I have an autographed copy of Bourdain’s first book, Kitchen Confidential. My friend Angela went to the book signing and asked if I wanted to come. I said no. “He’s no James Joyce,” I said. Angela repeated what I said to Bourdain and he paused for a second before saying, “True.” Still, he’s a good writer and I like that book. I also like his Les Halles cookbook and his television show, but the latter has begun to bore me.
I think No Reservations has run its course. The most disparaging element is this need to create a meaning and theme around every episode. At first it was kind of cute, but the crew has seemingly run out of different ways of saying the same thing: food doesn’t need to be fancy; good times equals good food, good friends, and family; and while the world and its people are all very different, we are all very much the same, etc.. I agree with this message. Who doesn’t? And I think any normal person would get it after sitting through an episode, yet at the end of every hour I have to get hit over the head with this fucking MESSAGE. You’d think Bourdain of all people would be smart enough to realize that a TV show doesn’t have to have a meaning or a message. If it does, the best way to get it across is to show it to me. Which, as I said, he does very well. But the other shit has gotten kind of pathetic, to the point where he even seems to be making fun of the situations the producers are forcing him into.
I’ve noticed the writing has suffered somewhat as well. Over the last couple of years his voiceovers have become stained by these really bizarre and awkward pop culture references in, I imagine, an attempt to appear hip, and cool, and intelligent, and relevant? It’s so bad that sometimes I wonder if he isn’t influenced by that Chuck Klosterman fellow. I don’t understand what’s so clever about mentioning Batman, Slayer, The Brady Bunch, and the Koran in the same sentence? One reviewer described Klosterman’s writing as an “amalgam of ostensibly unrelated material.” That same reviewer also reported finding a message and meaning in Klosterman’s work. I say if you stare at a pile of dog shit long enough, you’ll find something there as well.
Speaking of dog shit. Nothing suffers more than this douche pickle, Toby Young.
Bourdain, to his credit, had an interesting reference at the end of his recent Hudson River Valley episode in which he ended the piece talking about his family (!) and I think there was a Tolstoy reference in there? Something regarding the first line of Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I don’t know. Seemed like he was trying to go there? Unnecessary if it was intentional, but it was, for once, well timed. At least it wasn’t another, “Check me out! I used to listen to punk rock in New York City!” I'm sure the mere mention of Lou Reed and The Ramones dislodges some “crazy” punk rock memories for all the geezers that watch the show, but they play that shit in my grocery store now. They don’t even disguise it as muzak, they just play The Ramones as is.
I was having this discussion about whether No Reservations is finished or not with my new friend and editor-in-chief of the recently created Swallow magazine, James Casey. We were having a debate of sorts, I suppose. And since we were also discussing content for upcoming Swallow issues and the new website, I said, “We should have some sort of a debate page.” People love arguing about food. Some sort of pro/con thing. And I thought “Anthony Bourdain” would make for a perfect subject. We tried to do something similar in The Skateboard Mag right after it started in a column called “Way/No Way.” Not sure what we were debating about because the skateboard media is allergic to controversy and avoids conflict like the plague. And, sure enough, the first “Way/No Way” I found when searching through the archives was in issue nine and was a self-reflexive debate about whether we should even keep the column or not. I, of course, was on the “way” side of the argument. Pun intended because the column really did go by the wayside right after that.
Way, Way/No Way
Way/No Way no mo’? No way. No fuckin’ way. I am so way into the way on this Way/No Way. They want to NO WAY this page of Way/No Way. They want to send it on its way. No way. There is absolutely no way I could be more way into way this way…today. I am WAY for Way/No Way. Way, way for Way/No Way. I say, “Hooray! For Way/No Way.” You say, “Hip-hip! Hooray! Hip-hip! Hooray! Hip-hip! Hooray! Way! Way! Way!”
C’est vrai, Way/No Way has been pretty gay nearly every play, but saying no way to Way/No Way is tres, tres gay-gay. If you say No Way to Way/No Way, that’s the last time you’ll ever get to say No Way today and that’s totally gay. And what’s that leave you with? No Way. If you send Way/No Way on its wayfaring ways, you’re way out of your mind and way, way, way out of line. Waaaaaay out of line. So I just pray you don’t say that you’re not way into Way/No Way. Okay?
