Last summer during the writers’ strike Mr. Blandings and I scrounged around to find something to watch together on TV. He’s eternally happy with sports and could have ridden out the crisis with nary a backward glance had it not been for me. So we settled on cooking shows. Mr. Blandings likes to cook and I like to eat so it was a good match. Ina Garten’s kitchen lured me in and I learned that, perhaps, I could cook even though I lacked a talent for it.
I admire Garten for her philosophy of enjoying life, and while she has clearly and carefully developed her brand, it’s not the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float kind of brand. Like Garten it is simple and reasonable and charming. The only problem, for the Blandings at least, is that her philosophy keeps her from creating fifty shows a year. We run out.
While trolling around this summer we stumbled upon No Reservations. Anthony Bourdain made his fame with the tell-all “Kitchen Confidential” and has not looked back. While he is a chef by training, he identifies himself as a writer first in his voice-over as he opens the show. And what a writer he is. Bourdain’s prose has a rhythm and meter that make me want to close my eyes and just listen. Almost. Because while his descriptions of his culinary escapades are enchanting me, his photographer’s eye is delighting me. Bourdain and his crew travel world-wide exploring the neighborhoods and markets, the people and customs that make food essential in a way that has nothing to do with physical sustenance.
Snarky (his word) and handsome, in that tall, dark way that always got me in trouble, Bourdain is engaging to watch. But don’t be fooled by his cool-guy slouch. Bourdain likes people. I image he’s the kind of guy who says that he doesn’t and shows visible disdain for the dope in the office who sends the “funny” emails, but he digs those folks who tour him through markets; it is written all over his face. And he still likes them when they make him eat parts of things I could not begin to choke down, manners or no. (Last week he described his breakfast in Medellin as something that would make Denny’s Grand Slam look like a carrot stick.)
And he’s coming to Kansas City. This man who has married words and a passion for food that has given me and Mr. Blandings a common ground. We are going and we have ponied up for the big-kid tickets so we can meet Bourdain before his talk. (I’m dying to know where they are taking him to eat.) Being a fan of writers I am likely to say the equivalent of “I’ve seen all your movies.” For this particular writer I’m hoping not to blurt out, “I like a bunch of stuff cooked slow in a pot, too.” But I doubt in the midst of a cocktail party of foodies I will be able to say what I really think, which is, “It’s a gift to have a passion for something. It’s a near miracle to have the ability to describe it to other people in a way that makes them feel that passion and understand it.” Oh, yes, we are going.