Friday, February 6, 2009

Bourdain on Gluttony

My fat ass just got back from McDonald's. Yummy, double cheeseburgers!

Speaking of gluttony and shitty food, Anthony Bourdain wrote a piece on fat-assed Americans for The Canongate Prize, which was centered around the theme of Sin. I am seriously in love with this man. Who could blame me? Look at the size of his bone!

Never Trust a Fat Chef
Fri May 09, 2008 10:46 AM GMT From our Canongate archives - 18 October 2000

I'm thin. I'm also a chef, so I often hear people remark, "You're so thin to be a chef! How do you stay so thin?" When I tell them my secret to weight control: three packs of cigarettes a day, sixty to seventy hours a week sweating in a hot, airless kitchen, constant and nerve-frazzling stress, frequent episodes of supressed rage, an already neurotic, hyperactive and controlling nature and a diet consisting almost entirely of animal protein and alcohol; they usually shut up and never ask me again.

I'm the type of thin guy who fat guys hate. Not only am I thin, but I'm a glutton. I eat pretty much what I want, whenever I want, and if I like what I'm eating I often eat a lot of it.

"Too much of a good thing," is a concept I have rarely been able to take to heart. If it's really such a "good thing"--how could one possibly have too much of it? One enjoys what one enjoys until one doesn't want it anymore. Period. The question is, "How much do you really want?"

Look at the swollen herd of overfed humanity waiting outside New York's Hard Rock Cafe or Planet Hollywood if you get the opportunity. Bison-like in girth, docilely they stand, hoping perhaps that some time soon they will be allowed the priviledge of eating a generic, portion-controlled cheeseburger, maybe buying a T-shirt. Unlike the kobe beef they've come to resemble, the vast majority of morbidly obese Americans haven't even been fattened up on anyhting good at all.. It was Cheez Doodles in bed, Denny's Grand Slam Breakfasts (stack of pancakes, bacon, sausage, two eggs), sodas consumed from torpedo-sized Big Gulp carry-out cups, extra portions of airline food ("Are you done with that?"), Twizzlers, Skittles, Peanut Butter Cups, Swanson Hungry Man Dinners, between-meal cookies, potato chips, frozen tacos, MacDonald's milk shakes (which are neither milk, to my knowledge, nor shakes) and worse far worse that got them here.

Wrong. Tragically, horribly, pathetically wrong.

And yet, at least half these poor bastards deny themselves butter, deluding themselves that somehow, if they just use some fiberglass-tasting butter substitute on their double serving of toaster waffles, they'll be able to knock off a Quarter Pounder with Cheese at Burger King tonight--and still be able to squeeze into a pair of capri pants. Like the people who come to my restaurant sometimes, and order " A ravioli, followed by a cassoulet, a chocolate mousse for dessert--but could you make that a diet Coke?"

I advocate a more enlightened kind of gluttony.

Just as I am entirely unsympathetic to the characters you see sometimes on the news: so gigantic they're confined to bed, unable to move, forced to wash with a sponge on the end of a stick because of their titanic size and their relatively inadaquate ankles; I am entirely sympathetic, on the other hand, to to a person who, when confronted with an open kilo can of beluga caviar, a bowl of creme fraiche, and a stack of still-warm blinis at a cocktail party thrown by a generous and conveniently inattentive host, shovels most of the stuff into his face with terrifying speed. Why not? How often does one come across such an offering? You're not likely to get fat on caviar. There isn't enough of it. There is little danger that after gorging at a party, you'll later find yourself roaming the rainy streets, looking to score a half ounce of sevruga--cheap.

Foie gras: Foie gras. Invite me to dinner and leave a fat lobe of roast foie gras around--maybe a few caramelized pears, a nice verjus sauce--and you better keep your face and hands away from the plate, because I'm going to be coming at that thing early and often--in a potentially dangerous flurry of cutlery. In my business, I don't get to eat often in a sitting position--so, if I'm relaxed, enjoying myself at the table, and confronted with a nice, swollen goose liver--watch out. I will emulate the goose and stuff myself. Somebody wants to come after my liver? I wish them luck.

I don't waste my time with cookies, potato chips, candy, soda, snack food, fried chicken and fatburgers--the foods so beloved by so many of my countrymen. I often forget to eat breakfast, not to mention lunch and dinner.

But eleven o'clock at night, fortified by a few shots of chilled Russian vodka or maybe some caparenos, when some chef cronies and I maybe stagger down to the local sushi bar; you can be sure that I will eat so much unagi, so much sea urchin roe, so much raw tuna, vinegared rice, giant clam, octopus, mackerel and yellowtail that even the sushi guy behind the counter will cower in fear and disgust.

Another chef offers a free tasting of twelve different varieties of ceviche? I'm going to eat until I nearly bust. I'm going to jam every bit of everything offered into my greedy maw--far beyond the point at which hunger passes--until my curiosity is assuaged.

Doesn't this make me just as disgusting as the herd of fanny-packers outside the Hard Rock? Maybe. But I'm not eating out of boredom. I'm not eating too much to fill some dark, empty spot in my soul...I have alcohol and cigarettes for that. I overeat when I'm hungry. Or because I'm curious. Or because what's being eaten is just too damn good to pass up. I overeat when it's an adventure.

The adventure may end badly, with me clutching the sides of an empty terracotta planter and praying to all known religions at the same time--and emitting wall-shaking, rib-cracking noises no human should ever hear, much less make--swearing to all I hold sacred that never, ever again will I eat two beef burritos, two chicken enchiladas, a side order of guacamole, three mouthfuls pf posole and a six pack of cerveza Tecate, all on top of way too many tequila shots, God knows how many chips, in an ill-lit taqueria/cantina in rural Mexico where the refrigeration situation looks dubious. But then, I knew what I was getting into, didn't I? You play you pay. The more exotic the food, and the more atmospheric the surroundings, the more likely you are to find yourself curled up with cold sweats on a cold tile floor, wondering how to say "ambulance" in Spanish.

You only go around once. One of the many good reasons for viewing vegetarians and health food junkies with suspicion is their seeming conviction that the body is somehow, a temple--a place of great spiritual importance and signifigance. All wrong, I say. Your body is an amusement park. Do with it what you will--so long as you stay healthy enough, and hopefully attractive enough, to be welcomed back for another ride. Somebody offers you a thirteen course fugu meal in Tokyo--Go for it! When is that offer going to come around again?

My advice to fellow gluttons? Skip a meal! Stop pitchforking those damn snacks into your face! Try doing a little physical activity every once in a while (picking up the remote doesn't count)! Pick your spots before you pig out. Watch...and wait...for the good stuff. You'll know when to make your move.

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