Dear Readers and Fans of Bliss,
I come to you on this day to express my supreme gratitude for all your support during the Anthony Bourdain “Medium Raw Challenge” and to offer some detail and opinions as to how this whole process transpired. As many of you likely know by now I did not win the contest and the winner in fact had only 3 votes. This has caused much consternation among my voting constituency and I believe it is important to know the rules in detail for the contest, which I have copied here directly from the website.
The preliminary round will be judged on the following criteria: (i) creativity (30%), (ii) originality (30%), (iii) writing style (30%) ten percent (10%) will be determined by the voting of visitors to the Website. Based on these criteria, ten finalists will be selected. The ten finalist selections will be read by Anthony Bourdain, who will select one essay as the final contest winner. The criteria for the final winner will be based upon which essay Anthony Bourdain decides best answers the question “What does it mean to cook food well?”
Now, as you can see all of the amazing votes cast by the many supporters of the contestants amounted to 10% of the selection process. With this I am OK and 100% willing to accept; however,if you carefully look at the other 90% criteria and the final decision it becomes clear to me that the actual winning essay (http://bourdainmediumraw.com/essays/view/1303) actually missed the point of the competition quite egregiously and frankly I cannot see how the winner even made the final 10. I am not a sour grapes guy. I always knew that I was more likely not to win the competition and as I told many of you,the support I received and the outpouring of love was far more valuable to me than winning ever could be. At the same time I take a great exception to a contest posting criteria, albeit subjective criteria, to be considered for winning and then awarding the prize to an essay that fulfilled perhaps 60% of the criteria (and that is being generous). The winner did not meet the fundamental requirement of the contest, he did not answer the question,”Why Cook Well?”.
How did this happen you might say? Without diving into conspiracy theories I will leave it ast this. If you have ever read a Bourdain book or watched an episode of No Reservations it is apparent that Bourdain has a soft spot in his heart for the working class guy/girl. I have a sneaking suspicion that rules be damned, a guy slaving over the furniture of the wealthy day in and day out who comes home to eat cold food and is completely absent from the day-to-day life of his family gives old Tony B that cringing feeling of slaving over a hot stove making bullshit continental cuisine for an ungrateful audience that he so eloquently espouses in his books and his television show. It is this feeling that Bourdain could make a difference in this guy’s life that likely made him choose to award the 10k to this essay which did not meet the criteria of the contest. Let’s face it, we are talking Tony Bourdain here. He has never really followed the rules and that is why most of us love him. The funny part of this would be if the winner really was not furniture mover but rather a clever writer and professor of psychology at NYU who used a pseudonym and a ruse to pull one over on the publisher and old Tony B. Of course,it is possible to suggest that the competition and the rules are subject to interpretation and they most certainly are,and I just gave you mine in these last two paragraphs. Now,I am going to take 500 words to present to you an essay that puts me in the same light as furniture moving Mike and likely would have at least gotten me a sympathy comment from friend of the working man,Anthony Bourdain.
It was 1982 and just days before my birthday my mom called me over to tell me something very important, not that I got to select which puppy I wanted for my birthday or which meal I wanted or cake icing did I want to choose for the birthday feast, but that my father and mother were divorcing and that the separation she had told us about for business was a total lie. Rather than the usual feelings of joy and visceral hype associated with the coming winter break from school and my birthday (12), I was staring blurry eyed through tears and questioning once again why my childhood was on the ropes while I watched with envy as my friends played merrily in the lawns up and down our street. You see, I had young parents, and young parents could not possibly know what kind of damage they were doing to my brother and I with a series of broken promises, lies, and unfulfilled childhood dreams dashed upon the rocks like the great Christmas nightmare of empty stockings and wooden tinker toys from bygone eras rather than a shiny new Atari 5200 wrapped under the tree. Once again, my birthday time was overshadowed by some other grave situation. It sucks bad enough that my birthday comes 6 days before Christmas and that I was always left to ponder the economies of scale associated with that “this is your birthday and Christmas gift combined” while my brother’s May 31 birthday always yielded him an end of school year party and other great rewards for blessing the family with another year his joyful presence, but now I had a nice fat D.I.V.O.R.C.E. in my stocking along with the lump of coal in my throat and oh, did I mention, at the end of the “we still love you boys” divorce speech we also got “Christmas is going to be light this year”. Light compared to what? When it came to gift time in my house, it was light, lighter, and “here kid, here’s a free outdated computer I got for buying a few rolls of carpet” light. In essence, this time of the year sucked and it sucked even worse now.
Thank God for my grandparents and for food. Since I was old enough to remember, my grandparents had food, and lots of it. At our house we were on milk rations,bread rations,and peanut butter rations. I constantly heard “who ate all the fucking baloney?” I could imagine hearing that now if someone tore into a plate of foie gras or scooped out a hunk of beluga from a prized gift,but who ate the fucking baloney? You see,we were not only getting divorced,but we were also poor and food costs were stifling to a single mother with 2 hungry boys. My mom, while young and a real emotional mess worked her ass off as a secretary for very likely vacuous and cynical corporate jerk-offs in order to buy basic foods so my brother and I would not go without eating even though sometimes she claimed to not be hungry when in hindsight I know she was. Also, it is important to mention that my brother and I ate a lot of food, so the odds were stacked against our poor overworked mom and likely our needs and her pain, led to her really nasty sailor mouth that both my brother and I picked up with aplomb. Nevertheless, there was great food at my grandparents’ places. We had cold sausage on white bread,cheese toast on white bread, biscuit donuts with powdered sugar glaze,cinnamon toast on white bread,cinnamon biscuits from a can, eggs any way we wanted,egg and bacon sandwiches with American cheese on white bread, and always lots of sodas. Now, this may sound like a quick road to obesity,diabetes,and perhaps even death,but I was a scrawny kid and couldn’t gain a pound with a clothes-on shower so all this food only brought about gastronomical joy, some relief from depravity, and likely some ADHD. Why cook well? Because it keeps poor, sad,divorced kids from wanting to do a swan dive from the top of the junior high into a pile of asshole bullies taking them out and ending another life without Christmas.
Dear Tony, I really need that 10 grand to afford my white bread and sausage habit..