Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Ladies Book Club: April

Book Read:
Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

Ladies in Attendance:
4 regular members plus 2 new faces

Treats shared:
One of the ladies was lovely enough to keep our book club meeting on her birthday so the many treats shared were in the cheese variety, her favorite.
Bread & cheeses ~ Guyere & a smoked apple cheddar, Bread & baked ricotta, crackers & a cream cheese/pineapple chipotle salsa dip
Wine ~ purple moon (shiraz) & Charles Shaw (white zin)

To Read or Not to Read:
2 didn't get a chance to read any of it
1 read 50 pages & stopped
3 read about 1/2
(I could not attend but I read all but the last 2 chapters)

My Reaction:
Let's just first say that I love Anthony Bourdain. I have for many, many years. He is tough, bad ass and knows food and knows how to write about it. Many moons ago I worked in the restaurant biz, from a barista to a prep cook to a dishwasher to soda jerk. I was typically the "chick in the kitchen" at the many jobs I held. Because of this I always had wicked crushes on the male cooks I worked with. For many years, let's just say, I did not find it hard to get a date.
Anyhoo, at the age of 21 or something close to it, I was dating an older man who happened to be a chef and had been at several fine dining establishments throughout town. He was tough, bad ass and knew how to cook! He introduced me to Kitchen Confidential, Bourdan's first memoir, and in turn, introduced me to the world of awesome that Anthony Bourdain lives in.
Immediately I was drawn to the dead on description of life behind the lines. My boyfriend and his friends acted just like him. They were rough, opinionated, smart and they worked and played hard. At that time, I loved being a part of that "rock and roll" chef lifestyle. I could easily stumble in at 11:00pm and get treated with roasted garlic and mango chutney on flatbread, no charge with a wink and cocktail. I'd kick up my feet and wait patiently with my book while my "man" finished up business in the back.

Are you a little shocked by this point of my post?

I know. You are seeing a different side of me, right? Well, this is pre-bookstore career, post high school and smack dab in the middle of "I'm young. Who knows? and Let's go!" time in my life. Silly restaurant jobs, lots of cigarettes, lots of friends, cute boys and sleeping until noon.
I am surprised I remember it all. :)

Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential was easily readable and relatable to me at that time in my life. I have since followed his career to Food Network on A Cook's Tour and then to the Travel Channel on No Reservations. I even sneaked into a Minneapolis Culinary school event and met him. He signed my books, was just as awesome in person and made me the
forever fan I am today. Maybe I'll share that story in a different post some day.

Long story short, I was excited when we picked Medium Raw to read for our pick this month. I knew it would be a different one for most considering his very opinionated take on most things.
It was raw and in your face but there were moments that were touching. Since Kitchen Confidential he has remarried and is now a father of a little girl. The chapters he writes about her and only wanting to feed her the best were sweet and unexpected.
I liked how he and his wife would concoct these horrible stories about Ronald McDonald to instill a fear of all things Golden Arches in their daughter. I got a good laugh about that! I feel the same way with my son.
The moments that were raw were once again his blunt take on the state of food these days; his opinion on certain chefs, certain restaurants, the business of Food Network, etc. If I had not known anything about Anthony Bourdain and read this, I would think, most likely, he is a bit full of himself. But I am familiar and appreciate his candid take on things. In most cases, I feel the same way about certain...ahem, celebrity chefs and other things.

Overall, I enjoyed it. I had to read a few chapters at a time and digest, so to speak but got exactly what I figured I would get from it. A ball busting take on life in the food lane, Bourdain style.

The Ladies' Reaction:
Because I could not make it to this month's book club night, I asked Kari, the official hostess of our book club to take notes for me. These are her words and the opinion of the group.
Thanks Kari!

All thought it would be more of a cooking, food book ~ disappointed that it was more about him.

Thoughts & quotes from the ladies ~

"He's an arrogant prick" talks about himself & not a lot about cooking. It was frustrating.

