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I'm having a problem

I just got Anthony Bourdain's book Medium Raw. I have read Kitchen Confidential and never miss an episode of No Reservations. But I read the first chapter and I'm saying, "What the fuck Tony?" Why are you eating an endangered species? Why are you writing about it like you're about to have your first orgasm? Maybe I'm over reacting. At this point I'm not sure I'll read the rest of the book. Why should I care? Because you made me like you. I enjoyed reading about your early years. Those heroin and crack infested days that you were lucky to live through. And what made it good was you knew it. You didn't act like you had finally gotten your just reward. No. You knew you were a lucky bastard. Executive chef at Les Halles and the you Travel around the world making TV and eating mostly great food with the occasional poop shoot. Not a bad gig. You can suck down all the tortured, endangered little birds full of their crap that you want. I think you are full of crap.

Tell me I'm over reacting, please. I want to read the rest of the book. I want to go on enjoying Tony's antics, but that was one fucked up and creepy scene of them eating those birds with napkins draped over their heads.


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  1. clearly you haven't read The Nasty Bits...the very first paragraph of the *Preface* is a description of eating a freshly-killed [and raw!] seal with an Inuit family. i almost chucked the book right then & there.

    15 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      If you saw the episode on No Reservations you would have had different feelings.

      1. re: monku

        you'll notice i said i *almost* chucked the book. Tony is Tony, and i love him for that. i managed to get past it :)

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          From the episode it was if they worshipped every seal they caught and used every bit of it. The Inuit diet is made up of what they hunt and cute seals are part of their diet.

          1. re: monku

            And it's their only real source of nutrient dense sustenance.

            It's why Tibetan Buddhist Monks will eat goat, even though they are technically practicing vegetarians. Only source of nutrient dense sustenance.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              If people saw what those cute killer whales like Shamu do to a seal, they'd never go to Seaworld.

              1. re: monku

                Not sure what people would be more appalled at? Emaciated Inuits, or dead seals.

              2. re: ipsedixit

                most tibetan buddhists are not vegetarian
                they live way out of the growing zone

                1. re: thew

                  Yes, that's why I said they eat goat.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    i guess my point was that they are not "technically practicing vegetarians."

                    buddha ate meat. he died eating a piece of bad pork. vegetarianism is not the way of the middle path - it is an extreme

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      They eat more than goat (I've never seen them eat goat) -- it's a common mis-perception that they are vegetarian. I was taught to make momos by Tibetan monks -- and not only did they make them -- they ate them -- with gusto.. and they were beef filled, not goat filled. I've also brought Tibetan monks beef filled empaƱadas as gifts -- they were eaten with smiles (much to the amazement of the vegetarians). The Tibetan diet is vegetable poor -- not vegetable rich.. and it shows in typical Tibetan foods.

                      1. re: karmalaw

                        most of the momos i had were water buffalo.

                        mmm good

                2. re: monku

                  oh i know about all that, it's just a tough mental image to swallow (pun intended), particularly when it's certainly not something we're exposed to here on a regular basis.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    It was something to see..
                    They bring this dead seal into their clean white kitchen, lay down some plastic on the floor and cut the seal open and just start digging in with their hands and eating. They were happy.

                    1. re: monku

                      I saw that episode. I think or maybe I was hoping - that Tony felt a little remorseful about making disrespectful snide remarks on the side when he was out on the hunt.

                      McDonalds are not on every corner. Food is sustenance that is revered and appreciated - because sometimes you may not have it for a while.

                      What birds did he eat?

                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                        " disrespectful snide remarks" .......
                        are Tony's trademark in every episode without regard to the situation.

          2. Since I haven't read the book yet, what did he eat?

            3 Replies
            1. re: monku

              An ortolan.

              If only I could be so fortunate.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Sounds better than warm blooded seal meat.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I'm with you, ipsedixit.

                  My thoughts - if one doesn't enjoy the first chapter of Medium Raw - Bourdain's thoughts on food probably aren't for them.

              2. I wondered if it was even true...or just a great story.

                1. You should save some of your outrage for all those people who eat bluefin tuna or Chilean seabass.

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: rockandroller1

                      A couple of times people have remarked I should "save" some of my outrage. Are you afraid I'll run out? I assure you I have a whole pocket full. :o)


                    2. I know this sounds snarky, but I'm honestly curious: I was wondering why you would just give up on a person due to one thing he did (past tense, not continuing to do, as far as anyone knows)?

