Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

AlexForbes

Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw

Recommended Posts

I wonder if people here are overlooking the fact that ranting about vegetarians has long been entrenched as part of Bourdain's schtick (along with a host of other things). Might it just be possible that he does it because he's expected to do it? Because this is one of the things about Bourdain that makes a certain segment of his admirers think "fuckin-A yea, man! what an outlaw this Bourdain guy is! just like me"?

I'm reminded about the way Gordon Ramsey became such a horrible parody of himself in his various television shows where it became clear that he knew he was expected to yell abuse at people and would contrive reasons to do so.


--

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder if people here are overlooking the fact that ranting about vegetarians has long been entrenched as part of Bourdain's schtick (along with a host of other things). Might it just be possible that he does it because he's expected to do it?

I doubt it. In the new book the vegetarian rant is part of a chapter in which he revisits old ideas. Mostly to modify or retract. But he says the vegetarian issue still raises his ire.


Notes from the underbelly

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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?

Ok, maybe you could quote the passage in question. At first I was wondering if we'd read the same book; now I'm wondering if we live on the same planet.


Notes from the underbelly

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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?

Ok, maybe you could quote the passage in question. At first I was wondering if we'd read the same book; now I'm wondering if we live on the same planet.

You've already quoted it:

"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."

The term "in comfortable shoes" is slang for lesbian. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=women%20in%20comfortable%20shoes

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

1)It’s not a logical fallacy. If everyone in a certain population acts in a certain way, why would it be expected that a subset of that population should act in a different way. Look at it this way: If everyone here in the USA stops for a red traffic light, why would there be an expectation that women who travel to Canada no longer stop at red traffic lights. If the majority of the population of the USA would refuse an offering of any food while visiting a third world country, why are only vegetarians being singled out for an activity that the majority of Westerners, whether vegetarian or not, would also engage in.

Suppose I was in France. I am walking down the street and someone walks up to me and offers me some chevre. I would refuse it, as I do believe most people would do. Now this chevre might have been “the distillation of a lifetime of training and experience,” but I still believe this act is the norm of our society.

My point is that Bourdain can’t single out vegetarians for acting in the same manner as everyone else. BTW, if your really want a logically fallay, try Bourdain's. His would be considered a converse accident. http://philosophy.lander.edu/logic/converse.html

2) No, it just makes him ignorant. I’m unsure why the homosexual reference was necessary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The term "in comfortable shoes" is slang for lesbian. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=women%20in%20comfortable%20shoes

I didn't know that!

Does Mr. Bourdain?


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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, good god. It's also a symbol of economic privilege.

Which interpretation makes more sense in this context?


Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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?

Ok, maybe you could quote the passage in question. At first I was wondering if we'd read the same book; now I'm wondering if we live on the same planet.

You've already quoted it:

"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."

The term "in comfortable shoes" is slang for lesbian. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=women%20in%20comfortable%20shoes

Wow, I think you just won eGullet. That is some solid crazy right there.


-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The phrase was created by Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam to refer to lesbians. I suspect Tony would be less oblique if he were calling out such an easy target as those who are better off financially that the reader is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The phrase was created by Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam to refer to lesbians. I suspect Tony would be less oblique if he were calling out such an easy target as those who are better off financially that the reader is.

forgive me, I am not usually so obtuse, but I don't understand what you're saying. I understand that individual words, but I'm having trouble parsing the sentence. Are you agreeing with Florida, or disagreeing?

FWIW, I don't believe for a minute that Bourdain was referring to lesbians/gays when he spoke of those who wear "comfortable shoes", and I think it's a stretch to assert so. I think he was referring to the Birkenstock-wearing granola do-gooder crowd. Actually, ditch the Birkenstocks (as they are made of leather) and add Chaco sandals or similar. (Not a dis, by the way, as I own a pair of Chaco sandals.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"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."

Hypothesis A:

"I don't care what you do in your home, but the idea of a vegetarian traveler who is lesbian 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."

Hypothesis B:

"I don't care what you do in your home, but the idea of a vegetarian traveler who is overprivileged 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."

Sorry guys I just don't see A. And I don't even like Bourdain.

Edited to bold.


Edited by Dakki (log)

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ignoring the crazy talk about Bourdain calling vegetarians lesbian/ gay (I'm pretty sure he was referring to the non-leather shoe brigade! It's fine - I'll acknowledge that there is not a great range of styles in non-leather shoes, at least not in my price range!)...

