Medium Raw

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Medium Raw
A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
by Anthony Bourdain
★★★

Anthony Bourdain is unapologetically who he is and people tend to love him or hate him for that. To be honest, I’ve never watched any of his TV shows. A few years ago I read and loved Kitchen Confidential and that’s what made me want to pick this one up. I wasn’t a big fan of the first half of the book. He seemed to be justifying what he’s done since he became famous and I didn’t really care. In the second half he finds his balance and sinks into a bit of reflection and advice. It had a much better flow and tone.

I loved the section where he discusses how the recession affected restaurants, both in good ways and bad ways. He gives the average customer a little insight into the behind-the-scenes work that goes into running successful operations. There are pitfalls or challenges that I never would have thought about.

Regardless of the BS that inevitably surrounds his persona, Bourdain wins people over with his honest observations and his unfettered passion for food. He loves it equally in its most elaborate and simplistic forms. He conveys that with every word that he writes. He’s not a fan of the political shuffling that the public eye forces him to navigate, but his love of great food has never faltered. 

His writing style works for me because he is sardonic and testy. Honestly he’s a cranky asshole and he never tries to deny it. His observations are steeped in sarcasm or disdain. He’s honest to a fault and that makes him a lot of enemies, but that doesn’t seem to bother him and I respect that. He’s just as loyal to his friends and he is vocal against his foes.

BOTTOM LINE: Read it if you loved Kitchen Confidential and you also like Bourdain’s “in-your-face” cantankerous style. 

Side note: I would HIGHLY recommend listening to this one which is read by the author himself.
“I am not a fan of people who abuse service staff. In fact, I find it intolerable. It’s an unpardonable sin as far as I’m concerned, taking out personal business or some other kind of dissatisfaction on a waiter or busboy.” 

“There’s something wonderful about drinking in the afternoon. A not-too-cold pint, absolutely alone at the bar – even in this fake-ass Irish pub.” 

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”

10 comments:

JoAnn said...

I really liked Kitchen Confidential. Will take your advice and go the audio route with this one... even though my husband has a hardcover around here somewhere!

Yvonne said...

I agree with your review of the book. I have read Kitchen Confidential and watched many of his tv shows. He is cranky but he's also an entertaining writer.

Rob said...

I picked up the paperback of this before I knew about the audio version, so I've been torn. Looking forward to eventually getting to this, though. Love Bourdain.

Belle Wong said...

I have both Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw in my audiobook TBR - really must get to them!

Susan Bybee said...

I enjoyed this one, but my son, who is a huge fan of Kitchen Confidential, was bitterly disappointed. Among other things, he thought it was mean of Bourdain to pick on his ex-wife.

Becca Lostinbooks said...

He does the audiobook? I will definitely be looking into that, then.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

JoAnn - I'm not sure I would have stuck with it if I wasn't listening to the audio.

Yvonne - I'm curious about some of his TV shows now. I might have to check them out.

Rob - I think people tend to either love him or hate him.

Belle - Kitchen is so fantastic!

Susan - I felt like the whole first half was him defending himself and tearing down others. It got better, but I was definitely disappointed in the first half.

Becca - He's great on the audio!

Kerry M said...

I really liked Kitchen Confidential (on audio--as you said, his narration really does work for these books), and having been going back and forth on reading this one. I'm glad you said it finds a groove in the second half or I could have seen myself starting this and then putting it aside.

Fun fact: My husband once got to talk on the phone with Bourdain while having a comped meal at Les Halles in NYC, as part of a Time Out NY magazine feature. He still talks about it, 6+ years later, like it was one of the best phone calls he's ever had. It lasted something like 25 seconds. Bourdain told him to have a Calvados.

52booksorbust said...

I read this book a few years ago before I even knew who Bourdain was (i live in a bubble) and I loved it. I loved his attitude and the insights he gives into the food world. That being said, I've never watched his TV shows and probably never will.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Kerry - That is so awesome! I think that would probably make my year. He's just a charismatic guy.

52booksorbust - Sometimes I think it's way better to go into a book without knowing a bunch about the author.