so you wanna be a chef

The restaurant kitchen may indeed be the last, glorious meritocracy—where anybody with the skills and the heart is welcomed.

Michael Ruhlman was able to post a complete chapter from Anthony Bourdain's book, Medium Raw, on his website. It's a fine read and certainly makes the book sound enticing.

Take a look, it's in a book...

Tomorrow, sadly, marks the end of a childhood institution, Reading Rainbow.

I, Robot

Tonight I finished reading Isaac Asimov's acclaimed collection of short stories: I, Robot. This is my introduction to Asimov's writing but I enjoy it already. While I enjoyed his style of writing, I was most impressed by the heady concepts which I found pervaded the anthology. Besides the in-depth consideration of the psychology of robotic machines, we're presented with a picture of the human impact of the presence of such technology from its near introduction to its startling potential future.

At a brief 256 pages (or 192 in my 70's edition belonging to my wife's late father) it makes for a quick read of all stories. Now I feel like it's but a small taste to whet my appetite for more of Asimov's work.

A Tale of Two Geniuses

Malcolm Gladwell's recent New Yorker Article, "Late Bloomers," has already been linked around the internet, but I can't help chiming in having read the piece. Whether or not you or me or anybody else is destined to reach "genius" status, it's encouraging to understand that not all brilliance manifests itself at an early age. Additionally, I loved the notion that late-blooming talent is often aided by outside forces:

Sharie was Ben’s wife. But she was also—to borrow a term from long ago—his patron. That word has a condescending edge to it today, because we think it far more appropriate for artists (and everyone else for that matter) to be supported by the marketplace. But the marketplace works only for people like Jonathan Safran Foer, whose art emerges, fully realized, at the beginning of their career, or Picasso, whose talent was so blindingly obvious that an art dealer offered him a hundred-and-fifty-franc-a-month stipend the minute he got to Paris, at age twenty. If you are the type of creative mind that starts without a plan, and has to experiment and learn by doing, you need someone to see you through the long and difficult time it takes for your art to reach its true level.

The article is a lengthy one, but certainly worth a read. It makes me (and hopefully others who pursue good artistic output of any kind) relax a little bit about my own creativity and dulls the false sense of urgency to do something significant before I age "too much." The article also seems to celebrate the pursuit - the research and preparation as a component of the art itself. And that, I can appreciate.

Burning Building

Today I decided to check out some blogrolls from various other blogs and came upon Burning Building, the brainchild of Isaac Marion in Seattle. Marion's site appears to combine various talents but is clearly dominated by his writing, which of late, is quite humorous.

Give it a look - at least for yesterday's "Happy Birthday in D Minor."
(via Alexis)

I am running you over.

Read. Laugh.

Guano-Paper and Fancy Feast

Mugs is writing some more. Do check out his site, but especially read, "Why I'm Jealous of My Son."

Kitchen Confidential

cover of the book Kitchen Confidential

Last night I finished reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. This book was easily one of the funniest volumes I've read in the past several years. Coarse, profane, yet insightful - this book is less an exposé of the commercial kitchen than of the author himself. Bourdain shares expertly crafted anecdotes about his restaurant years, all the while exhorting the readers to accept and appreciate professional cooking (and it's oft unseemly cast of characters) for what it is.

Two stand-out chapters (also the longest, I think...):
1. A Day in the Life - Here we follow Bourdain from his waking before 6 AM through a grueling restaurant Friday ending, exhausted, in a bar at 1 AM. The pacing and detail is extraordinary, convincing me further that I never wish to run a restaurant :-)

2. Mission to Tokyo - The chef is sent by the owners of Les Halles to a satellite restaurant in Tokyo to consult about the menu. Left to his own exploring devices, Bourdain rapidly falls in love with Japanese food culture. The sense of discovery is palpable, and the reader (or at least THIS reader) is filled with a desire to see the Roppongi district.

I absolutely recommend this book. It's not for the faint of heart, but it IS hilarious and informative. The format is mildly scattered - more the feeling of semi-chronological narrative with various asides - but easily readable. Taste and enjoy.

Glengarry Glen Ross

Last night I started and subsequently got sucked into David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross - his drama which won the Pulitzer in 1984. This short play (2 acts, about 100 pages) feels like a series of rapid-fire conversations which demonstrate the lengths to which desperate and/or ambitious men will go for their ends. Mugs sent this to me shortly after Christmas, and it was well worth my reading. I highly recommend it.

Book Crazy

My father gave Valerie and I a spot of currency for Christmas, and I've decided to use a portion of it for several books I've had on my mind. Here's the short stack:

1. Kitchen Confidential Updated Ed: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly - This is the book that, as I understand, identified Anthony Bourdain as the grand curmudgeon of the culinary world. I've always enjoyed his essays, so I look forward to this memoir of his days working in haute cuisine.

