the hospitality...fills me with sputtering indignation." As if there are gangs of vegetarians roving the world, rudely rejecting the humble omnivore's kind offering of a piece of meat.

So the basis of his hatred, or rather continued "genuine" anger, at vegetarians comes from his perceptions of vegetarian travelers possibly, maybe, refusing an offering of meat? Really? Sure Bourdain can hate vegetarians all he wants, but this is the reason why?

Think about it though. How many vegetarians in the world are traveling at any one moment. Maybe, if you round up, possibly 1% of all the total vegetarians. And how many of them are actively being solicited with meat? Again, on the high end, possibly 1%. And this is the reason he hates all vegetarians? It's such a weak argument. Absolutely beyond belief weak. So much, so I've read that section of the book four times now, looking for something I've missed, searching for something more. But there is nothing there. Absolutely nothing.

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Never mind what percentage gets the opportunity to refuse; what percentage would refuse if the situation arose?

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Never mind what percentage gets the opportunity to refuse; what percentage would refuse if the situation arose?

Why does it matter?

How many Muslims would refuse an offering of pork? How many Kosher Jews would refuse shellfish? How many "normal" everyday omnivore travelers would refuse an offering of any food, meat or vegetable, from anyone living in a third world country? or even a first world country?

TB specifically mentions pho in that section, yet the majority of people in Vietnam identify themselves as Buddhists. Buddhism, for the most part, promotes vegetarianism. How ignorant and ethnocentric is it on Bourdain's part to assume the Vietnamese people are too stupid to understand the concept of vegetarianism when the vast majority of the country practices a religion that promotes vegetarianism.

Bourdain seeks to justify his anger at vegetarianism by making it sound as if it some un-natural Western concept, that is somehow selfish or rude, but he willingly ignores centuries of religious practices (ie, cultural practices) while unwittingly suggesting the Vietnamese are so inferior as to be incapable of understanding the concept of vegetarianism.

And while I have no evidence to prove this, I can only imagine the Vietnamese people are probably just a bit more upset about America dropping thousands of tons of bombs on their villages (which continue to explode to this day) than they are about a backpacker pushing aside the piece of beef in his bowl of pho. But of course, it’s the vegetarianism that causes him "sputtering indignation."

And the same goes for India, where he talks shit about the sanctity of cows. Here he seemingly suggests that Indians are incredibly stupid for allowing their poor people to starve when there is a perfectly good cow standing right there in the middle of the road. How ethnocentric is that? Yet Bourdain promotes himself as the one with the moral superiority?

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Never mind what percentage gets the opportunity to refuse; what percentage would refuse if the situation arose?

Why does it matter?

It matters because it is the principle that is in question, not the opportunity to exercise it.

I fail to see how his failure to express sputtering indignation at other groups invalidates his opinion on vegetarian; I'll also point out that he explicitly gives more leeway to religious reasons.

Yet Bourdain promotes himself as the one with the moral superiority?

Seriously? You think he promotes himself as having moral superiority? I'd say quite the opposite, if anything.

It is just his opinion. It takes very little of a book filled with enough opinions to offend everyone. I don't think it warrants this level of sputtering indignation.

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Never mind what percentage gets the opportunity to refuse; what percentage would refuse if the situation arose?

Why does it matter?

It matters because it is the principle that is in question, not the opportunity to exercise it.

Bourdain’s principle is based entirely off of an ethnocentric viewpoint that suggests that non-Westerners are fully incapable of understanding vegetarianism regardless of whether a tradition of vegetarianism exists in their country or not. It’s a viewpoint that relies entirely on a Western thinking bias.

Is it valid? I guess so. Is it incredibly ignorant? Absolutely.

I fail to see how his failure to express sputtering indignation at other groups invalidates his opinion on vegetarian; I'll also point out that he explicitly gives more leeway to religious reasons.

This is akin to having a racist justify his racism by noting the number of African Americans in prison. Now suppose someone were to point out that there is also a substantial number of Caucasians in prison as well, but the racist were to say “but I’m not talking about them, I’m only talking about African Americans.” From my standpoint, it can’t be argued that the actions of a small subset can be considered independently from the population as a whole.

