This episode is going in my limited Bourdain library, along with his episodes in Tokyo, and dining at The French Laundry. I have so many reactions to this show. First is how both he and Eric Ripert are aging. How DARE they! I manage to ignore my own aging by avoiding mirrors, but when people are on TV? There were some definite advantages to radio, how else would Jack Benny have managed to stay 39 all of those years?
Watching Bourdain and Ripert romp through Paris, and delve into the ways that restaurants in Paris are evolving (have evolved?) is somehow comforting to me. I can see the advantages of a restaurant where the menu changes daily based primarily on availability. And in today's economy and shrinking sizes to everything (and that undoubtedly includes commercial kitchens), paring down the number of sous chefs and line cooks makes sense. However, my regret in this department is that it means, by definition, that I cannot go to my favorite elite restaurant and enjoy the classic dish I had last week or last year or even in a more distant past. For me, and for most of my life, the luxury of being able to go to a favorite classic restaurant and order a favorite classic dish and have it be just as delicious as I remember it being before is a very special type of "comfort food," and every bit as embracing and reassuring as anyone's mother's best mac and cheese. There are some things in life that are sad to lose. Things like youth, a thin waste-line, and classic restaurant food.
It was engaging to see a young Parisian chef whose primary focus and interest is in the food he serves instead of in the amount of money he makes. Poor fellow! In some perverse counterpoint to his philosophy, Anthony Bourdain shows up with TV cameras and celebrity chefs and throws the spotlight on him! Hopefully he'll respond to the demand from new fans by introducing a brand of soup or whatever instead of by expanding his restaurant and bringing in troops of sous chefs and line cooks!
For me, this was a show where Bourdain was in his element. I don't much appreciate the shows where he is off doing an upscale impression of Andrew Zimmern feasting on street food renderings of bugs and other esoteric delicacies. Watching Tony Bourdain drink camel's milk in a yurt is not inspiring to me, primarily because I've already passed on the opportunity to drink camel's milk many years ago and a vicarious grasped opportunity is just not that appealing. He really rankled me with his show on "Greece." It was rather like taking one single raisin, dipping it in some booze and then presenting it as "fruit cake." But hey, that's just me. There is a lot more to Greece than drinking raki (a Turkish drink) with shepherds on a mountain top in Crete, or dancing around a bon fire beside a shipwreck on Ithaca!
Fact is my favorite Bourdain shows are those in which he delves into things I am more familiar with. Maybe if he presented recipes and cooking techniques for food he ate in a yurt, I might look for a good camel's milk substitute and try them out. When I have no chance of tasting the dishes he tries in his out-of-the-way travels, for me it has something in common with watching a silent movie. An imprtant part of the overall experience is being denied. This show was a feast of all my senses, even if the food flavors were supplied directly from my own memory banks. I don't remember camel's milk!
What did you think of this show?.