"In Kitchen Confidential he was a pompus chef, in this he just comes off as a pompous sell out & he is ok with that."

"The reviews talked about how it didn't turn out to be a foodie book and how it was all about him and it didn't get very good reviews so I didn't waste my time reading it since it didn't sound like something I was going to read or enjoy."

"Lots about career management - what to do & not to do if you want to become a chef. Good insight if that is something you are interested in."

"Lots of ego trips, swearing & drug use - didn't like the bragging about driving high and cutting down lots of other chefs who are still actually in the business. He speaks somewhat proudly about those bad choices he made and really cuts down other famous chefs ... in an effort to make himself look like less of a sell out?"

"In his book he comes off a lot like his tv personality ~ very pompous. If you don't like him on tv you probably won't like his book."

Well, that was about it ~ it sparked a discussion on food prep for colleges and how that is a job he cuts down but is one that lets you cook & create with decent hours, pay & benefits. Also came around to school lunches we see, etc. "teacher talk" from a few of us... news about a school in chicago(?) that is banning lunches from home unless it is for a documented allergy reason due to less healthy sack lunches.

Good Book Club Pick?
For me, I wish I could have been there to participate in this conversation. It sounded like they all felt very strongly against it. I would have liked to have given a positive take.
It generated hearty conversation and that to me is a good pick.
Kari says...
Interesting conversation, the book didn't get rave reviews though.

Author Website:

Next Book Up:
We are currently taking suggestions from the group.

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Michelle Stockard Miller said...

I remember those days of I'm young, Who knows? Let's go! I was heavy into the metal scene in my early twenties. I had hair out to there and down to there and cigarettes and booze were a nightly staple. I know you're on the floor now...LOL! I don't regret it for a moment though. It's part of what made me who I am today. =O)

I haven't read any of Anthony's books, but I have watched a couple of his shows. I'm a dabbling foodie so I enjoy watching shows about chefs and food occasionally. He seems pretty cool.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

My friend just informed me it was a Food and Wine Experience Event and we had passes through the bookstore I worked at to see him. It was at the Culinary school though. Damn, it sounded so much better in my fantastical memory when I was sneaking in. Why was I remembering feeling so dangerous? Probably because I was going to see ANTHONY BOURDAIN!!!!
Oh yeah!

Mystica said...

I like Anthony Bourdain's style in presentation of his shows. I also love the menu you had for your book reading club!!

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I love the peep into your life. I waited tables for summers but never worked in the kitchen. I totally remember the laid back feel of it all. As if it would last forever.

Misha said...

Thanks for sharing all that! I am 21, but my life is not even half as exciting :D

"He's an arrogant prick" talks about himself & not a lot about cooking. It was frustrating.

I wouldn't have read it any way since I am absolutely useless when it comes to cooking!

Rachel said...

He is totally an arrogant prick, but oh my God I am in love with that man.

I worked in the kitchen a long time as a cook. It is a very different world.

Tales of Whimsy said...

Awesome review!

I think old us and new us have lots in common ;)

BTW, thanks for your concern and thoughts darling :) *hugs*

Gina said...

Loved the post. Really marvelous. Definitely a bit surprising but then again, we all have different sides so hey, more power to you. ^_^ Sounds like you had quite the adventure. As for the book, his style is not for everyone and though I've yet to read any of his works, you can tell from his show it'd be pretty much in your face with much talk about him and his experiences with ruminations on the food passing by on his plate. The book lady reactions don't really surprise me...again, it's Anthony Bourdain were talking about here. Anywho...looks like it provided for an entertaining book club read nonetheless. Thanks for sharing!

Senator said...

You minx! Who knew you had a party child life back in the day! Fab review... Now I might have to bake something. You make my life so hard sometimes, Michelle.

For some reason I want to keep calling you 'Chelle. :-/ le sigh.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

MMMMM... the food sounds good. Like I tell my book club, we have fun together no matter what the book turns out like ;)

Sheila Deeth said...

Oh, this is neat. Perhaps I should keep notes at our book club meetings.