                      I mean, like you mentioned in your OP, he did all types of drugs, did all types of not-virtuous-at-all activities and treated a lot of people horribly throughout his entire life, and probably continues some of these on a smaller scale. But he does this one act and he's suddenly a horrible person?

                      Maybe it's just because I don't understand the intense love for Anthony Bourdain among foodies (I like him enough and watch his show a lot, but haven't read his books yet), but if you're going to love him for his bad-boy-turned-good, edgy, adventurous, open and honest-to-a-fault image, why let him eating an endangered species stop you from even finishing his book? Wouldn't that act add to that?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: yfunk3

                        You made a great point. I happen to love the guy. But that's irrelevant. To OP, face the facts. He is who he is. Either get over it or don't.

                        1. re: yfunk3

                          I think the big difference is that Bourdain vehemently condemns his hard drug abuse in his writings (though he condones or even encourages social drinking and marijuana use). Whereas the Ortolan scene, despite the obligatory moral disclaimer, was written as a great and worthwhile experience - damn near orgasmic, actually.

                          It's a lot easier to accept abhorrent behavior when someone claims to regret it than when someone revels in it.

                          Not that I personally think it's all that abhorrent... or more precisely, it's not particularly more abhorrent than what happens to chickens bred to produce cheap eggs in the US, and I must admit I eat the occasional cheap egg.

                        2. http://cookingwithlittlebuddy.com/?p=518

                          It's described in the link above and I think it sounds horrific. I am not vegetarian and I have raised and butchered my own meat etc. But I NEVER-EVER want to feel a rush of hot fat and guts hit the back of my throat.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: weewah

                            Another great Bourdain adventure in eating.

                            1. re: weewah

                              But I NEVER-EVER want to feel a rush of hot fat and guts hit the back of my throat.


                              What?....that's no different than eating a hot sausage off the grill.

                            2. My problem with this is that they are listed as endangered. Ips, what other endgangered speicie would you like to cook up?

                              Regarding his druggy days, those are in the past and he doesn't glorify or revere them.

                              If anyone who eats bluefin tuna or chilean sea bass wants to sell me a book I'll reserve some of my disgust for them.


                              9 Replies
                              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                I think it's harsh to condemn Bourdain for giving an insight into a unique meal many of us will never experience. He was an invitee and not the promoter.

                                I eat bluefin tuna because friends who fish for albacore will sometimes catch a bluefin and share several pounds with me. I aware of the fate of the bluefin tuna, but I'm not going to turn it away if it's offered to me.

                                1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                  My point was that this is one thing about Bourdain that you don't like. Put that up against a list of all the things about Bourdain that you DO like. Now, granted EVERYONE has one or two (or three) things that are dealbreakers for anyone they meet/know/whatever (mine is bigotry of any kind, outright selfishness/greediness, or just outright rudeness and inconsideration for others/lack of empathy) that they'll just write someone off completely for. I understand that eating an endangered species might be yours or other people's. But people are so much more complex than what you want them to be (general you, not directed at anyone in particular), so if you truly enjoy Bourdain's adventures/experiences 99% of the time, just skip the part where he talks about doing things you don't agree with.

                                  And I put his "druggy days" past in my initial post because you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who condones that behavior, but they love reading about Bourdain or other ex-drugtakers describe them, right? So how is someone writing about eating an endangered species once out of...however many thousands of times he's eaten something else any different than being judged on taking drugs in the past?

                                  There are always things we don't or won't like about everyone we encounter in any way in our lives, including on this forum. It's up to us to ignore the parts we don't like and focus on what we have in common, or to focus on the bad things and let it affect how we live. Why should we treat public figures we admire but don't know personally any differently?

                                  1. re: yfunk3

                                    I'm not defending Bourdain's drug use (or anyone else's) or saying that drug use is either better/worse than eating an endangered species, but I think there is one difference with drug use.

                                    Bourdain's drug use doesn't inflict harm on others (at least not that we know of). His consumption of an ortolan arguably inflicts harm on another living creature -- that darn bird.

                                    So, yes, I can see one "condoning" his drug use while at the same time excoriating him for eatin an ortolan.

