Thursday, August 16, 2012

BC2012: Cooking Dirty by Jason Sheehan

Uh-oh, the month is half over and I haven't published any reviews yet. I finished my sixth book of August tonight, so I'd better get started...

Cooking Dirty gives insight into the world of the people who cook your meals at restaurants.

Cooks sure are different. At least I can identify with waitstaff although I couldn't imagine doing it myself.* But I could never even hang out with cooks. For some reason, reading Kitchen Confidential didn't drive this home the way Cooking Dirty does. Perhaps it is the pedestrian setting of Cooking Dirty; Sheehan's experience is more ordinary than Anthony Bourdain's, consisting mostly of roadhouses and diners plus a few nicer restaurants in smaller markets (i.e., Buffalo instead of New York City). In short, I can picture Sheehan working at my corner bar & grill, but not Bourdain.**

There are two things that especially annoy me about this book. The title is kind of dumb and not really accurate or appropriate.*** Second, Sheehan ends his memoir with the birth of his daughter, and that is just so cliche.**** Seriously, it seems like half the memoirs I read from people of child-bearing age conclude with a birth or at least a pregnancy. This would get old/irritating even if I didn't have a strong personal aversion to having children. However, I must give Sheehan props for his hilarious and brief description of the blessed event.

Overall I enjoyed Cooking Dirty, though it seemed a little long. Some tales were a bit redundant and perhaps could have been eliminated. I probably didn't need to hear all about Sheehan's cross-country relationship drama either, but hey, it's his memoir so he can share whatever he wants.

What shines through in Cooking Dirty is that despite all the crazy antics and substance abuse, cooks do take pride in their work and strive to do it well. That's reassuring.


Obviously, my general dislike/contempt for other people would make it difficult, plus I don't think I could deal with bad customers in a healthy or even legal way. I would most likely wind up on the receiving end of a pink slip and assault charges.

**  Some Amazon reviewers rip Sheehan for not being famous, but that is precisely his appeal to me. I'll probably never eat a meal cooked by someone famous, but guys like Sheehan feed me several times a week. By the way, none of this should be viewed as a knock on Kitchen Confidential, which I enjoyed reading.

*** The title implies either an unclean kitchen or lots of sex in the kitchen. The text doesn't include much of either. I mean, there may be a few code violations, but this isn't The Jungle of dining by any stretch. The only reason I can see for this title is to pique interest, which makes me wonder if I should have called my book Sex, Drugs and Biking Illinois.

**** Come to think of it, Cooking Dirty is also another damned "how I became a writer" story. Two memoir cliches!


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