Monday, March 3, 2008


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The following passage by bad-boy chef/author Anthony Bourdain inspired my vegan friends Sarah and Gordon to invite a few other vegans over for a vegan "splinter faction" pizza party last Saturday.

"Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent 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, and 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 any rumor of a cold. Oh, I'll accommodate 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." From Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain, p. 70.

Here's a comment from Dec. 2001 issue of Satya magazine by Jack Rosenberger (sorry the link is no longer viable), which precisely echoes my own thoughts, on that very passage:

"This passage tells us a lot about Bourdain and almost nothing about vegetarianism. To write that 'vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit' is quite a sweeping statement. When I think of, for instance, well-known living vegetarians, the type of persons who come to mind are people like Jane Goodall and Paul McCartney, who are first-class humanitarians. As for vegetarianism being 'an affront' to 'the pure enjoyment of food,' Bourdain clearly never had the pleasure of dining at, say, the Angelica Kitchen in New York City. And his characterization of vegetarians as being solely health conscious— 'the body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein'”—conveniently ignores the fact that many persons who are vegetarians are so for environmental and ethical reasons. As for the vegetarian waiters who are allegedly 'brought down by even the rumor of a cold,' well, if there’s a literary society somewhere that hands out awards for the most ridiculous writing, I hope it bestows an award upon Bourdain. He clearly deserves it."

And, might I add, Mr. Bourdain reveals not only his ignorance, but his lack of imagination as a chef!

Well, we all thought it was a great excuse for a party, and everyone brought their own dough, sauces and toppings (and I brought my new Cuisinart Brickoven for an extra oven). One of our party had never made a yeast dough before, AND she tried a kamut flour dough! She was really nervous about it, but it was just great!

Suzanne stressing over her kamut pizza dough, which was a big hit!

Gordon made a thin crust pizza with caramelized onions, slices of fresh pear, and cracked pepper-- to die for! I made my Neapolitan pizza dough (UPDATE: recipe in  my book World Vegan Feast) and my usual simple pizza sauce, and brought sliced marinated artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, roasted onions and portobello mushrooms, and roasted zucchini, eggplant, red pepper, and garlic, along with Sheese mozzarella, as toppings. But, you know, the cheese-less pizzas were all very delicious!

I was acting as sort of "pizza coordinator" with our hostess Sarah, so I didn't take any pictures. My husband did, but he always takes photos of people, not food! I forgot to remind him! So the pizza pics here are from former pizza feasts, but they are my pizzas!

Other topping combinations included: arugula with fresh tomatoes and lots of garlic; and spinach with pine nuts and homemade vegan "feta". There were others, but I can't even remember now! We shamelessly stuffed ourselves! We also had a lovely organic green salad, and some delicious appetizers, such as marinated cucumber spears, dried figs eaten with a beet relish (sounds weird, but it was divine!), nuts and other dried fruits. For dessert Sarah made a delectable Tofutti cheesecake, served with a strawberry coulis and lemon sorbet.

BTW, my little Cuisinart Brickoven performed really well-- better than the big oven! The pizzas baked in it (directly on the stone, at 500 degrees F) cooked quickly, and the edge of the crust blistered like a real stone oven pizza!

Here are a few more pictures of the fun. And, BTW, the floured overturned bowls on the counter were there in case anyone wanted to try stretching the partly-rolled out dough over them for a thin-crust pizza-- this is an easy alternative to spinning a pizza or stretching it on your knuckles. You drape the dough over an over-turned bowl (see picture below) and gently stretch it until it is the right size, using the weight of the dough stretch it. Work slowly so that you don’t tear the dough. If it does tear, by some chance, you can patch it and seal it again. The pizza does not have to be absolutely round! You can use a rolling pin only, but Neapolitans are of the opinion that this makes a flatter and less chewy crust.

Mike rolling the dough.

Prepping with Sarah in her new kitchen.

Fireweed taking a turn at rolling her dough.

Happy rolling, topping and baking!


Anonymous said...

Wow, I wonder what he thinking of people who have food allergies? I *can't* eat wheat or dairy, so is my *medically necessary* diet an affront to any food-loving person who adores their cheese and bread? That makes me sad, because I really didn't want to give up wheat... Thanks, Anthony Bourdain. >:(

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! I think Bourdain is one of those chefs who makes it on television with a say anything, try anything persona, so he likes to say outrageous things to stay famous. To turn humanitarianism on its head and call vegetarianism an affront to the human spirit certainly fits the outrageous bill. In any event I love your pizza party! Terrific post and pics. Since becoming vegan I have found so many more things to make and try. It's been a real adventure, and I love to see the adventurous spirit at your blog!

Anonymous said...

Bryanna, I actually think he's talking about those suburban upper middle class health nut vegans who just steam the crap out of their brussel sprouts and are righteous about their food and their beliefs. And, in fairness, I get that--those folks drive me nuts. Bourdain actually went to the Triple Rock, a fantastic vegan comfort food bar in Minneapolis that does meat but who would bother with that with such fantastic vegan food on the menu? Anyway, no bashing on vegan food there, and no bashing on the Triple Rock.

I'd be interested to learn more about Bourdain's disdain for veganism. What I've heard seems to be a bit conflicted and not a wholesale rejection of veganism.

Awesome pizza pics though! and I'm totally turned on to that little brick oven. Gonna have to get me one of those...

harlemgrrl said...

Oh, please. Bourdain is an aging bad boy who lives to be provocative. So what if he slams vegetarianism/veganism? Anyone who is exclusively listening to outside opinions to form their own has bigger problems than missing out on great vegan cuisine.

Actually, having read Kitchen Confidential, which includes stories of his childhood summers spent in France, I wonder if there's something inherent to the Gallic palate that vegan dishes offend. Julia Child was not only quite anti-vegetarian but defended veal. Quelle dommage

Meanwhile, thanks for sharing your party pics and menu. If Mr. No Reservations inspired what looks like a warm wonderful evening of friendship and awesome pizzas, perhaps I'll send him a thank you for his ignorance ;-)

Camille said...

I believe Bourdain's remark is born of craven hubris and agree that it is just a cover up for his lack of skill and creativity with vegan cuisine.

I live in a extended community of sustainability-minded people, a large percentage of which are, naturally, vegans.

We formed teams and take turns cooking a Local Lunch for 35 - 30 people every Friday. Among the participants are organic farmers, local produce distributors, biodiesel brewers and so on.

My husband makes 10 - 20 pounds of Tempeh a week and trades it for cash or other goods. It isn't unusual for us to get orders for Tempeh by email, phone or when we run into people in town.

There is a (former) chef on one of the other teams who has been quite vocal about his disdain for vegetarian/vegan food in general and Tempeh in particular.

The other day, after he had made an unsolicited disdainful remark about the vegan sour cream I had made for Local Lunch, I decided to push on him a little.

I said I hadn't seen him tasting much of what we had made (he avoids our Tempeh like the plague) and he replied with this:

"Please don't take this personally, but I didn't evolve to the top of the food chain to dine on twigs and berries."

To which I responded, "So, it's about Manifest Destiny for you!"

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it would offend someone like him to know that I have absolutely NO idea who he is!

Anyway, great party Bryanna! I am thinking about that brickoven more and more.

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Mmm, looks like a delicious party!
You're not the only ones with Bourdain on the mind, a group has plans to adapt his recipes:

Anonymous said...

What fun, I love the backlash that's brewing against Bourdain; it's about time. Just blogged about you guys and your party... keep up the good work!

KitteeBee said...

melisser beat me to it, i was gonna tell you about the blog group too!