Medium Raw: Bourdain's Bloody Valentine.

You may have noticed on your daily analysis of "What's New on SwimWriteRun"... but in case you didn't, I'd like to point out that I've added a reading list. It's in the column to the right.


I know!  I figure it's a place to organize the queue of books that constantly threatens to overwhelm me. Oh, Howard County Library, why is your website/request-hold system so user-friendly?

Also, I definitely invite suggestions.  An overwhelming queue of books is rarely a bad thing.


Last night, thanks to a bout with insomnia, I polished off the rest of Medium Raw, Anthony Bourdain's newest book.

Good news: he and Rachael Ray get along now.

Medium Raw was everything I've always loved about Bourdain's writing, plus some surprises.

I can't remember where, but I heard (or read) a quote by Bourdain that said he doesn't agonize over sentences, that his writing happens and then he's done. I'm not sure how true that still is (I definitely caught it in Kitchen Confidential), but the result is a style that's easy to read, conversational, direct. I never have to ask the question... "what is he trying to say here?"

Particularly on his rants, which are scattered through the book but also concentrated in a "Heroes and Villains" chapter, and the subsequent chapter where he explains why he thinks Alan Richman is a douchebag (or something else).

The Heroes and Villains Chapter was one of my favorites, because it was interesting to hear his take on so many different personalities. Some of it I expected, some of it I did not, but it was all clear, direct, supported argument for each case.

The mention of a passing encounter with Sandra Lee was highly entertaining.

Just after starting the book, I watched an episode of No Reservations where he traveled with his wife and daughter to Sardinia. It was a somewhat sentimental episode. By chance, the next chapter I read included some very personal reflections on his family and how the decision to have a child has changed (and will continue to change) his life. My response was: "Wow."

His perspective on the food industry, the rise of the celebrity chef, and current restaurant/dining trends was very insightful, and accessible to someone outside of the industry (that's me). He honestly evaluates where he's come in his career, and takes a hard look at the things he values in a food experience today.

Mostly, I enjoyed the lack of fear that was in this book. Bourdain doesn't often hold back, and he doesn't here - but his opinions are tempered with a reasonable thought process that left me nodding my head even when I did not agree. 

The last chapter is also highly reflective, and harks back to the book that gave him his beginning - not his novels, which came first, but Kitchen Confidential. It brings the 'story line' of Medium Raw back to the beginning, which I found satisfying, and interesting.

Medium Raw was an excellent read.

Have you read Kitchen Confidential?  Medium Raw?  You might also enjoy...

A Cook's Tour - chapters in part recap much of his travels for the show, linked by some interesting personal perspective on what it means to eat and share a meal.

Les Halles Cookbook - the only cookbook I've read cover-to-cover, twice. 

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