Imagine the world as a tray, but upon that tray there is no way to say Way or No Way. Wouldn’t that make your day so terribly drab and gray? You’ll say to yourself, “No way, this day is so way too gray.” And all you’ll have to look forward to from day to day are long solitary walks in the rain along the quay. Everyday will be like Sunday, silent and gray.
When removed, the way is paved for what? Surely we’re making way for something way better than Way/No way, but what could be way better than Way/No Way? I mean, we’re already under way, why not go all the way? Who is pulling on the reins and crying, “Waaaaay!”? Who has the say? Imagine what you’ll say when you’re sitting in the café on St. John’s Day with your glass of cabernet and you make your way to this page and find no Way and no No Way.
“No way,” you’ll say. “No, freakin’ way,” you’ll say again, this time a little more dramatically. You’re in public after all. You’re an actor. A lonely actor, who’s never been in a play. “Where’s Way/No Way?”
“It has gone astray,” my voice will say, or perhaps it will be your voice, or maybe even a gentle woman’s voice, but regardless of the mouthpiece, there will be a voice, there always is after all. Perhaps his name is Jay? Or even Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet?
“No way, you know Monet? I must say, he uses a lot of hair spray.”
There’s no way I’d try to lead your opinion of Monsieur Monet astray. He does use a lot of hair spray.
“Can you pass me the ashtray?”
I didn’t know you smoked. It’s my turn to act dismayed. I cross my legs. “No way?” I say.
“Way,” you say a bit too dramaticallay, “way, way too much.”
“There’s going to be hell to pay.”
“Oh I know, but that is already under way. So in which direction did this column stray?”
“It just kind of went away.”
“Did it disappear on a sleigh?”
“That I cannot say.”
“Was there any foul play?”
“Again, I cannot say.”
“Did someone fashion it a pair of cement boots and walk it into the bay?”
“Not that I have heard anyone say.”
“Is it hungover from last evening’s soiree?”
“No certainly not today.”
“Did it get too stoned listening to reggae?”
“That is indeed a possibilitay.”
“Est-ce que en Francais?”
“Je ne parle pas Francais. En anglais, en anglais.”
“Was it stung by a sting ray and drowned in the sea spray?”
“Oh, now you’re just being cliché.”
“Was it imprisoned by Augusto Pinochet?”
Before I can say anything about Pinochet, either way, the waiter arrives and asks what you’d like for your dejeuner.
“I daresay,” you say, “I’ll have the lumberjack’s souffle, the sauteed blue jay (it’s native to Norway they say), the Bombay fish fillet, the potter’s clay puree, a trough of curds and whey (hold the curds, extra whey), a pint of Perrier, another keg of chardonnay—excuse me, I’m a bit tipsay—another cask of cabernet and a yard of cloudberry sorbet.”
“Very good sir,” the waiter says, “it’s on its way.”
“You better watch out,” I say, “you’re going to get tooth decay.”
“No way, I brush every day,” you say. “So, hey, what’s up with this page anyway?”
“Well,” I say, inspecting my dossier, “me thinks it’s going away.”
“Going away? No way.”
“WAAAAAAY!” I bellow and bray.
“Wait…what’d you say?”
A bowl of our vichyssoise with croutons.
As I said above, I’m a fan of Bourdain’s Les Halles cookbook. I use it often. And one dish I’m quite fond of is the vichyssoise soup. Although Tania and I prefer it hot, as opposed to the cold in the recipe. So I’m not sure if it’s still “vichyssoise?” If “chilled” is an ingredient, I’m fine with calling it “leek and potato soup.” Kind of like how vegan chili isn’t chili. Once you take the meat out of chili it ceases to be chili. Vegan chili should be called a stew, at best. “Hot trash” is probably better. Vichyssoise is just so much more fun to say. But besides the taste, it doesn’t deserve the fancy French name because it’s incredibly easy to make.