The Playbook For The Modern Man

20 Year Old Anthony Bourdain Essay Reveals The Problem With Modern ‘Foodies’

Think you know your food? Think again.

The modern world has a food fetish. From ‘Masterchef’ and ‘Hells Kitchen’ to the celebrity chefs that glut your Instagram feed with provisional porn, our hankering for eating sparkly new dishes is surpassed only by our desire to take photos of them.

However, despite our self proclaimed expertise, we still commit a number of dining sins, particularly when we visit high-end restaurants. And who better to pierce these myths than the late rebel king of the food travel industry.

These insights, drawn from an essay Bourdain wrote for The New Yorker’s 1999 Annals of Gastronomy, entitled “Don’t Eat Before Reading This” (which, among other things, put people off eating fish from Sunday to Tuesday and from ordering well-done steak for a good decade), expose some of the worst haute culinaire faux pas modern diners still make.

Advertisement

While there are various reasons for these blunders, the main one Bourdain skewers is the shallow ‘foodie fetish’ which seeks to remove the gore from your tabletop.

“Gastronomy is the science of pain.”

While some of his rules, like the one that you should never order a well-done steak, are now cliché common, others are still either ignored by or unknown to diners du jour. So if you are a self-respecting foodie, you better have a read – here are the worst mistakes modern ‘foodies’ keep making – even 20 years after Bourdain published his essay.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

// “For us, restaurants are like gas stations. You pull in, you fill up and you move on, preferably as quickly as possible. The idea of volume is much more important than quality. . . . ‘Hey, did you have a good meal?’ ‘Yeah, they gave you all the shrimp you could eat!’ . . . That’s really silly. You know, bulk. It explains a lot about our culture.” – Anthony Bourdain (A Cook’s Tour) . . . . 👕 Check Link In Bio For Bourdain TeeShirts 📦 Worldwide Shipping 🔖 Holiday Sale ~ 6% Discount On Everything 🏷 Use Code “HOLIDAYSHIP19” For Free Shipping On Purchase Of 2 TeeShirts . . . 🔥 follow @anthonybourdainfanclub ❤ 🔥 follow @anthonybourdainfanclub ❤ 🔥 follow @anthonybourdainfanclub ❤ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ——————————– tags : #anthonybourdain #bourdain #bourdainday #partsunknown #truecooks #chefsofinstagram #truecook #truecooksstreetteam #truecooksfam #chefclub #chefsoninstagram #discoveringchefs #chefsteps #chefsalert #chefstoday #cheflifestyle #travelquotes #foodquotes #chef_book #cheftips #thebestchefsoftheworld #artofcooking #culinaryschool #topchefs #juliachild #gordonramsay #jamieoliver #cheflife #cheftalk

A post shared by Anthony Bourdain Fan Club (@anthonybourdainfanclub) on

Thinking brunch is a meal

According to Bourdain, chefs have a special kind of hatred for brunchers: “The ‘B’ word is dreaded by all dedicated cooks. We hate the smell and spatter of omelettes. We despise hollandaise, home fries, those pathetic fruit garnishes, and all the other cliché accompaniments designed to induce a credulous public into paying $12.95 for two eggs.”

“Nothing demoralizes an aspiring Escoffier faster than requiring him to cook egg-white omelettes or eggs over easy with bacon. You can dress brunch up with all the focaccia, smoked salmon, and caviar in the world, but it’s still breakfast.”

Being rigidly vegetarian

“Even more despised than the Brunch People are the vegetarians,” Bourdain wrote. “Serious cooks regard these members of the dining public – and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans – as enemies of everything that’s good and decent in the human spirit.

“To live life without veal or chicken stock, fish cheeks, sausages, cheese, or organ meats is treasonous.”

Assuming pork is riskier than chicken

“Like most other chefs I know, I’m amused when I hear people object to pork on nonreligious grounds. ‘Swine are filthy animals,’ they say. These people have obviously never visited a poultry farm,” Bourdain quipped.

“Chicken – America’s favorite food – goes bad quickly; handled carelessly, it infects other foods with salmonella; and it bores the hell out of chefs. It occupies its ubiquitous place on menus as an option for customers who can’t decide what they want to eat.”

“Most chefs believe that supermarket chickens in this country are slimy and tasteless compared with European varieties,” Bourdain continued. “Pork, on the other hand, is cool. Farmers stopped feeding garbage to pigs decades ago, and even if you eat pork rare you’re more likely to win the Lotto than to contract trichinosis.”

“Pork tastes different, depending on what you do with it, but chicken always tastes like chicken.”