I think this is one of those arguments where it's hard to get to some kind of agreement. People get very highly strung and defensive, and both meat eaters and veggies/vegans engage in some pretty childish name-calling and preaching. I just want to reiterate that I have nothing against meat eaters and I'm not here to argue that everyone should be vegetarian. I just want to say that I think that meat eaters sometimes say pretty dumb and nasty things about vegetarians that are just as ridiculous as a militant vegan giving someone a sermon for eating bacon and eggs.

I still reject the claim that vegetarians in the west don't make or eat good food (although it must be said that I myself don't cook very much western food anyway), but I think this is a case of misperception, and also of course it will differ depending on who you know. I obviously know a lot of vegetarians with very good taste! Also, I think perhaps there may be some mixing up with vegetarians and vegans. In my experience, sometimes vegans get a bit carried away with the weird soy meat and dairy analogues, and sometimes (not always) they can be a bit heavy on the "health" factor. Also, there is a whole other deal with raw foodists and fruititarians, and sometimes all of these different dietary choices get lumped together under the category "vegetarian" (which is not always true anyway - I believe some raw foodists are into raw meat!) This is misleading, as there are plenty of people who eat really delicious food sans meat (and sometimes dairy and eggs) but without being into any kind of "health craze". You can deep-fry, douse with butter/cream/etc. (ok, not if your vegan), roast in plenty of fat, fill with sugar, shower with seasonings and so on and so forth, and still be vegetarian!

My issue with Bourdain isn't that he doesn't agree with vegetarianism - he's welcome to his opinion as far as I'm concerned. It's just that I raised my eyebrows when I saw the whole "it's ok if it's for religion" thing. I couldn't quite believe that someone in this modern age in which we live would actually make such a statement. As I said before, nowadays there are plenty of people who don't believe in god, or have beliefs that don't fit in any one religious or philosophical tradition, and these people are more than capable of holding powerful personal beliefs and well thought out moral codes. To say that their beliefs are not as important or valid as certain religious beliefs is to dismiss them as meaningless.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As I said before, nowadays there are plenty of people who don't believe in god, or have beliefs that don't fit in any one religious or philosophical tradition, and these people are more than capable of holding powerful personal beliefs and well thought out moral codes. To say that their beliefs are not as important or valid as certain religious beliefs is to dismiss them as meaningless.

I think you are looking at it backwards. I have no idea what Bourdain thinks, but my impulse feelings on this follows his (about the religion aspect I mean). For me, someone who has a belief in the basis of religion I just kind of write off; It doesn't at all bother me that it is utterly irrational, it is religion after all; if it was rational, it would be science (obviously not strictly true, just going emotionally here). I consider someone who follows religion to have allowed someone else to make their choices for them. I "respect" that in that I accept that some people surrender the choices. If I have a problem with the principle, I'd take it up with the one who made the principle (god, head of church, whoever) not the follower. But when a person decides on their own to choose something, I hold them responsible. They frustrate me much more, because it seems the have the facility to choose, but just choose poorly (obviously strictly IMO). They get me wound up way more because I don't dismiss their belief as religious malarkey. This is particularly true if they are dogmatic about it; for example, vegetarian for health, but will eat meat under absolutely no circumstances (perhaps short of starvation). Now they've gone off and taken a sensible guideline (less meat, though to the point of none) and made it into dogma, which clearly a bit of meat a couple of times a year is largely harmless, health wise. So, if that person offered insult that way (eg auntie may's special tuna casserole ...), they really piss me off since, IMO, they should know better. The religious person just makes me feel, oh, they're religious, and I don't expect much.


Edited by Paul Kierstead (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My issue with Bourdain isn't that he doesn't agree with vegetarianism - he's welcome to his opinion as far as I'm concerned. It's just that I raised my eyebrows when I saw the whole "it's ok if it's for religion" thing. I couldn't quite believe that someone in this modern age in which we live would actually make such a statement.

I agree with this completely. I find it troubling when religious beliefs are somehow privileged over other types of beliefs. My personal bias is in the opposite direction: a belief based on evidence and reason should trump one based on inherited ideas and denial of reason. I have much more respect, say, for someone who refuses to eat meat because they've struggled with ethical ideas than for someone who refuses on the basis of scripture.

However, I understand (unhappily) that beliefs of the inherited / unquestionable variety tend to more deeply seated and stubborn than ones based on reasoning. An ethical vegetarian can likely weigh competing ethical concerns better than a vegetarian whose afraid of hellfire.