                                    As an aside, it should be said that Bourdain doesn't just talk about his past drug use, he rationalizes and almost justifies it to some extent in both KI and MR. I take no issue with his drug use (past, present, future or whatever), but in many ways Bourdain almost glamorizes drug use for those who work in the back of the house as a sort of rite of passage.

                                    1. re: yfunk3

                                      I don't feel that he glorifies his drug taking now. While he was doing it he thought it was cool to be a junkie, but he later writes that he knows he's lucky to have survived those days. So I don't see them as parallels. I found an interview where he was asked about his food ethics.

                                      "Q: You talk about food ethics. But you open "Medium Raw" with a scene of you eating a highly endangered bird, ortolan. What would be immoral for you to eat?
                                      A: You know, it's not a matter of morality that I would not eat cat or dog. It's just a matter of you've got to draw the line somewhere. I'm not looking to eat endangered species. But if I am fortunate enough to find myself surprised with one of the rarest feasts in gastronomy? I can live with the complicity. "

                                      He's rationalizing it because he didn't know what was going to be served. Everyone has a line they won't cross. If given the same situation I wouldn't. I also think he'd do it again which makes it different than his drug use. I'm not saying this makes him a terrible person. As the first chapter in a book I was looking forward to reading it was an unpleasnt surprise.


                                      1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                        No, no. I'm not saying Bourdain himself or anyone reading about his drug escapades is going to go, "Well, that's okay then..."

                                        I was saying that people read about those drug stories with zeal because hey, it's interesting. But reading about him eating an endangered species (and with what I've read on this thread so far, not having read the books, it doesn't really sound like he's glamorizing it that much, just being very descriptive) is drawing the line...there is some sort of perversity to that, don't you think?

                                        You can rationalize both sides any which way: Bourdain was only hurting himself in his drug use. The ortolan was already dead and cooked, so it'd be a waste NOT to eat it. The drug use was written as an example of how out of control one can get in a bad way. The ortolan feast was described in such lurid detail not to glamorize, but to make the meal seem gruesome, guilty, decadent. In my opinion, both are very much in line with the image Bourdain throws out to the public/wishes the public to see.

                                        1. re: yfunk3

                                          "The ortolan was already dead and cooked, so it'd be a waste NOT to eat it."

                                          actually, i was watching an episode of No Reservations yesterday in which they had gone hunting for quail on one of the Greek Islands, and i guess someone must hav shot a rabbit as well. when they were eating, Tony made a comment something along the lines of: "The quail was good but the rabbit was sublime. The quail's life could have been spared."

                                          he's certainly not heartless...despite what some Top Chef contestants with bruised egos might say ;)

                                        1. re: thew

                                          Then that's not a dealbreaker for you.

                                          1. re: thew

                                            I'm having less of a problem with it myself....more below.


                                      2. I had the same reaction when I read this chapter in a book store and decided not to buy the book. I think it is different than the drug abuse and addiction in that he is really glorifying this as a premier event in his experience, and I didn't read any thoughtfulness or consderation of the endangered status of the bird in question. And Ipsedixit, if I remember correctly you also thought the gulf oil spill was no big deal, so I think we just have very very different values and world views.

                                        1. So where did everybody get the idea that the ortolan is an endangered species? That assumption seems to underlie a lot of the discussion here, and it's simply incorrect. False. Counterfactual.

                                          Ortolan aren't endangered. They're not even threatened. There are tens of millions of them in the wild. On the IUCN Red List, they're in category LC with other species of "least concern."

                                          Yes, it's illegal to import them into the US. But it's also illegal to import young raw milk cheeses - that doesn't mean that dairy cows are endangered.

                                          10 Replies
                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            Bourdain refers to it as endangered and there are many google hits that say the same thing. I did find one article that makes the same claim as you. Do you have other references you can link to?


                                            1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                              Yes, there's a lot of misinformation out there. People brainlessly repeat the claim that the ortolan is endangered or threatened or whatever. In this age of the Internet, that's inexcusable.

                                              Here's the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Endangered Species Program website: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/ A search for "ortolan" comes up blank, while "bunting" returns results for the Eastern Painted Bunting and McKay's Bunting. Thus the ortolan bunting is not endangered or threatened under US law.

                                              The IUCN (http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redli... ) found "This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern."