2. The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen - Writer Michael Ruhlman's latest book, even he refers to it as a "Strunk and White's" for the kitchen. Should have some excellent essays and provide a fantastic reference for technique.

3. Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing - Ruhlman was involved with this book as well. But really - it'll teach me to make my own bacon. Need I say more?!?

4. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto - This is Michael Pollan's follow-up to The Omnivore's Dilemma, and I've been anticipating it's release since I finished the latter.

I couldn't really pass up the free shipping on Amazon, so now I have at least a week to wait for my volumes to arrive, but I certainly have plenty of reading ahead for 2008 :-)

Death of a Salesman

picture of a book cover for Death of a Salesman

Merry Christmas to me. One of my Christmas gifts from Mugs and his wife was Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman". WOW.

I've read through it for the first time during this past week, and now that I'm back in Richmond I plan to re-read it with a pencil for note taking. I won't link it in the sidebar to Amazon because they don't seem to carry the fantastic and gorgeous Penguin Classics edition pictured above (which I received).

This is the second play I've read in as many weeks (after "The Iceman Cometh" by Eugene O'Neill), and it's my favorite so far. The tension throughout this short drama is so palpable that I was nervous from start to finish. I wish I could explain further, but I'm not yet prepared for commentary until I re-read it and gather my thoughts. In short, however, I was floored by the quality and content of this play.

The Omnivore's Dilemma

Tonight I finished reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. Let me start by reiterating that I generally have trouble reading non-fiction. Consequently I have stayed mainly in the realm of the imaginary, save for the occasional essay. If this book, then, has accomplished one thing, it has shown me that non-fiction narrative writing can hold my attention from start to finish.

Pollan spends his 400+ pages unfolding what I can only describe as an exposé of eating. Sure, the subtitle claims the book is "A Natural History of Four Meals," but I feel the balance tips more in favor of process than past leading up to the food we eat. This serves my nerdy side quite well, feeding me (ha ha) plenty of both trivial and significant tidbits about the food industry, agriculture, and harvesting. The author's story-telling style grabbed me from the first chapter, captivating me with tales of corn harvests and mycophelia - topics I'd scarce considered on my own even as a burgeoning foodie. Over the past week I've found myself reading in bed just to finish one more chapter about grass farming, wild pigs, or feed lots.

For all the enjoyable reading Omnivore provides, however, what strikes me most about this book is how it's affected me. Other than the Bible, I've never read a book that so made me want to change how I live my life as Mr. Pollan's Opus (...look, I'm entitled to a really crappy joke every now and again). Having read about the effects of industrialized agriculture on the health of our nation's people, farms, environment, and economy, and the health and taste benefits of more naturally raised livestock and produce, I earnestly plan to seek out food co-ops, pastured meat producers, and local food purveyors than I presently patronize. Sure it'll cost more in dollars, but I believe in the long run my cooking will benefit, and so will my health. This book is a potential instigator of change in my life, and that's more valuable (or at least more intriguing) than simple entertainment.

I've held back on posts related to my reading of this book - partly because it was published last year and I'm (as usual) late to the party - but also because I didn't want to give away what I was in the middle of reading. The entry was a hint, and I'm likely to post more related links and such about natural food and the industrial food system we have in the US. Don't worry, this won't become some crazy soap box where I rail against the American Culinary-Industrial Complex. I will, however, whole-heartedly recommend to everybody reading my website to find this book and give it a perusal.

In the meantime, I anxiously await his follow-up, In Defense of Food, to be released in January.


I wrote about Jessica Hagy's indexed back in February this year, and fortunately for her, so have many others more important than me.

I found out today that she's releasing a book through one of Joel Turnipseed's first posts to - an interview with Ms. Hagy, in fact.

The book is titled, appropriately, Indexed, and releases February 28th of 2008.

Harry Potter and the Night of Too-Little Sleep

Oi. Last night I finally finished reading the last Harry Potter book to my wife. I was reading out loud from about 6:15 in the evening until 1:40 this morning - nearly 7.5 hours.

And this morning I pay the price for it :-)

However, now I can finally watch the news and surf the net more fully, my gentle paranoia about prematurely learning the ending no longer necessary. I can also contemplate the full magnitude of the ending, and glance approvingly or annoyed at countless reviews of the novel. Ultimately, though? I'm simply happy to be finished with what I believe was an excellent series in literature.

Glorious Weekend Ahead

I'm pretty psyched...I have a killer weekend ahead of me.

Besides the fact that today is Friday, I'm looking forward to a number of events and activities.

