Bourdain to Safran Foer: ‘I Will Shoot an Animal in the Head and Eat It’

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As promised, Anthony Bourdain faced off against Jonathan Safran Foer in a rematch of his Larry King Live appearance, with “Turn and Burn” co-host Eric Ripert backing him up (Ripert, of course, is a Buddhist who operates a seafood restaurant but likes his chorizo, though he says his parents grew up eating it only once a week or so). Bourdain took a surprisingly diplomatic stance, calling Eating Animals “fascinating and deeply disturbing” and admitting, “I think that everybody at this table right now would probably agree … that it would be in general, for a variety of reasons, better for society if we ate a little less meat, at least.” Before that can of worms was opened, Ripert and Bourdain (both of whom admitted to being on Lipitor) talked about a few other topics. Like salt! Here are the highlights.

ON SALT
Bourdain: “It really bothers me anytime the government steps in and says, ‘You can’t eat that or you shouldn’t eat that.’ It bothers me as a semi-libertarian. But on the other hand, let’s face it, we are a country of fat bastards.”
Ripert: “I don’t know anyone who’s going to oversalt his food more than once. You learn your lesson.”

Bourdain: “Generations of people slaughtered themselves and fought wars for salt for a reason — because it’s good.”

ON IRON CHEF
Bourdain: “Here’s the problem with American Iron Chef, is you got these great chefs on there, right? You see Wylie Dufresne on there and then you look at who’s judging — you look over and it’s like Chris Angel, Mind Douche is one of the judges … So, Iron Chef America — we don’t like that, either.”

ON CUPCAKES
Ripert: “I don’t like cupcakes.”
Bourdain: “I hate cupcakes, I hate people who like cupcakes. We need to snuff out cupcakes.”
Ripert: “Hate is a strong word.”
Bourdain: “Okay, I don’t hate them. I mildly dislike cupcakes … They’re just so hip and trendy. And you don’t really like the cupcake, it’s just that top quarter inch. Except for red-velvet cupcakes … I kind of like them.”

ON KFC MACARONI AND CHEESE
Bourdain: “I kind of want to put a bag on my head … Every once in a while I’ll try to be in disguise and I’ll order that stuff. It’s a very shameful dirty thing — it’s like going into a porn shop. Not that you’ve ever done that.”
Ripert: “I’ve never been there … I don’t even know what they serve.”
Bourdain: “Really? You’ve never been to see the Colonel?”
Ripert: “No. No.”
Bourdain: “You’ve never been so stoned or so drunk that you staggered into the Colonel?”
Ripert: “I have been very stoned and very drunk, but I’ve never been that bad.”

ON JUNK FOOD
Ripert: “I don’t like nasty food. To me, what I would call nasty food would be like a great burger … I have seen a can [of Spam] once in my house and I got freaked out by the can.”

ON CHICKEN
Bourdain: “What we do to satisfy our collective lust for anything in batter form — but particularly chicken — is pretty grotesque.”
Safran Foer: “It’s not a lust, though. It’s funny that you use that word because Americans now eat 150 times as much chicken per capita as we did 80 years ago. That’s not a consumer preference. That’s not because we as a people decided it was delicious. It’s an industry very actively, deliberately manipulating our taste.”
Bourdain: “It tastes good or people wouldn’t eat it. They have also been manipulated, there’s no question about it.”
Safran Foer: “No, clearly it tastes good. I think it tastes good.”
Bourdain: “But a good question you bring up is how much more meat and poultry we insist upon as our birthright ... ”
Ripert: “Americans are the champions of eating meat worldwide, that’s for sure.”

ON EATING MEAT OUT OF POLITENESS OR ON CEREMONY
Safran Foer: “People sometimes say to me, ‘Well, we go to my grandmother’s house on Christmas and she makes this thing,’ and I say, ‘Well, then eat that thing, that’s a great use of food. The McNugget is not a great use of food. And if we can all just agree that we’re only going to eat meat when it matters, that we’re only going to eat meat when we really enjoy it, when we care, when it makes a difference, when it serves any kind of social function, that would be eliminating I think 80 percent of the meat we eat.”
Bourdain: “Would you be willing to do that?”
Safran Foer: “I wouldn’t, but I wouldn’t argue against it. I mean, I wouldn’t because it’s something I’m personally uncomfortable with.”
Bourdain: “See, I’d do it if you do it, you know what I mean? I would eat less meat if you eat meat.”
Safran Foer: “It’s a funny logic.”
Bourdain: “No, I really would. Generally speaking, I really would.”
Ripert: “I have never seen you so diplomatic, Tony … It’s a big deal for him.”
Safran Foer: “We all know what’s at stake in people eating less meat. What’s at stake in my eating any meat? I’m not forcing you to give it up completely, I’m not saying I’m better than you. I’m just saying we have this industry that’s a real problem. Everyone should give up factory-farmed meat — I think that's something we really should agree on even if we disagree on how possible it is.”
Bourdain: “Everyone who can should give up factory-farmed meat. Let’s face it, most people can't. They’re lined up outside Popeye’s fried chicken in the Mission District right now for 45 minutes waiting for their $1.99 chicken not because it’s good, but because it’s cheap.”
Ripert: “It’s cheaper than to eat beans at home?”
Bourdain: “Yeah, but come on, try to get some fresh vegetables in inner-city Baltimore.”
Safran Foer: “You’re right — there are these urban food deserts and also, and maybe even more importantly, we’ve totally forgotten or lost the culture of food. The idea that a meal is to be eaten with silverware, that it’s to be eaten at a table, that it’s to be cooked by someone you know.”

ON MEAT-EATING AS PLEASURE
Bourdain: “What about pleasure? I mean, for God’s sake man — pleasure! We were on Larry King together and I made what sounded like a facile jokey remark — you know, what about bacon? It’s good — but the fact is it is good. … Isn’t pleasure important? Isn’t taking pleasure, not just alone (sitting there alone stoned at 2 a.m. in the morning, eating bacon in front of the tube as an essential human experience), but sitting together at a table and enjoying meat — isn’t deliciousness important? Isn’t it really important?”
Safran Foer: “Absolutely, absolutely. And it’s sad that any of that would have to be lost. And some of it has to be lost, there’s no way around it.”
Bourdain: “Turkey on Thanksgiving!”
Safran Foer: “Listen, we make these choices many times a day every day; we just no longer recognize them because they’ve been socialized. I think on Larry King I responded to something about sex. Most people have sexual urges throughout the day. It’s probably the case that you would like to have sex with at least some of the people you see on the street every day, but you don’t.”
Bourdain: “Speak for yourself!”
Ripert: “Tony, you have to go back home. Watch out. It’s cold outside.”
Bourdain: “No, I’m talking 'bout you, Eric.”

LAST WORD
Bourdain: “I will kill a pig and I will eat it. I will shoot an animal in the head and eat it. But I’m not doing it for fun, and I’m not blind to the circumstances and conditions in which animals are raised. I think there’s a lot of common ground here and we’re going to move, hopefully, toward the side of the angels.”