Butting heads with someone's religious practice is generally a recipe for trouble. Making a hippy eat Pho? He'll get over it, however comfortable his shoes.

On your point about the quality of Western vegetarian food ... yeah, great examples exists. But in my experience they're not especially common. Meanwhile even run of the mill Indian vegetarian food tends to be delicious in comparison.


Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Butting heads with someone's religious practice is generally a recipe for trouble. Making a hippy eat Pho? He'll get over it, however comfortable his shoes.

Forcing someone to do something they don't want to do? He'll get over it. What the hell does that mean?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Paul I also dislike how our society puts anything faith-based beyond debate but as I said before I think it's ingrained in our culture, probably as the result of some pretty horrible historical stuff. As a survival strategy it seems to work, too.

Maybe one of the reasons for the comparative dearth of tasty Western veg dishes is that we just haven't had enough time to develop a cuisine around it? Vegetarianism is a fairly recent phenomenon in the West.

PS: I wear comfortable shoes all the time and I like girls. Coincidence?!


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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Forcing someone to do something they don't want to do? He'll get over it. What the hell does that mean?

Just an observation that there's generally less trouble when you push against secular beliefs than religious ones. I wish it weren't true, but it seems to be.

In this sense I disagree philosophically with Bourdain's giving special privilege to religious belief, but I respect the pragmatism of it.


Notes from the underbelly

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems to me that this debate is predicated on a pretty shaky foundation: foodways are fine as long as they are cultural. If they are not, and are new and highly individual, they are not fine. Bourdain's view here is highly reductive and seems to be coming from his own self-loathing: a westernized culture of individualism (maybe especially severe for Americans?) in which people who can afford comfortable shoes can also afford to turn eating into a kind of faddish personal expression. That's a pretty ridiculous caricature and I'd suggest that it is alive and well in Bourdain's work (I'm speaking generally about it here) and comes from his struggle not to be the ugly American in the face of cultures that demand respect.

What's going on here (says me) in Bourdain is the confusion between foodways, culturally defined ways of eating, and Culture (with a capital C that includes everything from science/religion to clothes to the way you conceive of things like space). They're not the same and you can have your own highly individualized ethos and respect another culture that has a completely different ethos without having to debase yourself or aspects of your culture (like Western Vegetarianism even though there's no such rigidly defined thing). I think he's doing a bit too much debasing--I like self-deprecation as much as the next person but there's a point where it turns into something negative. I think his experiences have led him to be too simplistic about comfortable shoe wearing Americans, a camp he firmly belongs in (and no doubt would acknowledge and has if not in so many words).

Plus, it seems a bit fascist to me (defined as the elevation of a particular to an axiomatic and highly rigid general) to say that it is always wrong to pass on an offering of food because that always means that you are rejecting and offending someone's Culture. I may believe the former myself, but I have trouble with the rigidity of the latter and the violence with which Bourdain hits people with it (rhetorically, of course). If you don't believe in the former, I might try to persuade you but I'm not going to write you off and outright attack you, even if its just for the necessary element of sensationalism that's built into the Bourdain Brand (make no mistake, there is one). Then again, maybe I would do it for the money-I'll tell you when somebody offers.

I've enjoyed Bourdain's books and I still every once in a while watch reruns of shows I've watched before. For my money, No Reservations is a great travel show-the best. I also like Bourdain's persona and shtick most of the time or at least it doesn't annoy me too much when it does. But Bourdain is not a sage or a very flexible thinker and I don't really take a lot of his views seriously because I just don't think they're that well thought out. He's a damn fine entertainer, an anthropologist however he is not.


nunc est bibendum...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

He's obviously just baiting the reader, knowing that many will take it. I don't think Bourdain's books taken in totality evaluate to any kind of consistently worked-out philosophy. Still fun to read though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems to me that this debate is predicated on a pretty shaky foundation: foodways are fine as long as they are cultural. If they are not, and are new and highly individual, they are not fine. Bourdain's view here is highly reductive and seems to be coming from his own self-loathing: a westernized culture of individualism (maybe especially severe for Americans?) in which people who can afford comfortable shoes can also afford to turn eating into a kind of faddish personal expression. That's a pretty ridiculous caricature and I'd suggest that it is alive and well in Bourdain's work (I'm speaking generally about it here) and comes from his struggle not to be the ugly American in the face of cultures that demand respect.

I think you're making some excellent points, although diagnosing Bourdain as "self-loathing" goes a bit far ... I'd say it's reductive in the same manner as Bourdains own arguments that you're critiquing.