                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                Thanks for the information. I would take issue with " In this age of the Internet, that's inexcusable." Because of the internet there is more misinformation than ever and it can be difficult for a lay person to know which source to trust.


                                                1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                  Re-reading my post, it doesn't say what I intended it to. It's perfectly understandable for lay people to repeat what they read in the newspaper or hear on TV. My complaint is with the journalists and public figures who spew this misinformation without bothering to verify it. These are people who are supposed to be trained in determining the reliability of sources, and their failure to even attempt to get the facts right is what's inexcusable.

                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                    The rush to be first has no doubt compromised journalistic integrity. That and budget issues when fact checkers and proofreaders are let go.

                                                  2. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                    Now that Alan provided a green light for you to proceed to chapter two, let us know what nuggets you mine.

                                                  3. re: alanbarnes

                                                    yes, but if I remember correctly, Bourdain says they are endangered, did he not, and it added to his enjoyment ,( honestly I only read the chapter once and don't have it in front of me, so I could be wrong about that)

                                                2. re: alanbarnes

                                                  What you're saying is absolutely true, but there's a big but to it. It is a protected species in the EU, which is the source of the confusion. Protected species and endangered species are so highly conflated that if you search for the former on Wikipedia, it pulls up the article for the latter. I think the confusion is understandable, as, really, why would you protect a species unless it is endangered?

                                                  The answer, of course, is political. While their existence as a species is not at all threatened currently - I believe there are about a half million breeding pairs left, certainly not a very large number, but not one facing collapse without some sort of spectacular, passenger pigeon like domino effect - the western end of their range, France and Germany, is on a clear path to complete collapse. Beyond their numbers being in decline throughout Europe, a greater number are eaten each year in Western Europe than are allowed to live long enough to breed over the same area. Habitat destruction is the larger issue, of course, but if the path they're on does not change, the Western European range of the ortolan will eventually collapse. Thankfully, that could take a couple hundred years, and the larger part of their range, in Western Asia, is doing just fine. Maybe soon the French and Germans will be importing their ortolan from Turkey and Iran.

                                                  Beyond that, Europe faces complications Americans generally have no understanding of when it comes to species protection, the United States being so large as to have migratory species whose ranges have northern and southern ends within U.S. borders. Because of the nature of political geography, most migratory animals in Europe spend their year moving between several different countries, and often 2 or 3 continents. Migratory birds have therefore come to be viewed by just about everyone in Eastern Hemisphere but the French as a shared resource owned by the international community. The areas of Africa that the ortolans who summer in France migrate to for the winter don't take kindly to the fact that the French are eating way more than their share of the birds, and that eventually they won't be stopping by for the winter anymore because of French eating habits.

                                                  So, ortolans are not endangered, but in much of the world, they're as sensitive a topic as most endangered animals. Also, it's not just ortolans that are quite incorrectly labeled endangered. The majority of the time the term is used, even those labeled as endangered under the U.S. Endangered species act, it is only a local population that is endangered, not the worldwide species as a whole. For most Americans, the bald eagle is the standard bearer of endangered animals. But it was never endangered, and even at its worst, there was substantially less threat of a population collapse with the bald eagle than there is currently with the ortolan. The ortolan is in good company, as most of the species that get talked about as endangered aren't even close, and never were.

                                                  1. re: gadfly

                                                    Your population numbers are off by an order of magnitude. The IUCN estimates that Europe is home to between 5,200,000 and 16,000,000 breeding pairs of ortolan, or 15,600,000 to 48,000,000 individuals; the worldwide population is estimated between 21,100,000 and 96,000,000.

                                                    I also believe you're incorrect in stating that the ortolan is a European Protected Species. I know Wikipedia says it is, but here's the text of the European Habitats Directive, which includes lists of protected species in Annexes II and IV. The ortolan (emberiza hortulana) is not listed. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/L...

                                                    My understanding is that it's illegal to sell ortolan in France, just like it's illegal to sell any wild bird in the US. That doesn't mean that hunting them is against the law, and in fact approximately 50,000 are taken each year. Whether this is a sustainable harvest is a question I'll leave up to the French wildlife management folks. But from what I can tell, the ortolan is no more endangered or protected than the canvasback duck.

                                                    I'm not sure why there's so much misinformation about this particular species. I just hope that it can be countered at least in part by the facts.