(btw, this is just an analogy, I am not accusing anyone of being a racist)

And for what reason should people with religious reasons be given “more leeway?” Are people without religious reasons incapable of making such decisions about what they chose to eat? Not that it even matters, considering TB specifically mentions Hinduism as a valid reason only to effectively dismiss Hinduism not more than a page or two later.

Seriously? You think he promotes himself as having moral superiority? I'd say quite the opposite, if anything.

It is just his opinion. It takes very little of a book filled with enough opinions to offend everyone. I don't think it warrants this level of sputtering indignation.

I yes, I do think he is promoting himself as being morally superior, especially considering the lengthy e-mail he sends to his vegetarian friend who had the misfortune of unknowingly sending an e-mail to Bourdain at an unfortunate time. And I am not offended. I just think he presents an exceedingly weak argument to justify his anger towards vegetarianism.

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I would further note, unlike his criticism of vegetarianism, I found his criticism of Alice Waters to be well thought out and adequately researched.

So, while I may not agree with everything he says about her (I agreed with far more of it than I expected to), at least he devotes the time and energy to explain his criticisms of her in a way that is far more eloquent and developed than his criticisms of vegetarianism.

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As for the criticism of the criticism, I believe it to be likewise disingenuous. To accept Bourdain at face value is to willingly ignore Bourdain’s glaring contradictions. To say “if you haven't read the essays in question, you don't know what those opinions are” is to say that Bourdain has never voiced these opinions previously, which is entirely bogus.

No, it's entirely reasonable, since many of the opinions are revisions of ones expressed in his most popular writings. I would assume that anyone bent toward dismissals of Bourdain will not have followed his every interview and essay and tv appearance. If your ideas about Bourdain come from Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits (as mine have), you'll find different ideas here. Which isn't to suggest you'll like them, just that you don't yet know what they are.

To suggest you can’t criticize Bourdain for these well known opinions is akin to saying someone cannot criticize Obama (or Palin) because they have not read The Audacity of Hope (or whatever the fuck the name of her book is) ...

Straw man argument. Criticize Bourdain all you want. Just don't criticize a book you haven't read.


Notes from the underbelly

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Bourdain’s principle is based entirely off of an ethnocentric viewpoint that suggests that non-Westerners are fully incapable of understanding vegetarianism regardless of whether a tradition of vegetarianism exists in their country or not. It’s a viewpoint that relies entirely on a Western thinking bias.

I think you're just mischaracterizing his position. Bourdain attacks ideologies that present themselves as morally superior, but which don't acknowledge the enormous degree of privilege (mostly economic) that makes them possible.

He may invite misunderstanding, to a degree, by using the blanket term "vegetarians" ... when what he really means is vegetarians who bring their ideas stubbornly and self-righteously into contexts that are inappropriate.

Yes, there are many vegetarian cultures in the world, and many in which meat is optional. There are others where meat (or fish, or dairy, or whatever) is a matter of survival ... and to refuse it based on ideas you brought with you from the Land of Opportunity or the hippy commune, is just plain arrogant.

I'm pretty sure Bourdain has travelled enough to not be constrained by simplistic ethnocentric ideas. And I seriously doubt he cares a bit if you abstain from Burgers while in Northern California.


Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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As for the criticism of the criticism, I believe it to be likewise disingenuous. To accept Bourdain at face value is to willingly ignore Bourdain’s glaring contradictions. To say “if you haven't read the essays in question, you don't know what those opinions are” is to say that Bourdain has never voiced these opinions previously, which is entirely bogus.

No, it's entirely reasonable, since many of the opinions are revisions of ones expressed in his most popular writings. I would assume that anyone bent toward dismissals of Bourdain will not have followed his every interview and essay and tv appearance. If your ideas about Bourdain come from Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits (as mine have), you'll find different ideas here. Which isn't to suggest you'll like them, just that you don't yet know what they are.

To suggest you can’t criticize Bourdain for these well known opinions is akin to saying someone cannot criticize Obama (or Palin) because they have not read The Audacity of Hope (or whatever the fuck the name of her book is) ...

