I’m not the world’s biggest Anthony Bourdain fan, but I do really like and appreciate the guy. Years ago, my sister, just freshly out of college and completely over the Econ degree she achieved for her serendipitously discovered vocation of being a chef, kept pushing Kitchen Confidential on me and I was like, “Okay fine, I have a broken leg and I’ll read this thing.” (I read it on a beach when everyone else was playing in the sand and I was stuck in my chair. It was a real shitty summer.)
It was the first time I actively realized that cooking is an art form.
I haven’t read any others of Bourdain’s books, and up until last week I hadn’t seen a single episode of his show No Reservations. But then it just so happened that Books Inc. had marked down The Nasty Bits and I started working from home with auto-login to Bill’s Netflix account, and, were I a corporate presenter, I’d say: It was a moment of perfect synergy.
I can see exactly why The Nasty Bits was marked down. It’s a collection of essays that span Bourdain’s literary career. Some of it is articles that never saw the light of day. Some of it is the stuff of meaty blog entries. Some of it is too short for a marketable anthology of someone who is not dead. Overall, it has no arc. It isn’t as cohesive as KC. Not an instant win. But you know what? It should really be second on the list in the syllabus of Tony Bourdain Required Reading.
So, back to working at home – More specifically, working from my couch: I am able to get more creative – nay, “disruptive” – with my background music. Because I am the only one at home, you see. I don’t have to determine which of my three sets of headphones best suits the moment. (Three is a lie. I don’t even count the standard issue iDevice ‘buds. Those stay in the junk drawer. Would you like a pair?) Instead, I’ve blazed through Season 1 of Archer, forced myself to catch up on Glee (Though I’ve decided against catching up any more.), and finally queued up the show that brought Bourdain’s sardonic wit to the camera, No Reservations.
On top of working from home a couple of times a week, I’m taking public transportation again, and I love it. I love driving, but I love not driving for work. I’ve been busting rubies in Bejeweled Blitz and also reading a heckuva lot more. If it’s not entirely obvious, my BART book for the last couple of weeks was Nasty Bits. While NB should clearly not be expected to top best sellers lists any time soon – It’s more of an artistic response to Bourdain’s writing, if you don’t count his fiction pieces. – it is perfect for commute reading. It is a quick read, and the writing is pithy and to the point. It is easy to consume, and I’d find myself taking in three to four Bourdain stories every day.
When I finally got around to streaming No Reservations last week, I started feeling deja vu because Bourdain’s essays in Nasty Bits sometimes describe all the behind-the-scenes stuff you miss in watching his post-production episodes. Like how much he hated the unreliability of his guide “Dario” in that episode in Sicily, and how that end moment was so much bigger emotionally for Bourdain than the super short film clip portrayed. I read “The Dive” right before watching Bourdain’s Sicily visit, and I felt like I had this leg up on all other Bourdain fanatics. It’s like watching Harry Potter after having read the books. Anyone else in the audience is totally missing out because they don’t know the truth about how Ginny Weasley is a whore. KIDDING!
What I mean to say is, watching No Reservations way past the air dates is kind of awesome – if you’ve got Nasty Bits as your primer, that is. Bourdain’s tongue is a little looser with this book, and maybe that’s what adds to the fun of No Reservations by way of Nasty Bits.