Anthony Bourdain – Medium Raw
135. Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain (2010)
Length: 284 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Started / Finished: 22 October 2011 (Readathon!)
Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? I’ve been a fan of Bourdain’s since listening to Kitchen Confidential.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 13 August 2011.
Whether the topic
is food, chefs, or restaurants,
he’s got opinions.
Summary: Medium Raw is a hybrid, something that’s not quite memoir and not quite regular non-fiction. It bounces all over the place, but is mostly a look back on the past years since Bourdain published his behind-the-scenes look at the restaurant world, Kitchen Confidential. Bourdain addresses not only the changes in his own life, but also the changes in the food and restaurant industry writ large, and also provides some portraits of other figures in that world, from an up-and-coming neurotic young chef, to a phenom of fish preparation who has never actually eaten in the restaurant for which he works, to the emergence of some of the newer TV celebrity chefs. And, of course, there are random bits and anecdotes chapters thrown in for good measure: Bourdain’s efforts to immunize his daughter against the lure of fast food chains, a behind-the-scenes view of the TV show “Top Chef”, and a chapter that is nothing more than a collection of drool-worthy food descriptions.
Review: I can’t quite describe why Anthony Bourdain’s writing and I get along so well, but we really, really do. He’s articulate and funny and he writes like he talks, and even though it’s certainly not the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read, it’s clear and accessible and quick-reading, and I always have a blast reading his books. Medium Raw is much more a collection of essays than a book proper, but I tore through it anyways. The pacing is great; Bourdain gives you just enough on each topic to get you interested without harping on any one topic so long as to lose the attention of the audience, so I never really minded its scattershot nature.
There is a difference in audience between Medium Raw and Kitchen Confidential. Bourdain claims he wrote the latter only expecting food industry professionals to read it, but it’s accessible to a much wider audience – anyone who’s ever been to a restaurant, really. Medium Raw, on the other hand, assumes a much higher level of foodie knowledge – if not strictly for insiders, then not for complete novices, either. For example, there are several chapters that spend their time dishing on other chefs and food critics. a I knew who some of them were from casual viewing of Food Network and other cooking-based TV shows, but many of the names were completely unfamiliar to me. That meant that a fair amount of this book went over my head, or at least that I had to take Bourdain’s word for the personality and accomplishments of these various people. But hey, at least his word is constantly entertaining. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: If you haven’t read Bourdain’s work before but either like him on TV or want a behind-the-scenes take on the food industry, I’d recommend starting with Kitchen Confidential; this book is certainly still an enjoyable read, but a little less cohesive, and a little more geared towards people who are bigger foodies than I am.
First Line: I recognize the men at the bar.
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