Straw man argument. Criticize Bourdain all you want. Just don't criticize a book you haven't read.

Straw man? Not quite. Again, there is context which I'm simply not willing to ignore.

Medium Raw is practically an autobiography. The man is the book. They are unseperable. We're not talking about Gone Bamboo in which Bourdain is just the author where I'm shitting on the book simply because I don't like Bourdain. And we're not talking about a biography where the Bourdain's life is chronicaled through the eyes of person other than Bourdain. Medium Raw is Bourdain. It's about Bourdain and by Bourdain.

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Bourdain’s principle is based entirely off of an ethnocentric viewpoint that suggests that non-Westerners are fully incapable of understanding vegetarianism regardless of whether a tradition of vegetarianism exists in their country or not. It’s a viewpoint that relies entirely on a Western thinking bias.

I think you're just mischaracterizing his position. Bourdain attacks ideologies that present themselves as morally superior, but which don't acknowledge the enormous degree of privilege (mostly economic) that makes them possible.

He may invite misunderstanding, to a degree, by using the blanket term "vegetarians" ... when what he really means is vegetarians who bring their ideas stubbornly and self-righteously into contexts that are inappropriate.

Yes, there are many vegetarian cultures in the world, and many in which meat is optional. There are others where meat (or fish, or dairy, or whatever) is a matter of survival ... and to refuse it based on ideas you brought with you from the Land of Opportunity or the hippy commune, is just plain arrogant.

I'm pretty sure Bourdain has travelled enough to not be constrained by simplistic ethnocentric ideas. And I seriously doubt he cares a bit if you abstain from Burgers while in Northern California.

This would have been a well thought out argument. But this isn’t the argument TB makes in the book. No where near it. In all actuality I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly extrapolate this relatively well thought out, though poorly presented, position from what is actually printed in the book. Though it is a bit unclear exactly how vegetarianism comes from a position of priviledge, given that meat is truly the food of the weathly.

As for stubborn and self-righteous, I’d say those are two apt descriptions of Bourdain himself. The vast majority of vegetarians never make their vegetarianism known, never mind publish it in a book. Are there stubborn and self-righteous vegetarians out there? Sure, but to stereotype all because of the actions of a few is incredibly ignorant.

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As I mentioned up thread, my main gripe with him in regards to vegetarianism is his inconsistency. He seems to indicate that he wouldn't mind if a vegetarian turned down meat because they were hindu, that would be ok, but not for any other reason. If religious belief is enough for him, why not non-religious (but equally important to the person's life) belief? I don't get it.

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As far as I can tell, Bourdain's disdain for vegetarianism is probably rooted in the fact that (non-vegetarian) restaurants hate having to cater to them.

Probably related to this is the fact that the majority of Western vegetarians (most of whom are found in the UK and USA) are vegetarians primarily for health or ethical reasons, and this rather than the goal of deliciousness is the fundamental principle that drives their cooking. The result is that Western vegetarian cooking as a generality is not very tasty or interesting compared to Western omnivorous cooking. In contrast, vegetarian cuisines that are grounded in religion tend to be delicious because the goal of the cooks is not, e.g., to "have a high fiber, low fat diet that provides sufficient protein and vitamins" or to "avoid the subjugation of our animal friends" but rather simply to pursue deliciousness within the culinary playing field defined by the religion (or economic circumstances). This is why dishes created in vegetarian cultures, most of which are non-Western and are almost always mediated in their dietary practices by religion, or vegetarian dishes created in omnivorous cultures due to scarcity or economics tend to be far more delicious than vegetarian dishes prepared by health- or ethics-minded Western vegetarians: the primary culinary goal of the formers is deliciousness and the primary goal of the latter is not. Generally speaking, of course.


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Can say that this is a good listen on an audible device. Bourdain as narrator is great. Very entertaining.


Donna

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As I mentioned up thread, my main gripe with him in regards to vegetarianism is his inconsistency. He seems to indicate that he wouldn't mind if a vegetarian turned down meat because they were hindu, that would be ok, but not for any other reason. If religious belief is enough for him, why not non-religious (but equally important to the person's life) belief? I don't get it.

