Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Les Halles Cookbook - Anthony Bourdain

I was messing around in a large corperate bookstore today, looking at books appropriately enough about food. I get angry, and almost annoyed not only at the amount of piss poor made for bored housewife cookbooks, but at how many people actually pick them up. Sure, not everyone is a chef, not everyone really understands the fundamentals of how to cook, but they should make it a little easier to find the good ones. This attitude was doubly confirmed when the cute blonde girl at the register innocently flirting struck up the same conversation from the other end. "I wish I could find a book that actually shows you how to cook," which naturally ensued a slightly bitter conversation on my end but ended up recommending Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or a cooking related textbook. Take the jump, quit your job, goto culinary school, work in a restaurant, but dont complain to me about bad cookbooks! Ok bitterness subsided.

Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking [ANTHONY BOURDAINS LES HALLES C]In my venture I finally decided on Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. I have been meaning to buy it for sometime, owned every other one of his books, so it only made sense to actually read what he cooked.

The first section was a hilarious bunch of sardonic rants only too common to Bourdains writing style. No bullshit, in your face, this is how you are going to be a good cook, much in common with what was on my mind at that time. The phrase that hit me the most:

"Chefs' appetites and enthusiasms, you may have noticeed, rarely end with food. I am deeply suspicious of any cook who is less than enthusiastic as well about sex, music, movies, travel -and LIFE. A few years back, dining with friends at one of the "best" restaurants in the country, we sat back, after many courses of lovely but sterile, artfully arranged plates of food, curiously unsatisfied. I wondered aloud what was wrong. One of my companions suggested that the chef "cooked like someone who's never been properly fucked in his life."

I can only think back to this statement, and remember an episode on No Reservations where Bourdain, Eric Ripert, and Michael Ruhlman (was there another one present) went to the French Laundry. My question is whether Ruhlman or Ripert boasted this. After my mixed success with Christmas dinner, and accused of too much flavour on all too many occasions, this hit me like a gold brick. Was there someone innately wrong with my cooking? Or, subsequently was I cooking for impotent palates? Time will only tell. As a result I was sucked into Bourdain's ranting and read the cookbook cover to cover.

What we have here is a tome of classical no bullshit French Bistro classics, done tastefully, simply, and instructively enough that even a home cook could crank this food out. You will find these recipes in almost every good french cookery book. Bourdain however, manages to take the classics throw lube all over the text, so I dont feel like im being penetrated dry like when I read my culinary school textbooks. Would I recommend this to anyone with an interest in well done (sorry rare) rustic French classics? F'n eh.