February 7, 2012

Kitchen Confidential

I finished this book early in the TBR Double Dare because I was waiting for the book club discussion.  Then the book club, toward the end of January, was so wonderful that I didn't think I could do it justice.  I am also afraid of getting any publicity for the book group or raising interest to a level that it becomes unmanageable.  (That won't be a problem this month since the actual meeting date and the one printed on the book store flyers don't match up for some reason.)

There's not much to say about the book.  It's been out a while, made Bourdain's reputation as the bad boy, rock and roll food lover he's known as today and catapulted him into various cable travel/food loving shows.  You either like him or you don't.  I don't know anything in particular about good food and I especially dont' know much about fine restaurants, so I learned a lot and didn't know who he was dishing about when he discusses different well-known restaurant owners, chefs, etc.

First thing is, it's very funny and very profane.  Second thing is, he loves the food.  Curt Cobain might have been a messed up individual but he obviously loved the music.  Bourdain can be messed up but doesn't claim to be anything he's not.  He even goes on at length about how exactly to run a kitchen and the absolute do's and don't you must follow as a chef.  Then, in my favorite section, shadows another chef near the end of the book whose work he adores and proceeds to see all of his rules not being followed.  This by a chef and kitchen he considers leagues better than anything he could do.  So while he's a loudmouth, he's a self-aware and, believe it or not, a sometimes humble loudmouth.

Some of the guys in the book club like food quite a bit and so this book was chosen to coincide with our first meeting in a members home.  We all signed up to bring some food and/or beverages and let me tell you, it was one of the best meals of my life.  Bourdain either inspired them to new heights or we secretly have some chefs in the group.

There was one ringer.  The homeowner brought a friend who had done the brisket.  It was divine.  I might cry a little to myself now just thinking about it.  I also brought a friend who had thrown four punds of pork shoulder into a pot and brewed up a Brunswick stew that had been bubbling away for 14 hours.  It was like honey, I tell you.  The homeowner has one of those big green egg-like ceramic oval cooker things (like this) on a specially built teak table on his deck that had been stuffed with pork.  It melted in our fingers.  We were pulling it off in chunks as he was carving it.

I know; a meat-induced coma, right?  There was plenty of food for the vegetarians as well.  Delightful appetizers.  A gorgeous and simple fresh salad.  A perfectly cooked potato side.  More veggies. Home made desserts that were delicious and not overwhelming.

And the wine!  My goodness, this guy had racks of it all over the place.  I asked him how he could possibly have this much of a backlog?  I'd have drunk it as it came in.  He smiled and said simply, "I like to entertain."  No kidding.  He even has a dartboard up in the living room!

I'm no cook, so I made sure to bring good beer.  There was also some after-dinner whiskey.  All of it was perfection.  Especially the company.

Since Bourdain makes frequent references to music in his book, so will I. It was the day Etta James died so we played some of her music during the time we were gathering, noshing and preparing.  Then the musicologist of the group stuck in his especially-prepared mix of food-related music.  Great stuff indeed, but after we could bring ourselves to push our chairs back I felt it important to play some punk rock, in honor of Mr. Bourdain's preferences.  With that fun "Genius" feature on Apple products now, I simply picked a Stooges tune and clicked on the "Genius" magic list maker thingy and soon we had Iggy and the boys, the Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, the Clash, etc going while we cleaned up.  Then, after dinner was a time for more thoughtful discussion with a backdrop of (only slightly) more mellow fare from the likes of The Black Keys and The John Spencer Blues Explosion.

Books, travel, art, music, good food, good drink, good friends, good conversation and darts.  A night to remember.