I finally got around to reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential a couple of months ago. The book has been on my reading list forever and I am almost positive Chris had a copy of it laying around his office at some point. I just never got around to it, but I was finally between books and not to sure what I wanted to read next. I cashed in some Amazon rewards and bought a copy of it for my Kindle app. This was the book I read on the airplane to Portland and I have to admit that at times, it was not an easy read.
I could not read the book without hearing Anthony Bourdain’s voice. It was as clear as if he was reading his words out loud. His voice is so familiar because Chris and I would sit down to watch No Reservations with rapt attention and with the kind of reverence used for listening to the gospel. Anthony Bourdain traveled the globe in a way that Chris and I dreamed of doing ourselves. The destination was not so much about seeing the sights as it was about immersing yourself into the local culture. This baptism came in the form of food in an all senses dunking. You felt the texture of the food as you pinched a bite together between your thumb and forefinger. Your eyes were blinded by the colors of spices filling bowls in a market. You could almost smell the pungent smells of the fish markets. Whenever Chris and I traveled, our adventures centered around food. The question was not “what did we do?” but “what did we eat?” We sought out the obscure. We followed the locals and we avoided the chain commercial places like the plague. Now, I’ve converted Michael to this food travel cult. I think this is why on this last trip to Portland, I found myself falling in love with the city all over again. Michael is notorious for having unsatisfying restaurant experiences. There is always something, from the service, to the atmosphere, to the quality of the food, but in Portland, Michael didn’t have one complaint. On our last breakfast in Portland before heading out to the coast, we ate at Pine State Biscuits. On taking his first bite, Michael pretended to pick up his plate and smash it on the floor in anger. The food was that good.
No Reservations was more than just a travel show though. It was a gritty, real and beautiful example of how we are all connected to each other through food. Food is the thing that binds us together. It is the reason we all gather in kitchens during social events. Every single one of us can recall a dish that when you smell it, you smell your childhood memories. Every family has their own taco salad (Michael says it is not taco salad and every member of the Graham family tell him that he is wrong). Food brings joy and comfort and this was an emphasis in Kitchen Confidential. Reading Anthony Bourdain’s words describing simple and fresh ingredients made me want to cook. I don’t mean that it made me want to quit my job and become a chef. I mean that it inspired me to want to cook something more elaborate than the easy meals we put together during the week. Saturday evenings have become our night for experimenting in the kitchen. I browse through issues of Bon Apetit and the New York Times food section for ideas, but a lot of times we let what ever happens to be cheap and interesting behind the fish counter inspire that evening’s meal. The meal itself doesn’t even have to be complicated. The goal is to use fresh and unique ingredients and to try something new. It can just as easily be a good stinky chunk of blue cheese crumbled in the salad paired with simple baked fish seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh lemons.
The joy of the experience is all inclusive. It begins with Michael and I browsing through the grocery store and hashing out ideas. We debate about pairing monkfish with roasted potatoes or clams with a linguini in a butter/ white wine sauce. We either take turns cooking or work together in the kitchen, dancing around each other as one chops and the other one sautes. We make huge messes in the kitchen and I love it. The meals are not all hits. It was decided that whole baked red snapper wasn’t good enough to deal with picking out all the bones (I’m pretty sure I swallowed a fish bone). Yet we are still more satisfied with our meals than if we’d gone out.
And no reservations are required.