I don't often recommend specific books, I usually use the list of recommended/interesting books at the lower left of this page to do that, but I am currently reading Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential"
and it was one of the first books in a long time to make me laugh out loud several times in a short period. It is a must read for 'foodies' like myself, but I would recommend it to anyone. One of my favorite gems is his description of Chef Bernard, the grand old master chef/teacher at the Culinary Institute when he was a student there. Chef Bernards students would, for the slightest mistake, receive a withering dressing down in full view of the diners of the CIA's Escoffier Room and the staff. With an ability to hurl invective that makes Ann Coulter sound like the Dalai Lama, he would cause students to run out in tears:
"You are a shit chef!" he would bellow. "I make two cook like you in the toilette
each morning! You are deezgusting! A shoemaker! You have destroyed my life!...You will never be a chef! You are a disgrace
! Look! Look at this merde...merde...merde
!" At this point, Bernard would stick his fingers into the offending object and fling bits of it on the floor. "You dare
call this cuisine! This...this is grotesque
! An abomination
! You...you should kill yourself from shame!"
Bourdain also shows that professors political opinions even affected the Culinary Institute campus years before David Horowitz was on the case
Another class, Oriental Cookery, as I believe it was then called, was pretty funny. The instructor, a capable Chinese guy, was responsible for teaching us the fundamentals of both Chinese and
Japanese cooking. The Chinese portion of the class was terrific. When it came time to fill us in on the tastes of Japan, however, our teacher was more interested in giving us an extended lecture on the Rape of Nanking. His loathing of the Japanese was consuming. In between describing the bayoneting of women, children and babies in World War II, he'd point at a poster of a sushi/sashimi presentation on the wall and say in his broken, heavily accented English, "That a raw fish. You wanna eat that? Hah! Japanese shit!
" Then he'd go back into his dissertation on forced labor, mass executions and enslavement, hinting darkly that Japan would pay, sooner or later for what it had done to his country.
And finally Bourdain's opinion of vegetarians:
Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistant irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It's healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I've worked with is brought down by a rumor
of a cold. Oh, I'll accomodate them, I'll rummage around for something
to feed them, for a "vegetarian plate," if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.
Have I mentioned that I love this book?