On the almost-eve of his sixtieth birthday (June 25th), Anthony Bourdain—the food writer and television host who makes his living documenting his meals and his travels—has been profiled (and interviewed) by John Birdsall of First We Feast.
Bourdain has a lot to say about aging chefs, his "inability" to write a sentence (oh, please!), and being a white guy "introducing" foods that are part of millions of people's daily lives to a U.S. audience. And, what's especially relevant to us: a lot of say about the current state of food writing.
As Birdsall put it, all "of us are who try to write intelligently about food, even Bourdain’s critics, are working in a tradition he’s built." (Bourdain, you'll find out in the article, would certainly deny this claim.)
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So, sixteen years after the publication of his book Kitchen Confidential, what does he think about the "tradition he's built"? Here are three takeaways on food writing, straight from the man himself:
1. He would probably hate this list:
"...that's where we are now, the age of listicles and ten bests. People ask me, “Where would you eat in New York if you came back after a long time?” And I name five restaurants and it’s like Tony’s Five Best Restaurants in New York! How the fuck did we get from there to here?"
2. Food writers need to close their laptops and get out more:
"When you have this machine-pounding of people on laptops in Starbucks all over town to come up with content, you’re not going to get a lot of A. J. Lieblings, people just passionate about life and eating. It’s not all about food. Food in and of itself is pretty fucking uninteresting after a certain point."
(Tony, if you're asking me to shut my computer and book a plane ticket to Vietnam, I'm in.)
3. And that's because writing about food is only interesting up to a point:
"...if you’re writing about describing meals, year after year, it ruins people. I’ve described it jokingly as like writing the Penthouse letters for 20 years. I sympathize. [...] Writers just writing about the food, you can only eroticize it so long. It’s all about other stuff."
A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.