I first read Kitchen Confidential several summers ago when I bored one sunny afternoon lazily browsing a downtown library. I had seen Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations and enjoyed the show but it wasn’t until I started reading his books that I felt a true connection with his words and philosophy on the experience of eating and traveling. Over the weekend I’ve been revisiting some of Anthony’s most well known quotes and wanted to share some of Uncle Tony’s wisdom. Here are 21 of his best lessons.
“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”
“We know, for instance, that there is a direct, inverse relationship between frequency of family meals and social problems. Bluntly stated, members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies, commit suicide, or make donkey porn. If Little Timmy had just had more meatloaf, he might not have grown up to fill chest freezers with Cub Scout parts.”
“There’s something wonderful about drinking in the afternoon. A not-too-cold pint, absolutely alone at the bar – even in this fake-ass Irish pub.”
“But I do think the idea that basic cooking skills are a virtue, that the ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman as a fundamental skill, should become as vital to growing up as learning to wipe one’s own ass, cross the street by oneself, or be trusted with money.”
“Under ‘Reasons for Leaving Last Job’, never give the real reason, unless it’s money or ambition.”
“The way you make an omelet reveals your character.”
“Good food and good eating are about risk.”
“Luck is not a business model.”
“Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.
“You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.”
“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.”
“Don’t lie about it. You made a mistake. Admit it and move on. Just don’t do it again. Ever.”
“What nicer thing can you do for somebody than make them breakfast?”
“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
“I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you.”
“The journey is part of the experience – an expression of the seriousness of one’s intent. One doesn’t take the A train to Mecca.”
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
“I’m a big believer in winging it. I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I’m always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary.”
“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”
“As incisively pointed out in the documentary Food Inc.,” an overwhelmingly large percentage of “new,” healthy,” and “organic” alternative food products are actually owned by the same parent companies that scared us into the organic aisle in the first place. “They got you comin’ and goin'” has never been truer.”
“I have long believed that it is only right and appropriate that before one sleeps with someone, one should be able—if called upon to do so—to make them a proper omelet in the morning. Surely that kind of civility and selflessness would be both good manners and good for the world. Perhaps omelet skills should be learned at the same time you learn to fuck. Perhaps there should be an unspoken agreement that in the event of loss of virginity, the more experienced of the partners should, afterward, make the other an omelet—passing along the skill at an important and presumably memorable moment.”
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