It's worth remembering that the chapter in question is a rant, not a philosophical treatise. He characterizes it as "sputtering indignation," and this is what he delivers: broad strokes and a lot of passion. There are holes in his argument that you could drive a truck through, but I believe much of it is defensible.

Kudos to you for critiquing his actual book and not some imagined version of it.


Notes from the underbelly

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems to me that this debate is predicated on a pretty shaky foundation: foodways are fine as long as they are cultural. If they are not, and are new and highly individual, they are not fine. Bourdain's view here is highly reductive and seems to be coming from his own self-loathing: a westernized culture of individualism (maybe especially severe for Americans?) in which people who can afford comfortable shoes can also afford to turn eating into a kind of faddish personal expression. That's a pretty ridiculous caricature and I'd suggest that it is alive and well in Bourdain's work (I'm speaking generally about it here) and comes from his struggle not to be the ugly American in the face of cultures that demand respect.

I think you're making some excellent points, although diagnosing Bourdain as "self-loathing" goes a bit far ... I'd say it's reductive in the same manner as Bourdains own arguments that you're critiquing.

It's worth remembering that the chapter in question is a rant, not a philosophical treatise. He characterizes it as "sputtering indignation," and this is what he delivers: broad strokes and a lot of passion. There are holes in his argument that you could drive a truck through, but I believe much of it is defensible.

Kudos to you for critiquing his actual book and not some imagined version of it.

You're probably right about the self-loathing bit-I thought when I wrote it that it's a bit ridiculous to psychologize a writer's persona and certainly presumptuous to diagnose a writer.

And it's true Bourdain's generally pretty good at hedging and characterizing his writing to pull it towards witty and away from serious most times, which is why I like watching his show too.


nunc est bibendum...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's just that I raised my eyebrows when I saw the whole "it's ok if it's for religion" thing.

It's important to keep this in context. AB is talking about accepting hospitality. It's one thing if you tell your mother in law that you can't eat her pot roast because you are a Hindu and can't eat beef. It's quite another thing if you say that you feel that slaughtering helpless animals is immoral.

The former is a limitation you have (had) placed on yourself. The latter is a tacit accusation of immorality on behalf of the cook.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's just that I raised my eyebrows when I saw the whole "it's ok if it's for religion" thing.

It's important to keep this in context. AB is talking about accepting hospitality. It's one thing if you tell your mother in law that you can't eat her pot roast because you are a Hindu and can't eat beef. It's quite another thing if you say that you feel that slaughtering helpless animals is immoral.

The former is a limitation you have (had) placed on yourself. The latter is a tacit accusation of immorality on behalf of the cook.

What if someone does think its unethical to do though? It sounds like you're saying that there are limits to someone having such a belief: at some point it's not acceptable to think that way. If someone thinks that way though, they do and I'm not sure it's fair to say to a person that they just can't always have their convictions. That's what I don't like about the argument that if you have religious convictions, they're ok but if you have, say, philosophical convictions there's a point at which you have to give them up and just do what you don't want to do. I don't think the two are different and it's just as bad to deny someone their beliefs (about food) as it is to deny their gift of food (behind which stand some cultural beliefs).


nunc est bibendum...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What if someone does think its unethical to do though? It sounds like you're saying that there are limits to someone having such a belief: at some point it's not acceptable to think that way. If someone thinks that way though, they do and I'm not sure it's fair to say to a person that they just can't always have their convictions

I think you're getting to the most problematic idea in Bourdain's piece. That it's not ok, as he puts it, to "take your beliefs on the road."

It's an easy idea to swallow when you're dealing with beliefs presumeably grounded in nothing more than economic privilege, and ones concerning issues like whether or not to eat pho.

But taken more broadly it's a troubling concept. As I read it, it could be seen as an endorsement of ethical relativism, and all the ugliness that lurks down that particular rabbit hole. Ideas like, "child labor is wrong back home, but it's perfectly ok here, because their culture accepts it. So I'm going to buy this cool cheap handbag!"

Unfortunately the alternative, taken to it's logical extreme, means acting like an activist and a scold at every opportunity ... a good invitation to the Italian grandma to kick your hippy ass (and comfortable shoes) to the curb.


Notes from the underbelly

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

He is not writing a formal, fully carefully written academic treatise. Taking his comments (or a forum comment, for that matter) "more broadly" or "to it's logical extreme" would not be appropriate and very likely not representative of the intent or belief.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...