I have been a fan of Anthony Bourdain for a while now. I am pretty sure I caught his first series when it originally aired on the Food Network so many years ago (its been 10 years now). I picked up both Kitchen Confidential and the book A Cook’s Tour shortly after they came out (I usually don’t buy anything that soon). When you spend time working in pretty much any restaurant kitchen you tend to grasp the points he is making with his books and his almost abrasive writing style.
I found A Cook’s Tour on Hulu plus recently, so I have been watching it again (and again and probably again after that). I don’t remember what episode it was I was watching tonight but he was reminiscing about his past interspersed with time on the line at Les Halles. There was this one moment, he had been getting the crap kicked out of him by the endless tide of covers (if you’ve been there you know the moment I am talking about… If you haven’t there is nothing I can say to explain it to you). This is that moment when the ticket comes in, maybe you know the one I am talking about. The modifier is “no butter, extra bearnaise.” His reaction was priceless; I couldn’t stop laughing.
Spending time as a cook does something to a person. You could say it can make a person jaded. Really its something a bit different than that. You see, most cooks never see the party that everyone else is enjoying. Instead they are the ones working behind the scenes making sure that those enjoying the party never notice that they are there. This is a strange juxtaposition that most don’t even realize happens. When done seamlessly, the party goers begin to think that everything just magically happens (not in so many words but when you don’t know what work goes into something it becomes magical).
This analogy carries into other areas of our lives. A good example has been our separation from the farms that give us our food and the supermarkets where we actually buy our food. We laugh at the jokes about the person who wrote a letter to the editor complaining about hunters. This person stated that hunters should just buy their meat from the supermarket because no animals were harmed in the process. The logic seems off, of course, but this really isn’t so far from the truth. When you are so far removed from the comings and goings of where products come from you tend to have an unrealistic view of how it all works. (And if you have made it this far, the reason the no butter more bearnaise is funny is because bearnaise is a butter sauce)
I guess you could say dealing with situations like this on a daily basis can be enough to make one jaded, or at least give you a very warped sense of humor. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (or is it fighting the inner demons that want you to smack someone on the back of the head is like a moment to moment workout?).
Either way I think it’s time for a pint…