                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                      The half million figure I was thinking of was apparently just for Western Europe, and could by suspect anyway since it's coming from a 55 year old text. The point I was trying to convey with that number, however, is that their existence as a species is not at all threatened. Half a million breeding pairs or 20 million breeding pairs, it's going to take an absolutely catastrophic chain of events to cause their extinction. The population of the passenger pigeon went from numbering in the billion to zero in about two decades, so 20 million certainly isn't safe from disaster. But, by the same token half a million is no cause for concern. With these things, its rarely the numbers that are the important factor.

                                                      The protection of species is very complicated in the EU. There are a number of different levels of protection, nearly all of which are meaningless. The ortolan is protected under the Birds Directive of the late 70s, along with all other migratory passerines. But there is no true protection afforded under this particular law. It does call for an end to hunting of nearly all wild birds in the EU, but it doesn't set up any criminal penalties or enforcement mechanisms - so I'll leave it to a lawyer to say whether that makes it illegal or not. Special conservation zones are required to be set up and criminal penalties left to the member states to resolve. The original law has been weakened by subsequent amendments, so I'm not even sure it has any meaning anymore.

                                                      Unlike most of feudal Europe, hunting was never the exclusive privilege of the nobility in France, so the regulation of hunting is contrary to the French character. They also, somewhat correctly, don't see the hunting as the reason for the ortolan's dwindling numbers in Western Europe. They do seem to be genuinely concerned with the fact that, sometime probably in the next hundred years or so, the last ortolan in France will die. But, in typical French fashion, that's all the more reason to eat them now while you still can. Much like Americans and gasoline, though I prefer the taste of ortolan myself.

                                                      And the fact remains that they are "endangered" in France in much the same way the the bald eagle was "endangered" in the United States. Their numbers are dwindling - the figures I'm finding online are about 15,000, though I wouldn't put my trust in these - and they've already disappeared from large areas of France where once they were common. Obviously its just speculation, but I can't see a bird with their particular needs recovering in France, even if the French do everything they can to stop it. France was never a major part of their range - most of which and, judging solely by environmental conditions, the far more robust part, has always been in Asia.

                                                      So, given that, at least from what shows up in Google news, media stories about the ortolan always revolve around France, and in France the population is in danger of collapse sooner rather than later, of course they are referred to as endangered. Is this incorrect? Of course. But it's incorrect in a way that's completely consistent with the way that just about everyone is always incorrect with this kind of thing. It's incorrect in the same way that all those sad stories we had to endure in the 80s about the bald eagle or the American bison were incorrect. All three are robust species which were never in substantial danger of total population collapse. But read a history book about the 1800's buffalo hunts and you'll read how the American bison was hunted almost to extinction. Because, you know, those vast herds that were doing just fine up in Canada? Those didn't count. Just like the apparently tens of millions of ortolans in Eastern Europe and Asia don't count when the focus of a news story is France.

                                                3. Everyone draws the line somewhere. I've never met you, so I don't really know how hardcore you are. I know their a many people who WOULD chuck the book. The fact is the book is paid for. The money's already on its way to his pocket. - whether you read the rest of it or not isn't going to change anything. My advice: read the rest of the book and then decide whether or not you're going to take a stand.

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: ladybugthepug

                                                    Maybe the OP got it from the library?

                                                      1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                        What do you think Tony would say about your rant?

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            While flicking a Marlboro butt towards his face.

                                                            1. re: monku

                                                              Is it really Marlboros? I thought they were Camels, unfiltered?

                                                              1. re: monku

                                                                AB doesn't smoke and I don't care what he'd say.


                                                                1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                  You don't care what he'd say, but it's OK for you to rant about him.

                                                                  He must have some sort of explanation for this deed you consider so dispicable.
                                                                  I don't think this is the last time he'll consume any kind of endangered spieces.

                                                    1. There's a pretty good (humorous) description of the ritual here:


                                                      1. I'm half way through the book now and had a similar experience with the first chapter. It imagined myself there with the napkin on my head and I cringed.

                                                        but I got through it and the following chapters are better. I really enjoyed his meat chapter and about writing on some Vietnamese dishes.

                                                        He's passionate about food and I don't give him grief about the ortolan just not something I'd ever be interested in doing.

                                                        Hope you keep reading and enjoy the rest of the book, there is some great stuff in there.

