Comfort Me with Offal

Comfort Me with Offal by Ruth Bourdain, Andrews McMeel 2012, $19.99 hardback, 192 pages

Food writing, whether in books or blogs or books derived from blogs, tends to fall into two categories—the romantic and the adventurous. Ruth Reichl’s poetic swoonings read in stark contrast to Anthony Bourdain’s macho posturings. But in this hyper-media food environment, why not combine them and enjoy the musings of Ruth Bourdain.

The author of this sarcastic book remains anonymous, with restaurant critic, Robert Seitsema recently denying that he is the author.

But whoever the author is, they have a high snark quotient and I think they spend way too much time watching the Food Network. But then again the ubiquity of celebrity chefs (and their distinctive haircuts and footwear—you know who I’m talking about) provides plenty of material to mock.

And it’s not only chefs. Ruth Bourdain skewers critics, consumers, and restaurant staff. You’ll see yourself somewhere in this book. Maybe you’re a Carniwhore, a fan of sexy butchers—BILFs. Perhaps you know a Dining Digerati who won’t eat without blogging. I fear I may be a burgeoning Yeasthead, searching after the perfect artisan loaf. And wherever you sit, according to Ruth Bourdain, it’s open season on sommeliers, after all, everyone feels inferior to the sommelier.

The food fads are all here—macarons, nose to tail, pork belly, and absinthe—and snarky or not, Ruth Bourdain has captured the way food has become a social identifier, just the way cars, zip codes, or leisure activities are. We’re still keeping up with the Jones’s, except now we take our cues from an overheated food culture. Even opting out means taking a position. The adage you are what you eat has never been more true.

As Ruth Bourdain points out, if you eat ramen, you are in college. If you eat marrow bones, you’re intelligent; if it’s boneless, skinless chicken breasts, you’re depressed.

There are some recipes here, but I don’t see myself whipping up an Absinthe Smoothie any time soon. But next time you have some foodie friends over, and after you’ve emptied a few bottles of appropriately local or obscure wine (anything but merlot), whip out the Appendix’s quiz and measure your GQ—gastronomical quotient.  Would you name your son Emeril or Ferran? Do you shop at Safeway or Eataly? And what’s in the fridge—sriracha or American cheese?

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About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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