Living life between the barrel staves in Bourbon Country

Real time blogging during “No Reservations – Sardinia” tonight at 10pm EDT

Tony Bourdain in season 1.  Will season 5 mean the end of snark and the beginning of, gasp, respectability?

Tony Bourdain in season 1. Will season 5 mean the end of snark and the beginning of, gasp, respectability?

The fun starts tonight at 10pm EDT for the final episode of the summer season.

Bourdain’s blog earlier this week was interesting.  The thumb ring, one of the more potent symbols of the man Tony once was, is gone.  Dropped into the abyss to spend the rest of eternity in Davey Jones’ locker.   It went, as he wrote, “…the way of my earring, joining—in one sense or another—my Dead Boys T-shirt, my telescoping billyclub and my crack pipe.”  On the heels of that posting comes tonight season 5 ending episode where we meet, at last on camera, the Bourdain family.  His brother we know already, but to the image of the little sibling so at odds with his more famous older, more adventurous brother, we know add… Mrs. Bourdain.  Along with all of her Sardinian relatives.    Has Tony turned over a new leaf?  Has the snark finally gone to the way of Dead Boy’s t-shirt? 

I commented in the first post of this series (click here to read it) that Bourdain started off this run of new shows seemingly wiser, less angry and more at ease with himself.  Sleep deprivation from having a baby at home will do that to a man.   I’ll take credit for calling it early on.  Tony the Tiger, sharp tongue critic of everything mediocre in food, has become… respectable.  Next Friday I’ll be Louisville listening to him speak as the (THE!) main draw at Idea Festival 2009.  He’s come a long way from eating cobra heart in Vietnam.

That being said, I highly doubt the new, improved, corporately respectable host of an Emmy award television show (Best Cinematography in a Non Fiction show) will be any less entertaining, enjoyable and fun to watch.  He’ll probably just say “f*#@” a whole lot less.  At least until the promised sequel to the food porn episode airs.  Season six can’t start quickly enough.

 9:55pm EDT

No Reservations – The Drinking Game

In honor of Anthony Bourdain’s upcoming appearence in Louisville, KY next Friday, the fact that this weekend is the annual Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, that September is Bourbon Heritage Month throughout Kentucky, and that the Kentucky Bourbon Trail was named one of the top scenic drives in America by none other than National Geographic, tonight’s drink of choice is – bourbon.  Have it however you want, whenever you want, provided you have it straight or on the rocks.  Remember, always add bourbon to ice – never do it the other way around.  Adding ice to bourbon dilutes an already perfect product.  However, adding bourbon to ice dramatically improves the quality of the ice.

For those of you wondering what happening to last week’s blog of the “NYC – Outer Burroughs” episode, suffice to say the cable and internet weren’t cooperating.  I plan to try and catch it on the rerun, along with the opening Chile episode, just for all your complet-ists out there don’t feel like you’ve been cheated.  After all, people have actually been reading this crazy experiement in internet creativity.  Sometimes.  However, I’ll be glad to get back to more regularly, and culinary related, writing as we head into fall.

10:10pm EDT

Every once and a while “No Reservations” pulls off an episode that you just know is going to be everything the local tourist bureau (if there even is one) dreamed of when they found out a major American TV show was coming  to film.  Sardinia, even early on, looks to be one of those episodes.  Somehow, sometime, hopefully soon, I’m going find a goat, build a fire, and spit roast it while basting it with melting pork fat.   For my friends reading this, we have our fall culinary project.

10:20pm EDT

 Maybe it’s just me, but donkey steaks sounds like something that should have been in the food porn episode.  Snails, on the other hand, are really something that needs to be on more American menus.  Cooked properly (meaning most of the time not overcooked), they are delicious. 

The pig-tailed baby Bourdain, much written about in Tony’s blog but as yet unglimpsed in the NR universe, is every bit as adorable as described.  I envy the child for how well she will eat as she gets older.  More kids should grow up being entirely unfamiliar with McDonald’s.  I just don’t see her Daddy buying anything with the word “nugget” in it’s name.

10:35pm EDT

In cultures where sterling silver tableware is unheard of, bread serves not just as a part of the meal, but as tool and implement.  I’ve always loved the mealtime ritual of breaking bread, and that was long before I understood it’s Biblical connotation.  Food is, after all, about sharing.

And there goes Baby Bourdain, playing with bunnies, while Uncle Bugs and other less fortunate relatives serve a more, noble, purpose.  At least we know she won’t grow up a vegetarian.  It’s always been important to me that my son grows up knowing that not all food comes in a can, out of a box, or appears magically from the freezer before beginning reheated in a microwave.  I won’t lie and tell you there are frozen chicken parts (I can’t bring myself to call them nuggets) in my freezer at this exact moment.  But we also have a garden which my son takes great pride in, particularly now that he’s old enough to not just pick the tomatoes and peppers, but help in making salsa, ceviche, chimichurri, etc.  He gets it, maybe not completely, but he is a lot more interested in the produce section of the grocery store than the frozen food aisle.  And he’s never met a fruit he won’t eat and enjoy.  Come to think of it, he and Baby Bourdain would make a cute couple one day.  I’m just not sure about having Tony as an in-law.  He might scare the grandparents.

10:45pm EDT

How often do you hear the words “homemade olive oil”.  As proud as I am of my farming heritage and that of Kentucky in general, people like those Tony encounters in Sardinia have a completely different relationship with their food and the land and sea.  Tony may be jealous of growing up without a large family, I’m jealous of not growing up around this quality of food.  Now, I’m still not ready to give up my fried potatoes (fried in lard) and cornbread (also fried in lard) at holiday meals, and I’ll commit several larcinous and nefarious acts for a true country ham (not the sugar soaked “city” ham sound by chain stores whose names end in the word “… Ham”).  Fish roe – unheard of in my 1970’s childhood.  I only knew people ate snails because my mother once ordered them by accident (read about this little incident in “A Tale Of Two Snails” by clicking here).   Every day that goes by, I start to think McDonald’s and Burger King are a little more evil…

 10:55pm EDT

Blood as a culinary ingredient, well we are getting close to Halloween.  How often do American communities each together?  Most of the time we sit in restaurants and do our best not to look each other in the eye, and complain when an adjacent table’s conversation intrudes into our own.  We’ve lost the communal nature of meals, the symbolic breaking of bread between total strangers, united by hunger or sometimes just a love of good food.  Sadly, if we in this country don’t find a way to reverse this, more than any difference over political agendas, our refusal to break bread with our neighbors will be our ultimate downfall. 

Full circle.  A family exploration in Sardinia is probably the perfect ending to this season.  Looking back on five seaons of “No Reservations”, and even further back to the days of “A Cook’s Tour” on the Food Network, seeing Tony talk about his new family, to see him carrying around his daughter, his beautiful wife in tow (looking every bit that she could hold her own as a regular on the show), it’s interesting to think that the Anthony Bourdain of Kitchen Confidential is really, truly, gone.  How much of that Tony is left?  Truthfully, were it not for that Tony, we wouldn’t have this Tony.  You never really get rid of parts of your character, you build layers up on top of them.  It’s like cooking.  Too much emphasis on one ingredient and you ruin the balance.  The key, the trick, the whole reason you do the thing, is to find that delicate balance between the individual components.  What you strive for is to have each ingredient play it’s part, but not to overshadow the parts played by everything else.  A symphony orchestra works the same way.  Whether it’s a conductor or a cook, or in some cases an author and TV show host, in the end the best you can hope for is that whole becomes more than the sum of it’s parts.

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