                                                        1. I haven't read the book yet - but the bird/napkin over the head description is how you eat ortolan. Creeps me out too.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. I'd like to suggest that OP read Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. After reading that book, I'll never criticize anyone for their food choices. I was about to write "short of being a vegan, we all have plenty to feel guilty about if we choose." Then I realized that even vegans need to pick foods that don't damage the environment one way or another. So we all draw the line at different spots and I, for one, am not going to cast stones. I remain an omnivore btw.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              I don't eat anything that hasn't suffered a little. I even like to berate my tofu a bit before eating... :o)

                                                              In case anyone wants to get up in arms about what I just wrote, I was only joking...

                                                              1. re: yfunk3

                                                                I just snorted water up my nose.

                                                                1. re: yfunk3

                                                                  I think I saw you thru your kitchen window squeezing firm tofu thru your fist screaming "Take that B-tch! - I'll make you silken yet!"

                                                                  Very thrilling. You did not look like you were joking.

                                                              2. I posted this in an intentionally spicy way to elicit some strong responses. I had a strong reaction to that first scene and wanted to know if I was making a mole hill into a mountain. I am capable of such and appreciate the wider CH community who know more and think differently than I. I still think eating endangered species is over the line and I will not embrace someone that does. But clearly the ortolan is not endangered and it's protected status is murky at best. Thanks to alanbarnes and gadfly for that info.

                                                                Now on to chapter 2.


                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                  This can't be the end of the discussion; we have a way of repeating and repeating the same thing, over and over again. In the movie Groundhog Day, just after asking Larry to give him a good, hard, slap in the face ("if you need help with the other cheek, let me know. I'm right here") Phil says, I'm having a problem. I may be having a problem. I really feel weird."

                                                                2. So I wonder...

                                                                  Would OP or others eat endangered or conservation listed fish? Would you eat a marlin steak? How about blue fin tuna? Trawled fish/shrimp, chilean seabass? Shark fin soup if you were in Asia? Atlantic cod - if you were not absolutely sure of its source?

                                                                  Or how about an undersized fish or crustacean? One that is out of season? With egg sacs?

                                                                  How about a dog?

                                                                  Gordon Ramsey is out there encouraging folks to munch down endangered eels.

                                                                  About Bourdain. You can be irreverent without being an ass to folks around you.

                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                    I am very careful about buying fish in a store or in a restaurant - especially in a restaurant, mindful of the mislabeling problem (not always deliberate; fish is sold under common names, not scientific names, so it is essentially impossible to know what that stuff really is). I would never eat shark fin soup (not just a question of the species' status but also of intense animal cruelty, and I am no animal rights nut ...). I do not eat trawled shellfish and tend to distrust the "diver" description on menus. Because pretty much every menu except maybe Red Lobster says diver scallops.

                                                                    I don't know what the weight limits and seasons (which vary from place-to-pace) are for various fish and shell fish, so this would be impossible, not to mention that I don't carry a scale or tape measure with me when I go to eat out.

                                                                    I wouldn't eat dog because of strongly ingrained cultural preferences. To me, dogs are pets. But I don't condemn those who would. After all, I eat rabbit, duck, guinea pig...all things that are considered pets by some.

                                                                    It does get hard to order these days if you eat with the environment in mind. The other day, I wanted to order kingklip but didn't because of the carbon cost involved in bringing fish from South Africa to DC.

                                                                    1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                      And don't forget all those out of season vegetables that come from Chile. But then you have to balance that against the benefit that Chile derives from those products being exported. As you and I said, it's not easy eating, is it?

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        Someone should write "The Freedom of Guilt-Free Eating - An Omnivore Without Dilemmas".

                                                                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                          I think the majority of folks in the more affluent parts of the world are doing just that. Not sure that kind of 'mindless' eating needs to be encouraged any further. Remember, we (hounds) are in the minority.

                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                            True. And folks in the less affluent parts of the world don't have the luxury of having these kind of dilemmas. Those who have that luxury should be thankful they do.

                                                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                        Didn't Alice Waters say for her last meal she'd like sharks fin soup?


                                                                        1. re: monku

                                                                          Well, she's going to have to leave the U.S. to do this:


                                                                          This is not necessarily about protecting populations/species - though in some cases, it is - as much as it is about a barbaric practice. So much for Alice Waters' famed humanitarianism.

