As Thanksgiving approaches my mind tends to wander to the topic of food. I think about mashed potatoes frequently. My mother’s stuffing is a close second. I think about people sitting down for the Thanksgiving meal and the people who cook those meals. Then my mind wanders to those who work during the holiday in the food industry, the food truck deliverymen, the restaurant managers, the chefs and servers. While most of us are celebrating with our families these guys are running one of the most, if not the most, important industries in our world: the industry of food, food logistics, food preparation, and food consumption.
So it was not a real stretch for me to immerse myself into Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw, A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and People who Cook as a pre-Thanksgiving nod to those who keep my belly full and my appetite satiated. Medium Raw works well as a follow-up to Bourdain’s now infamous, Kitchen Confidential. In Confidential, Bourdain opens up the swinging doors to the restaurant kitchens of his past to give the reader a glimpse into what it is really like to work in the service industry. His tell-all made heroes and villains of chefs, managers and line cooks alike. His book dove into the depths of restaurant culture to show how extremely hard it really is to put together the perfect plate.
In his follow-up, Medium Raw Bourdain revisits the characters of his past, sets the record straight and frankly, made my mouth water. He admits to his naivety during the writing of his first book and proceeds to explain his mistakes throughout the rest of Medium Raw. He writes about what happened in his life between Kitchen Confidential and the present, like the dissolution of his first marriage, appearances on Top Chef, fatherhood, and his Emmy award winning show No Reservations. However, the best part of Bourdain’s writing is the way he writes about food. Mouth-watering food concoctions marinate almost every page. “Seared langoustine with a ‘salad’ of mâche and wild mushroom with shaved foie gras and white balsamic vinaigrette…” and “crispy black bass with braised celery and parsnip custard in an Iberico-ham-and green-peppercorn sauce” are just a taste of the food treats Bourdain explores. Do not read this book with an empty stomach.
So let us remember those who slave over the stoves this Thanksgiving. The men and women who chop, dice, sauté, and create the beautiful plates that we, without hesitation, devour before crashing on the couch to watch the big game. Let us remember how blessed we really are to live in a country where food is not only sustenance but also a conversation. Keep talking to me Mr. Bourdain.
Kathryn L. Arnold