I'll take a stab at this. If one believes that God does not want us to eat meat, then Anthony Bourdain will respect that belief (but not to the point of his own adherence). However, if one believes that no one should eat meat based on their own thought processes, then that claim is possibly sanctimonious and is open to peer challenge.

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Probably related to this is the fact that the majority of Western vegetarians (most of whom are found in the UK and USA) are vegetarians primarily for health or ethical reasons, and this rather than the goal of deliciousness is the fundamental principle that drives their cooking.

Hmm, I would disagree with this. I think there's a misconception that if it doesn't have meat in it, or if it's healthy, then it must taste awful. This is such a close-minded view, it's actually a real shame. There are plenty of vegetarians for whom good tasting food is very important, and they are not interested in eating salad and wheat grass juice at every meal. Luckily, there is an enormous range of different dishes to choose from if you are veggie. I cook mostly Indian food, but there are plenty of other cultures that have delicious dishes that have meat-free dishes, or dishes that can very easily be made meat free. And I am pretty sure I remember reading that Keith Floyd (famous for being rather derisive towards vegetarians) ate a lot of vegetarian food in India and admitted that actually, it was pretty damn tasty and he was starting to feel a little less contemptuous towards those who don't eat meat!

As I mentioned up thread, my main gripe with him in regards to vegetarianism is his inconsistency. He seems to indicate that he wouldn't mind if a vegetarian turned down meat because they were hindu, that would be ok, but not for any other reason. If religious belief is enough for him, why not non-religious (but equally important to the person's life) belief? I don't get it.

I'll take a stab at this. If one believes that God does not want us to eat meat, then Anthony Bourdain will respect that belief (but not to the point of his own adherence). However, if one believes that no one should eat meat based on their own thought processes, then that claim is possibly sanctimonious and is open to peer challenge.

Well to me, this is nonsense. Is Bourdain very religious himself? If so, I guess it would make sense that he thinks that religious belief is more important than non-religious belief. However, personally I think it's important to note that there are many people in this world who don't believe in god, or who's beliefs about god don't fit any particular religion perfectly. A lot of people lean more towards a particular philosophy rather than a religion, or even a mixture of philosophy. (Incidentally, Buddhism is technically more of a philosophy than a religion, because contrary to popular belief, the Buddha was and is not a god. However, some lay buddhists do worship him almost as if he was a god, including asking for favours, etc) Are the views of every non religious person in the world completely meaningless? Also, many Hindus do eat meat, and plenty of Buddhists do too. So vegetarianism doesn't necessarily belong to a certain religious tradition. I think that Jainism may well be the only religion where everyone is definitely vegetarian. In addition, there are vegetarians in most religions - Christian, Muslim, Sikh, etc. Some of these people are vegetarian because they believe that their particular religion suggests that vegetarianism is a good thing. The wide variety of different people who are vegetarian suggests that there is a certain philosophical sense to it that often (though not always) goes beyond religion or culture.

I'm not saying that everyone should be vegetarian. I may be veggie myself, but quite frankly I couldn't care what other people do! As far as I'm concerned, it's up to each person individually to decide what they put in their body, and I wouldn't dream of forcing another person to follow my beliefs. What annoys me is that way that some people find it acceptable to deride and criticise what I put in my body. Often these people say that they hate vegetarianism because of all those "militant" vegetarians. But they are doing exactly the same thing in the name of meat-eating! Oh well, rant over.

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This is why dishes created in vegetarian cultures, most of which are non-Western and are almost always mediated in their dietary practices by religion, or vegetarian dishes created in omnivorous cultures due to scarcity or economics tend to be far more delicious than vegetarian dishes prepared by health- or ethics-minded Western vegetarians: the primary culinary goal of the formers is deliciousness and the primary goal of the latter is not. Generally speaking, of course.

I'm not sure if it's because of goals. But I think vegetarian cultures like the Hindus have many centuries of experience on their side. They've figured out the delicousness part and have encoded it into a deep tradition. And a living tradition ... it continues to be passed down to new generations of home cooks year after year.

