I attended Anthony Bourdain’s talk last week at the Majestic Theatre (here’s a link to the D Magazine review of the event http://sidedish.dmagazine.com/2011/10/28/anthony-bourdain-kicks-some-serious-sass-in-dallas/). It was definitely an adult talk (cursing, talking about drugs, etc) about his show, his perspectives, his travels and of course his views about food. It included a few shots at his fellow hosts on the Travel Channel (at the same time confessing he himself was a “whore… compromised, jaded, bought and paid for”). He had some warnings for people in the audience who might want to work on his show including bug bites in places you don’t want to be bitten, various injuries and sicknesses, and the doing that needs to be done for good TV. Along with the funny stories and witty jokes, there were a few pretty profound statements.
The first that struck me was about being a gracious guest while traveling. In his travels, Bourdain has been to plenty of high-end restaurants, but also had many meals in people’s homes. He stressed that when you are a guest, you eat what is given to you, whether it’s appetizing to you or not. It’s the “grandma rule” as he called it; when you go to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving, and she serves dry turkey, Stove Top stuffing and cranberry sauce out of a can, you happily eat it and say how good it is. Bourdain has been to plenty of places and had plenty of meals where most of us would probably pass on a dish. To refuse something offered, especially when served in a home, would be offensive the hosts who may have spent more time and money on this complete stranger than they do on their own family. I think we can all stand to be reminded of the importance of being gracious guests wherever we go.
Another important point was that what we consider upscale food often started from poor people like, for example, escargot: “The first person to eat escargot wasn’t a gourmet, it was one hungry SOB.” He described how if you are planning on opening an Italian restaurant and can’t cook better than every grandmother in Italy, don’t bother. Watching his show, he often spends just as much time eating street food as he does in fancy restaurants. I certainly prefer a small mom-and-pop restaurant where the chef is making the same food his family has been eating for generations to some fancy fusion celebrity chef restaurant.
He also talked about how food is important! Food unites people. There are people that we many disagree with on many things, but we can agree on good food. “There is no red-state food and blue-state food… I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you,” Bourdain said. Coming from DC to Dallas, I am sure there are plenty of differences with me and fine people of Texas, but I’m sure I can find one thing to agree on: Good food.