One of my best friends is getting married this weekend, so:
1. Tonight is the rehearsal, followed by
2. The rehearsal dinner, which should be quite a blast. Then,
3. Tomorrow afternoon is the wedding itself, and I love weddings (and participating!). Finally,
4. The reception, tomorrow evening! Party Down! That should be loads of fun, and I'm really excited about seeing a lot of friends there as well. Some of us may even go out afterwards to Capital Ale House in Innsbrook afterwards if it's not too late :-)

As if that wasn't excellent enough, Valerie and I expect to take delivery of the final installment in the Harry Potter series tomorrow. Any moment not involved in Wedding festivities will be spent reading. Huzzah!

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

My wife got me "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes" for Christmas - truly one of the best gifts ever received by yours truly. The entirety of Bill Watterson's decade of genius bound smartly in three lovely hard-cover volumes, contained then in an equally eye-catching box. Each page is a faint creme color so as to set off the pure white daily strips, three to a page, with the publication dates at the bottom. The Sunday prints fill an entire page in full color, also with the publication date at the bottom.

I know what I'll be reading during my week off :-)

A Night at the Opera

Please, oh please, oh PLEASE go straightway to my brother Mugs' site and read his latest poem.

It's terrifying, haunting, and awesome.

And Mugs? Now that you're pretty much finished with the semester, how 'bout putting up some more of your stuff?

“God’s Teeth man! Fasten thine belly cheat and pour my bouse.”

Just read a fine piece of humor at a fine site called the nonist.

Chicky-check it.

This is your best chance for survival.

I know I've really been bitin' off McSweeney's lately, but dang it if that site isn't one of the funniest things I've ever read since Sweet Fancy Moses.

So today I just discovered the "verbal cartoons" of Dan Liebert. He seems to be a more sophisticated Jack Handey (not that there's ANYthing wrong with Jack Handey, Alexis :-)).

Read! Enjoy! Wet yourself with laughter!

Fling feces, foam at the mouth

How do you react in the face of tragedy?

He's writin'!

Mugs is writing! He's planning to release a serialized novel over a twelve month period, starting November 1st, via his blog.


The Da Stinky Code

So yesterday in the morning I finished reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.  I read Angels and Demons last year, and I enjoyed it for the most part.  The ending was weak, and I felt cheated by a poorly constructed about-face in one character's personality, but I thought it was otherwise a decent book.

Then I borrowed Brown's latest from my mother-in-law.  I wasn't particularly worried about the hot-button issues in the book as I had essentially heard of them.  It would take more than a novelist to shake my faith.

It didn't take long for two realizations to dawn on me: First, I was just as drawn in by the fast pace of The Da Vinci Code as Brown's previous Robert Langdon tale.  Second, I was beginning to suspect some unfortunate similarities between the two novels.

I'll not bore you with the details, but essentially this book read like Angels and Demons in a different country with different secret societies.  The attractive girl losing a loved-one who raised her, a pre-eminent man of his field privy to controversial knowledge that seems, at least on the surface, to threaten the Catholic Church.  The suspicious law enforcement leader, with just enough detail to finger him for the bad guy until the last minute.  The close ally, built up to the reader and transformed into the real enemy based on a flimsy, misunderstood pretext.

Yes, I was offended by several assertians by the characters in the novel.  I was struck more, however, by the lack of rational thought process on the part of the characters.  It appeared as if some of the principal players took leaps of faith rivaling that of literal Creationists when it came to connecting the symbolic links of the plot.  Such loose links and flimsy ties were not limited to the development of characters' attitudes, but the very movement of the plot in most cases.

I believe I could sum up my feelings for The Da Vinci Code by saying I lost a lot of respect for Dan Brown as a writer.  He pulled a Cold Play on this one, borrowing heavily from his own previous hit single.  While a change of key and some different lyrics may result in a different song, the result is the dulling of an otherwise pleasant theme leaving me disinterested yet, strangely, dissatisfied.

The Site is ACTIVE!

A Pair of Pathetic Peripatetics is now live. It looks boring, and there's barely any content, but that'll change soon enough. Enjoy!

Keep your nose peeled...

Soon, oh yes, very soon, my brother Mugs and I will be creating a new website called "A Pair of Pathetic Peripatetics."

This website will stay up as the content of the new site will likely be more focused on discussion, issues, humor, or who knows. The content will be jointly edited by my bro and I, and I will attempt to work on some kind of graphics for the site (yeah, I still have to work on this one first).

Here's to another grand web adventure!

What I'm reading currently...

I just picked up three books recently at B&N, and I felt like sharing with the world what I got so as to give a bit of insight into how I think and what I think about. So here goes:

1. Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky
2. Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-semitism and the Abuse of History by Norman Finkelstein
3. And the book I'm actually reading at the moment: Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions :-)