                                                                          1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                            Or not. The new law simply prohibits "finning." If it is implemented, shark fishing will still perfectly legal despite the fact that it's completely unsustainable.

                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                              True, and sad. We are confounding two issues here - sustainability (more generally, the impacts of the eating habits of a population grown too large) and humane treatment of animals. I disdain animal rights groups and activists as they are generally anti-scientific extremists who have no idea what they are talking about, but that doesn't mean I condone cruel practices.

                                                                      2. I really can't see any sort of justification(short of life or death) in eating something that is endangered. Certainly someone in Bourdain's (and quick frankly any chef) position should know better, and not go around boasting about it. Sustainability is the message that culinary professionals should be focusing on. In this case it comes across as nothing more than taking advantage of his celebrity to indulge in selfish instant gratification, much like a junkie.

                                                                        A few years back there was a moronic Montreal food critic who wrote about knowing that Chilean sea-bass was endangered then ordered it anyway. Her reasoning was that she was The Food Critic and therefore it was in everyones best interest to eat the dish in question. There was quite an outcry about her actions. This mental dynamo then wrote a condescending followup piece about why no one should eat it yet some how excusing her own actions.

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Withnail42

                                                                          It's worth taking a few things into consideration to differentiate the two cases here. To start with, it's worth pointing out that neither the Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass) or the ortolan are endangered. The issue with the Patagonian toothfish is not even that it's not sustainably fished; there are sustainable fisheries for this fish. The issue is that most of what makes it to market is illegally fished, and therefore unsustainable. So, needless to say, overfishing is an issue with this fish, and I would say that conservation minded consumers should avoid it.

                                                                          The issue with the ortolan is very different. Its population decline has not been linked to overconsumption, as is the case with population declines due to unsustainable fisheries. The ortolan is slowly dying out in France due mainly to climate change, and the modernization of French agriculture. If you're really worried about ortolan population in France, boycotting French wine is going to have more of an impact than not eating a single ortolan would.

                                                                          It might be counterintuitive to say that you're not really doing any damage by eating an animal whose population is dwindling - this is why it's a sensitive issue - but much of scientific fact is counterintuitive. We can save certain fish populations by not eating them. We probably can't save the ortolan by any measures we take, least of all by ending hunting of the bird - so in the eyes of many, why not eat them? The argument could even be made that ortolan hunting is one of the few things that is keeping ortolan breeding grounds in France safe from being rendered unusable to the birds through direct human action. Hunters often make the best conservationists.

                                                                          1. re: Withnail42

                                                                            That person is a... clue: Starts with an H ends with someone eating something "E"ndangered.

                                                                            1. re: Withnail42

                                                                              I really can't see any sort of justification(short of life or death) in eating something that is endangered.

                                                                              I was at an after funeral catered buffet luncheon. One of the items being served looked like tofu with black beans and green onions...after a few bites I realized it wasn't tofu but some kind of fish. I asked the caterer what kind of fish it was and she said it was Chilean sea bass. It was a shame to see no one eating it because I don't think most people realized it was fish or maybe even Chilean sea bass. I'm not one to order it in a restaurant or buy it to prepare at home. Once it's dead and cooked I figured it was fair game to eat as much as I could.

                                                                              1. re: monku

                                                                                Well then shame on the caterer for serving it.

                                                                                1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                  Interesting I happened to look at their website and they boast
                                                                                  " to-die-for Chilean Sea Bass,"


                                                                            2. For anyone who hasn't read Anthony Bourdain's description of the feast and wants to, you will find it here: http://cookingwithlittlebuddy.com/?p=518

                                                                              I find nothing offensive about it, but I do find draping their heads under napkins to keep "God" from seeing them eat the ortolans to be ridiculous. Last time I looked, Christianity (presumably) claims God is omniscient, so who do they think they''re fooling? I do, however, think it's a shame that a songbird or any other creature is on the endangered list. But it is also true that forbidden fruit is the tastiest fruit. Anyone who is offended by reading this might want to contemplate becoming vegetarian.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                Vegetarian!!!!??? I was not offended by them eating meat.


                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                  They are Ortolan eaters. You expect too much.

                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                    I read that "the diner draped his head with a linen napkin to preserve the precious aromas"