Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Anthony Bourdain can't be bothered with good beer; I can't be bothered with him.

Anthony Bourdain —"American chef, author, and television personality"— was flogging his new cookbook on the food, drink, and travel website Thrillist, when this happened:

  • Thrillist:
    "I read somewhere that, based on some drinking on the show, you were getting flamed online from beer snobs. Does that happen often?"

    A lot. I would say that the angriest critiques I get from people about shows are when I'm drinking whatever convenient cold beer is available in a particular place, and not drinking the best beer out there. You know, I haven't made the effort to walk down the street 10 blocks to the microbrewery where they're making some fucking Mumford and Sons IPA. People get all bent about it. But look, I like cold beer. And I like to have a good time. I don't like to talk about beer, honestly. I don't like to talk about wine. I like to drink beer. If you bring me a really good one, a good craft beer, I will enjoy it, and say so. But I'm not gonna analyze it.

  • And this, on 'craft' beer bars vs. Bourdain's preferred 'type' of beer bar:
    I was in San Francisco, and I was desperate for beer, and I walked into this place. I thought it was an old bar. And I sat down, and I looked up, and I noticed there was a wide selection of beers I'd never heard of. Which is fine. OK, I'm in some sort of brew pub. What's good? But I looked around: the entire place was filled with people sitting there with five small glasses in front of them, filled with different beers, taking notes. This is not a bar. This is fucking Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This is wrong. This is not what a bar is about. A bar is to go to get a little bit buzzed, and pleasantly derange the senses, and have a good time, and interact with other people, or make bad decisions, or feel bad about your life. It's not to sit there fucking analyzing beer. It's antithetical.
    Hold on a minute. This isn't 'craft' beer's exclusive domain. For years, pinky-in-the-air wine fanciers have been mocked, rightly or wrongly. Now, I'll agree that there may be 'craft' beer-ers who have now adopted the same supercilious sneers. But not all, and not most. Mr. Bourdain says he drinks beer only for the buzz: it shouldn't be difficult for him, while traveling about, to find a 'proper' pub to supply his fix.

  • Here, at least, Mr. Bourdain does rant against cork-dorks (if not with equal time).
    It's the same way -- I've sat at tables where somebody's bringing out one fantastic, life-changing wine after another. But, you know, just give me the name, tell me where it's from, and that's OK. I don't need to know what's out of the fucking hill, or who put the grapevines in, or that they were transplanted. I don't need this. I drank it already, dude. I just -- I don't care.

  • Thrillist is really, really trying to bait Bourdin into proving its point:
    Are beer snobs more extreme [than food snobs]?

    I think people's expectations of me, as far as what I'm eating, are already pretty low. They think that I'm a known quantity, that I'm a cheap date, that I like street noodles pretty much more than anything. But I think they somehow expect me to have better taste in beer than whatever generic green bottle I happen to be grabbing.

  • When you can't defend your opinion, just repeat it, without defense.
    And they see that I'm passionate about food, why am I not passionate about beer? I just ain't. I'm just not.

  • Thrillist attempts to lead Bourdain into its point of view, as is its non-journalistic technique. Bourdain doesn't take the bait, and, instead, demeans the visual appeal of beer (and wine):
    Also, it's different, because the show is more about going and finding the food, not the beer, right?

    Well, beer -- visually speaking, it's why we generally don't do winery scenes or brewery scenes. Because no matter how good it is -- this might be one of only five remaining bottles left on Earth, Napoleon may have put it in the bottle -- but visually, it's red stuff going into a glass. There's nothing to differentiate it from a big box of Gallo Burgundy. It's just not visually interesting. And also, I don't really care. Even with wine, I'm happy, maybe even happier, drinking some local stuff at an agriturismo.
    And gazing at a kitchen would be any more enthralling? Try hiring a different art director, or maybe looking at this one documentary view of breweries, produced in 1989, to see how beer can be interestingly presented.

  • Finally: is ignorance really bliss (talking of wine)?
    I'd rather order a Burgundy, not knowing what I'm doing. Let's see. They're so unpredictable. I know nothing about them. It's always a surprise. Spin the wheel. Some of them suck, some of them are going to be good, some will be interesting -- that's interesting to me.
    Should we really bother with Mr. Bourdain's opinions if he himself can't be bothered?

British beer authors, Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey read the interview and wrote, among other things, this:
Thrillist is a frightful den of clickbait, and craft beer types are easily baited, but Mr. Bourdain often has interesting thoughts and in this case, he makes some good points.

I was baited —and Boak and Bailey were— but you don't need to be.

Yes, taking beer too seriously is silly. But Mr. Bourdain goes much further: that beer, itself, should never be part of the experience, but only there for its psychotropic effect. That knowledge is bunk, except when it's of food. Willfully refusing to acknowledge beer's flavor or worth —especially when gastronomy is your profession— is ignorant.

I've never met Mr. Bourdain or viewed any of his programs; I've never read any of his books or essays (rants?) —until this interview. It'll be sufficient. I can't be bothered.


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