Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Cook's Tour: The Finale

In Part Two of A Cook's Tour, I found myself feeling confused. I'd seen all the various "Tonys" described in the last chapter of the book: "the brutish, obsessive, blustering blowhard control freak," and "the needy, neurotic, eager-to-please, talk-in-sound-bits Writer Tony," as well as "the relatively calm, blissed-out, sun stroked amiable Husband Tony" (273).  To be honest, I was glad Bourdain owned up to all of these various personality types right before the book ended, because I was starting to really dislike him.

When I began reading A Cook's Tour, I really admired Bourdain. He seemed honest and trustworthy, friendly even. As the book wore on, however, I became more and more irritated with his aggression towards all things vegan, vegetarian, and smoke free. As a sufferer of chronic asthma, I was shocked at his disregard for the impact second-hand smoke can have on the health of others. Bourdain says he's "considerate" of others when he smokes, but continues in the following sentences to explain that, "Though bitterly resentful that I can no longer enjoy a cigarette with my fucking coffee in most places, I've learned to live with it. But the bar? The bar! What these miserable screw heads are saying is that it's OK to kill yourself with bourbon and tequila at nine o'clock in the morning--just don't enjoy yourself when doing it" (232). I understand that it may be difficult to be told to refrain from something you really enjoy, but Bourdain offended me here.

Perhaps I just don't completely grasp his point of view, but I really think he may have taken the smoking rampage too far. My opinion may also have been pushed when I watched him smoke at least five different cigarettes during the A Cook's Tour episode where he and his brother go to France. My lungs started hurting just watching him remove cigarette after cigarette from each new pack.

I think my regard for Bourdain shifted most with his outlast towards vegetarians and vegans. While I tried to understand his distaste for veggie habits from a chef's perspective, I really thought he was just being unreasonably mean to people who simply regarded food differently than he did.

Bourdain's discussion of femininity throughout the book brought me to a breaking point in the second half. I cringed every time I read "whore." I cringed a lot. Bourdain didn't show much respect for women unless they were cooking. Even his love for Madame Ngoc seemed to be a result of her maternal tendencies towards him. "We all love Madame Ngoc, and we think she loves us too," he writes. While this part of the book was undisputably heart-warming and tender, I wished Bourdain would have shown the same level of respect to all women he referenced in the book rather than simply commenting on their body type and breast size.

Perhaps I'm exaggerating. I truly enjoyed reading A Cook's Tour. I loved Bourdain's discussion of food and the chefs he admired. I think I just took the last half of the book very seriously and personally. The aggressive, blustering, adrenaline junkie Tony simply wasn't to my liking. However, I appreciate the beautiful writing and appreciation for food he so clearly displayed throughout this book. I'm even glad he revealed the parts of him I didn't love. It's helpful to recognize that the writers, chefs, and television personalities I love and admire have yucky aspects to their personalities, just like I'm sure I do. 

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely bizarre how similar our responses are! There is definitely that confusion of, "Do i actually like this guy or not?" It was very difficult to grapple with that toward the end of the book/make the end enjoyable.