The first thing was the documentary Food, Inc. which we watched on new year’s eve. I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, but this movie will help you come up with half a dozen. From simple ones like “Eat food” (as opposed to gook), to more challenging ones, like “eat healthy, cheap, local, green, fair and wise”. Five out of six is good enough too.
The other thing that changed the way I think about food– specifically restaurant food– is Anthony Bourdain’s excellent book Kitchen Confidential. Bourdain has worked his way up from the most unseemly corners of the restaurant industry to the… most unseemly corners of the restaurant industry. To hear him tell it, all the corners are unseemly, and so is everything in between.
This is not a story about the horrors of hygiene around food, though there is some of that. It’s about the characters that the restaurant industry attracts, the traits needed to make it in the business, and war stories from behind enemy lines. To hear him tell it, the restaurant kitchen is a pirate ship, with all manner of highly-skilled, foul mouthed, burly thugs, who can give abuse in six languages and take it in nine. As long as they’re some variant of Spanish.
Bourdain is at his best when he’s exploding myths and letting us in on insider secrets, and directing his highly opinionated attacks at himself or restaurant industry standards. Or when he walks us through the day in a life of a high volume, high priced kitchen. The biographical bits are not the best part, but they do provide context to the rest of the story.
I did this one as an audio-book, and it pays off. Anthony Bourdain’s own words benefit from his delivery, especially in the chapters on a day in the life of his kitchen or the parts about the language.