Ordering fish on a Monday

Globalisation has led modern foodies to believe they can eat what they want when you want it – a trend which has only increased since Bourdain’s 1999 essay. Problem is, though, good dining ebbs and flows not just with the seasons but with the chef.

Advertisement

“Say it’s a quiet Monday night, and you’ve just checked your coat in that swanky Art Deco update in the Flatiron district, and you’re looking to tuck into a thick slab of pepper-crusted yellowfin tuna… what are you in for?”, Bourdain asks. “The fish specialty is reasonably priced, and the place got two stars in the Times.”

“Why not go for it? If you like four-day-old fish, be my guest.”

“Here’s how things usually work. The chef orders his seafood for the weekend on Thursday night. It arrives on Friday morning. He’s hoping to sell the bulk of it on Friday and Saturday nights, when he knows that the restaurant will be busy, and he’d like to run out of the last few orders by Sunday evening. Many fish purveyors don’t deliver on Saturday, so the chances are that the Monday-night tuna you want has been kicking around in the kitchen since Friday morning, under God knows what conditions,” Bourdain explains.

“When a kitchen is in full swing, proper refrigeration is almost nonexistent, what with the many openings of the refrigerator door as the cooks rummage frantically during the rush, mingling your tuna with the chicken, the lamb, or the beef. Even if the chef has ordered just the right amount of tuna for the weekend, and has had to reorder it for a Monday delivery, the only safeguard against the seafood supplier’s off-loading junk is the presence of a vigilant chef who can make sure that the delivery is fresh from Sunday night’s market,” he continues.

The solution? Know the flow of the establishment you are visiting: “Generally speaking, the good stuff comes in on Tuesday: the seafood is fresh, the supply of prepared food is new, and the chef, presumably, is relaxed after his day off.”

Dining on the weekend

“Chefs prefer to cook for weekday customers rather than for weekenders, and they like to start the new week with their most creative dishes,” Bourdain advises, adding that, “In New York, locals dine during the week.”

“Weekends are considered amateur nights – for tourists, rubes, and the well-done-ordering pretheatre hordes. The fish may be just as fresh on Friday, but it’s on Tuesday that you’ve got the good will of the kitchen on your side.”

Thinking great kitchens have great health and safety

“Give my thanks to the chef!” many diners like to ask their waiter or waitress. But the chances are the waitstaff are too scared to come within five metres of the maniac behind the grill – at least while he’s working. Or, as Bourdain puts it, “Professional cooks belong to a secret society whose ancient rituals derive from the principles of stoicism in the face of humiliation, injury, fatigue, and the threat of illness.”

“The members of a tight, well-greased kitchen staff are a lot like a submarine crew.”

“Confined for most of their waking hours in hot, airless spaces, and ruled by despotic leaders, they often acquire the characteristics of the poor saps who were press-ganged into the royal navies of Napoleonic times – superstition, a contempt for outsiders, and a loyalty to no flag but their own.”

Assuming the western ‘foodie’ craze is breaking new ground

Even though Anthony Bourdain admitted to Smithsonian.com that, like modern day ‘foodies’, he likes food porn (“I could watch that all day”) he was also quick to point out that the American culture shift is basically, as Smithsonian.com puts it, “the New World learning what the Old World has known for centuries.”

“We’re just catching on,” he told Smithsonian.com. “We are changing societally, and our values are changing, so that we are becoming more like Italians and Chinese and Thais and Spaniards, where we actually think about what we’re eating, what we ate last night, and what we’re considering eating tomorrow.”

“When I grew up in the ’60s, we’d go to see a movie, then we would go to a restaurant. And we would talk about the movie we just saw. Now, you go right to dinner and you talk about the dinner you had last week and the dinner you’re going to have next week, while you’re taking pictures of the dinner you’re having now. That’s a very Italian thing.”

Advertisement

“A lot of the sort of hypocrisy and silliness and affectation of current American food culture is just fits and starts, awkwardly and foolishly growing into a place where a lot of older cultures have been for quite some time.”

Read Next

  • David Lammers

    He has a way of putting things that none of us commoners would ever imagine that’s thoroughly entertaining.

    I find myself watching reruns of “Parts Unknown” and “No Reservations” just because he’s one of the most entertaining and for whom sarcasm truly is a people skill.

  • Terry

    I continue to learn from Anthony Bourdain’s wisdom.

NEW ON D'MARGE


Show More

Subscribe

Close

The playbook for the modern man

Get the very best of men's style, health, travel & culture delivered to your inbox.

Dont show me this again