Vegetarians in this country more often inherit ideas from short-lived trends, from cook book authors who are forever in search of a new hook, or from opportunistic packaged food manufacturers (veggie bacon! Tofurkey!)


Notes from the underbelly

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Bourdain’s principle is based entirely off of an ethnocentric viewpoint that suggests that non-Westerners are fully incapable of understanding vegetarianism regardless of whether a tradition of vegetarianism exists in their country or not. It’s a viewpoint that relies entirely on a Western thinking bias.

I think you're just mischaracterizing his position. Bourdain attacks ideologies that present themselves as morally superior, but which don't acknowledge the enormous degree of privilege (mostly economic) that makes them possible.

He may invite misunderstanding, to a degree, by using the blanket term "vegetarians" ... when what he really means is vegetarians who bring their ideas stubbornly and self-righteously into contexts that are inappropriate.

Yes, there are many vegetarian cultures in the world, and many in which meat is optional. There are others where meat (or fish, or dairy, or whatever) is a matter of survival ... and to refuse it based on ideas you brought with you from the Land of Opportunity or the hippy commune, is just plain arrogant.

I'm pretty sure Bourdain has travelled enough to not be constrained by simplistic ethnocentric ideas. And I seriously doubt he cares a bit if you abstain from Burgers while in Northern California.

This would have been a well thought out argument. But this isn’t the argument TB makes in the book. No where near it. In all actuality I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly extrapolate this relatively well thought out, though poorly presented, position from what is actually printed in the book. Though it is a bit unclear exactly how vegetarianism comes from a position of priviledge, given that meat is truly the food of the weathly.

"I don't care what you do in your home, but the idea of a vegetarian traveler in comfortable shoes waving away hospitality—the distillation of a lifetime of training and experience—of, say, a Vietnamese pho vendor (or an Italian mother-in-law, for that matter) fills me with sputtering indignation."

"I guess I understand if your desire for a clean conscience and cleaner colon overrules any natural lust for bacon. But taking your belief system on the road—or to other people's houses—makes me angry. I feel too lucky—now more than ever—too accutely aware what an incredible, unexpected privilege it is to travel this world and enjoy the kindness of strangers to ever, ever be able to understand how one could do anything other than say yes, yes, yes."


Notes from the underbelly

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Probably related to this is the fact that the majority of Western vegetarians (most of whom are found in the UK and USA) are vegetarians primarily for health or ethical reasons, and this rather than the goal of deliciousness is the fundamental principle that drives their cooking.

Hmm, I would disagree with this. I think there's a misconception that if it doesn't have meat in it, or if it's healthy, then it must taste awful. This is such a close-minded view, it's actually a real shame.

Jenni, that's not what I'm saying at all. I'm not saying that it must taste awful. We have evidence from traditional vegetarian cuisines that it can taste delicious. But the fact is that Western vegetarian cooking very frequently does taste awful. And I would suggest that a primary reason Western vegetarian cooking frequently is not delicious is because the deliciousness of the food is not the primary objective of the cooks. Look at Indian vegetarian food for example. Often among the things that helps Indian vegetarian to taste so delicious is the liberal use of fat. Well, for a health-minded vegetarian, this simply will not do.

There are more or less two different kinds of vegetarians in the world: (1) obligatory vegetarians, who observe a vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diet due either to religion or poverty/scarcity; and (2) voluntary vegetarians who observe a vegetarian diet for some other reason. There are some noteworthy things about this second group: First is that almost all of them live either in the UK or the USA. Second is that, when asked to give the reasons why they were vegetarians, the vast majority give "health" as the reason, followed by (believe it or not!) "not sure" and with "ethical reasons" at a distant third. "I love vegetables" or "I don't like meat" are not even on the radar.

