A few months ago I bought tickets for John and I to go see Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert speak at Boston Symphony Hall. We’ve been on a huge No Reservations kick lately in addition to our longtime love for Bourdain and all of his books. (I still maintain that A Cook’s Tour has the most well thought out, articulate, and exquisitely written piece on anti-vegetarianism I’ve ever read, and I like vegetarians and occasionally being vegetarian!)
The show, Good vs. Evil, started with Bourdain and Ripert interrogating each other on their past and present misgivings, career lows, and drama they both seem to stir up (Bourdain’s attack on Alan Richman, Ripert’s attack on Gordon Ramsay, Bourdain’s drug use, Ripert’s judging on this season of Top Chef, Bourdain being on Yo Gabba Gabba…the list goes on).
But too much of their exchange had the audience oooh-ing and ahhh-ing in a showoff, suck up, self important kind of way. For instance, Bourdain asked Ripert “Why do you like Guy Fieri anyway?!” And the audience, on cue, let out a dogged AWWWW! Then cut to all of the pretentious questions about molecular gastronomy and over-laughter at the Padma Lakshmi jokes. I dunno, none of this sat well with me. It seemed like everyone involved was trying too hard.
On the whole Good vs. Evil was just ok. I was definitely expecting more. The format of this kind of speaking event just doesn’t really jive with this type of venue or audience. Maybe it would have been different as a book tour or something.
My favorite parts of the night were obviously sitting in the gorgeous Boston Symphony Hall and Bourdain’s highest compliments to Boston’s own Julia Child (“She single-handedly changed amateur cooking on TV and at home forever”). Bourdain also had some very profound things to say on the subject of being a curious and conscious world traveler which were very inspiring. I’d rather have a one on one conversation with him about this though then share it with 2,500 superfluous brown nosers.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love Anthony Bourdain. But I think I’ll stick to absorbing his writing and observing his show in the privacy of my own home where my reactions and interpretations are truly my own.
I thought they were both hilarious and I loved every second of it, especially when Bourdain tore Alice Waters a new one. And the image of him dousing an Olive Garden in gasoline was priceless.
I agree with the Olive Garden thing!
i had no idea the format, but it sounds like i’d be with you. this seems like something i’d love to watch on tv a la in the actor’s studio or whatever, but questioning each other for an audience leaves too big a door open for forced lines imo.
i’d also have liked just to hear bourdain talk, i think he could pull it off but certainly not at such a grand-scaled venue type deal.
but omg, yeah, isn’t symphony awesome? i saw david sedaris there years ago and that whole thing was just incredible.
Exactly! All of this.
RE: his anti-veg stance…is that the one where he considers it a “first world luxury?” It’s a lot cheaper to be vegetarian in the US than a meat eater (at least, the “good” kind of meat that he promotes. Funny that he is against vegetarians, but for the humane treatment of food animals. Buying humanely raised beef and chicken is a first world luxury.
I always found it funny that he dislikes and disrespects vegetarians so much UNLESS it’s a part of their religion (like when he filmed in India or visited Buddhists), because I’m fairly certain that he’s an atheist.
His argument in the book about vegetarians is that for most the issue has to do with the animals (their treatment and eventual deaths) but has little to do with food. And just that it’s great to love animals and all but the issue, as consumers and humans who need to eat to live, should be about food.
The other thing I found so fascinating was his discussion of being a respectful traveler. For example, he went to Namibia and ate a warthog rectum and sphincter. He openly admits that it was awful and made him sick. But the indigenous hunters tracked the warthog for hours in the blazing sun, shot it with low grade poison, waited hours for it to die, singing to it, blessing it and making it comfortable, and then they use every bit of it for food because that’s all they have. He said that to refuse or reject their offering would have been offensive and disrespectful as an outsider. His point was that in any culture if someone toils over a meal for you, often giving more than they take for themselves, no matter how different it is from what you eat on a day to day basis, that you should humbly and respectfully receive it.
And I really do believe in that. Not necessary to eat the hairy buttholes of any animal, and I’m probably never going to be in a situation like Bourdain was with that, but I agree with the idea of being respectful towards other cultures and people when it comes to food.
Well, I think the solution is simple. I am probably never going to Namibia.
In all seriousness though, I disagree with Bourdain’s stance that being vegetarian means not focusing on food. In fact, I cook far more now than when I ate meat, and I have learned a lot about cultures where meat is either expensive, hard to find, or eschewed entirely. As for the disrespect aspect of the argument, it sounds fair for him to say that–regarding his lifestyle, at least. He is a globe-trotter, and people go out of their way to share the bizarre and wonderful cuisines of their culture, but this is not an experience most Americans will have. It’s why I watch the show.
It really bothers me when people use the disrespect argument to criticize vegetarians. I think I’m a very respectful person in terms of being a guest, but I’m also a person of strong principles. This is why I often offer to bring a dish wherever I visit. I don’t want to put people out of their way, but I also want to do what I believe is right for me. What we eat is one of the most personal choices one can make and I think as long as one actually takes the time to contemplate and appreciate what one puts in her body, one will make the best choice for who she is, be that omnivore or herbivore.
I mean, who really wants to go to Namibia after seeing that?
I think you are a thoughtful, considerate, and respectful vegetarian for sure. Offering to bring a dish is just a different side of the respect coin, I think. Where the alternate side would be to accept any dish offered, rectum or some other nasty bit.
I agree though that Bourdain is a special case, he makes a living traveling the world and being a cultural ambassador. For him, it would be entirely disrespectful to refuse anything really. For us, it’s a totally different story.
Doing what’s right for you is the key to life when you think about it. And having to defend any decision you make, whether it has to do with food or any other habit, sucks (unless it’s some awful addiction or something). But I think our culture is one that crucifies any outlier-type behavior (vegs, being too fat or too thin, boozers and straightedge folks, even goths or nerds or Bieber-fever-ers), it’s sad that vegetarianism is one of them.