The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones (New York, Bloombury Publishing, 2006. 288 pp)

Anthony Bourdain, born in 1956, attended Vassar College and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. He has worked as a cook and chef in many institutions strewn across the New York City map. Bourdain contributes articles to the Times, New York TimesObserverthe FaceScotland on Sunday, and Food Arts Magazine. An addition to Kitchen Confidential, he has written two crime novels – Gone Bamboo and Bone in the Throat. Bourdain was the executive chef at Brassiere Les Halles and is currently the host of the Travel Channel program: Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Bourdain resides in New York City.

The Final Tour

As Anthony Bourdain, traveler, culinary icon, author, and chef enters his last season of the television show No Reservations, I thought it was appropriate to continue my journey through his collected auto-biographical works.  Having already read both his more popular books, Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw, I wanted some more, so I read The Nasty Bits.

I’ve always been a fan of Bourdain’s crass vitriolic writings, his stream-of-consciousness crassness always leaves a mark of honesty on the page that I feel few writers can replicate.  His erudite language always fills the page, adding a touch of high-brow to his otherwise crass writing.  His books are just plain different.

Unlike his past books, focusing on a theme (embittered chef or troublesome ne’er-do-well)  The Nasty Bits is merely a collection of essays and magazine articles throughout his career.  They’re creatively organized by taste sensation: Salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami.  Because of the compartmentalized nature of what is a collection of essays, I’m simply going to focus on my favorite part of the book, his essay on fast food.

Food Depravity

Everything has an evil side, even innately good things.  Food is good.  Wine is better.  Beer is downright awesome.  But, if you take any of these things in excess you become a glutton, wine-snob, or drunkard with a beer-gut.  Bourdain argues that the evildoer in the food world is the fast-food chain.

“The Evildoers of the major chains live nowhere near their businesses.  Like crack dealers, they know what they sell is not good for you, that it makes neighborhoods uglier, contributes nothing but a stifling sameness to society.  recently, with Eric Schlosser, the author of the brilliant and terrifying Fast Food Nation, I debated two representatives of the fast-food industry at a ‘multi-unit foodservice operators’ convention in Texas.  Our position, unsurprisingly, was that everybody in the room basically sucked” (13).

Bourdain’s position, however, isn’t merely that fast food is bad for you.  Everyone (or at least hopefully everyone) knows that greasy, quickly fried food isn’t a good choice.  His point is that we as a society are merely scarfing down food without so much as a thought.  Anyone who has ever had good food can tell you: that’s not the point.

Yes, food is for nourishment on the most basic level.  But, food is one of those pleasurable things that can make you just that much closer to God.  Food, if used for enjoyment, brings families close together, people to a slower pace of life.  It causes reprive.

“Save your appetite for something good!  Take a little more time! All that rage and frustration, that hollow feeling so many of us feel—for so many good reasons—can be filled up with something better than a soggy disk of ground-up assholes and elbows.  Eat for nourishment yet, but eat for pleasure.  Stop settling for less” (16-17).

Rampage

Bourdain is simply on a rampage throughout the book, and in a good way.  He criticizes the terrorist animal rights groups, the racism and inequality against Mexican dishwashers, and so much more.  Bourdain confronts the culinary world in these essays in a slew of black and white stories, varying from downright adulation to pure, burning hot hatred.  The Nasty Bits, is a fun, entertaining, and thought-provoking collection.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

Posted by: Andrew Jacobson

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