These two fundamentally different reasons for having a vegetarian diet produce two fundamentally different approaches to cooking. For the obligatory vegetarian, the issue is simple: These are the foods I am able to eat, now go forth and make it delicious. There is really no complex calculus that has to be performed. If simmering those beans in 2 cups of ghee for 5 hours makes them delicious, then that is what is going to happen. Deliciousness is the objective. For the voluntary vegetarian, what comes first has to be the reasons. Most voluntary vegetarians are first concerned with satisfying whatever their goal of being vegetarian is, and deliciousness has to come second. This isn't going to change with respect to Western vegetarian cooking unless the reasons for being a vegetarian somehow change.

I guess the other part of Bourdain's rant is that if you're a voluntary vegetarian, than you can voluntarily decide to not be such a hard ass about it sometimes (especially if you're not among the tiny percent that does it for ethical reasons that are actually lived up to in all facets of life). If you're a voluntary vegetarian but you wear a leather belt or eat cheese, you can suck it up and have some pho in oxtail broth if it's offered to you. Just the same way I have sucked it up and choked down eggplant to be polite.


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Respecting other people's religious views is a big part of modern Western cultural heritage, no doubt because we spent a few hundred years killing each other en masse over such vitally important matters as the nature of the Trinity and the doctrine of transubstantiation, not to mention what language the Mass should be conducted in. Secular views do not get the same free pass.

(Yeah there are a few people who still take exception at the practice of religious freedom but those guys are outliers).

That said, I think Bourdain is being an ass on this particular topic. If someone refuses a slice of my cheesecake because ZOMG DAIRY my reaction is "heh, more for me" not "HOW DARE THIS HOLIER THAN THOU SON OF A BACHELOR". Catching an earful about the oppression of our dumb chumbs would be another matter entirely but it hasn't actually happened since my peer group went past the college years.


This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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"I don't care what you do in your home, but the idea of a vegetarian traveler in comfortable shoes waving away hospitality—the distillation of a lifetime of training and experience—of, say, a Vietnamese pho vendor (or an Italian mother-in-law, for that matter) fills me with sputtering indignation."

"I guess I understand if your desire for a clean conscience and cleaner colon overrules any natural lust for bacon. But taking your belief system on the road—or to other people's houses—makes me angry. I feel too lucky—now more than ever—too accutely aware what an incredible, unexpected privilege it is to travel this world and enjoy the kindness of strangers to ever, ever be able to understand how one could do anything other than say yes, yes, yes."

1) Again, who is to say only vegetarian travelers should be held to this standard? Not to mention if someone was a vegetarian why would they purchase a bowl of pho (with meat) in the first place? Despite the hospitality of the Vietnamese people, from my perspective a "pho vendor" is still in the occupation of selling pho, not giving it away. How is the failure to purchase something a legitimate reason for having such a hatred towards vegetarians? It’s not. It’s just a shitty excuse.

2) I guess I have to respect an argument where Bourdain subtly calls vegetarian travelers fags. Because after all, the only thing worse than a vegetarian is a homo, right?

3) “But taking your belief system on the road—or to other people's houses—makes me angry.” To state the obvious, but isn’t this exactly what Bourdain does? Hell, he flies all over the globe to babble about his belief system, videotapes it, broadcasts it to half the world, blogs about, writes books about it, and, well, literally takes it on the road. Of course, I have to invite Bourdain into my home (turn on the TV, purchase a book, etc.), and, yes, that is true. But it is just as true that a vegetarian traveler would have to purchase a bowl of pho and I am extremely doubtful there are vegetarians in this world who have paid their way to go to visit Vietnam just to spend their time there lecturing the local pho vendors on the benefits of vegetarianism.

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1) Again, who is to say only vegetarian travelers should be held to this standard?

Who says they are the only ones? Whether or not he holds other groups to this standard is not stated, and wouldn't determine whether his view on vegetarians is valid or not in any case. This line of argument is just a form of logical fallacy.

2) I guess I have to respect an argument where Bourdain subtly calls vegetarian travelers fags.

What??? That must be subtle indeed! But even if that was there (and it would take some leap of faith to see it), it *still* wouldn't invalidate his argument. He could be a Nazi serial killer pedophile and it would have no bearing on his argument about vegetarianism. If you want to say bourdain sucks (or is that a homophobe term?), go ahead, but it doesn't make his arguments wrong.


Edited by Paul Kierstead (log)

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