The thing that really struck me in these essays was that were so many images. The descriptions of the steaks and greasy drunk people, trying to imagine all the different courses at La Pyramide…it’s practically impossible to fathom how human beings can come up with food like that and then proceed to stuff ourselves on fast food. I think Gopnik pretty much sums up my feelings about both French cuisine and restaurant food in general when he says “It is the unforced superiority of the cooking in the ordinary corner bistro—the prix-fixe ordinaire—that seems to be passing” (Gopnik, 69). For example, I can think of only one restaurant in my home town that I would go to over and over again simply for the food. His essay reflects my own thoughts again when he says “it was the invasion of American fast food, as much as anything, that made the French turn back to their own tradition and, for the first time, see it as something in need of self-conscious protection. Looking at America, the French don’t see the children of M.F.K. Fisher; they just see the flood tides of McDonald’s, which, understandably, strike fear into their hearts” (Gopnik 77). I don’t blame them. Fast food IS terrifying. I mean, you leave it sit out in the open and it NEVER ROTS. It just petrifies. If that's not scary I don't know what is.
The Tony Bourdain essay was so recognizably Tony Bourdain it was funny. After reading A Cook's Tour, the style of the essay is an exact match to the narration of the book. In less than five pages he manages to rip on vegetarians, vegans, and anyone who doesn’t like all meat as well as mentioning—among other things—murder, hidden-camera TV shows, and his own renown. It’s like reading someone with ADD write in stream-of-consciousness that manages to make me disgusted, hungry, and intensely jealous of the comradeship that the people who work in kitchens apparently have all at once. Someone should teach me how to do this. Maybe then I would be famous too. Or maybe I should just become a chef.
It seemed to me that throughout these essays there was a running consensus that French haute-cuisine was the best, although there was some discussion as to whether it is still the best or whether we just like to think it is still the best. My French food experience being a croque-monsieur (a grilled cheese with ham on top) and the efforts to imitate American food that they throw at tourists, I’m not really qualified to say, but on the whole I think I’d rather just go have dinner with my family. Maybe it’s not a thirty-something course lunch with accompanying wines, but at least at home I know the meat will be cooked the way I like it and there will be at least two vegetables on the table at dinner. Since it happens to be fall, there will probably be homemade applesauce as well and pie with a from-scratch crust for dessert. French cooking can be the most famous in the entire world, but I’ll still take my mom’s chicken over pâté.