How to Be Cool

Step 1: Wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and see Anthony Bourdain.

End of process.

Our parents had Steve McQueen, and I don’t know Marlon Brando? Paul Newman? James Dean?….Shot in the dark, John Wayne? Was he “cool”?

We have Anthony Bourdain.  Yes that’s all. He fills the role completely and perfectly.

In his latest memoirish book, Medium Raw, he devotes a whole chapter to how he can not in any way be considered cool anymore because he is a father. That ship has sailed. Bon voyage! He claims that as a result of the birth of his daughter, he’s “…through with being cool. Or, more accurately, I’m through entertaining the notion that anybody could even consider the possibility of coolness emanating from or residing anywhere near me.”

Him saying this makes him exponentially cooler. The man just can’t help it. Even though he insists “there is nothing cool about used to be cool.”

You’re still cool Anthony. Your coolness has just evolved to a more permanent and mature level. It’s not about your leather jacket or your record collection, or not about as you say “not giving a fuck.” It’s that you give a fuck. It’s your thoughts, your opinions, your passions and how you talk about them that makes you impenetrably cool. You’re a self reformed bad ass, which makes you.. a bad ass. You’ll never shake it. Sorry. When your daughter is 13, she probably won’t think you’re cool, which is essentially what all this nonsense you’re talking about is preparing you for; but when she’s 23, she will. She’ll know. She’ll read all your books. She’ll love you and love how cool you are and love that you’re her father. Sleep peacefully now.

Moving on, I personally recommend Bourdain’s new book Medium Raw. It’s a lovely hodge-podge of thoughts. It reads quickly. It’s beautifully written. If you regularly watch No Reservations, you may even hear Bourdain reading certain passages to you in your head.

But I’ll be honest. I love reading Bourdain more when he’s not writing about food. But that’s likely because I’m not, ahem, a foodie. Not at all. I had to wikipedia almost all the the industry names he talked about in the book. I had no idea who David Chang was. No idea about Alan Richman. I honestly don’t really care about the details of the each course at Momofuku. Snore. I don’t get off on food porn and I don’t eat out anymore (hello, two.year.old).

I do love learning about his unique insight of the restaurant industry. I love reading his writing about the importance of cooking. In the chapter titled Virtue, Bourdain professes in depth what he thinks every person should know about food by the time they are an adult. This includes roasting a chicken, grilling a steak, steaming rice, choosing produce and cooking vegetables. He claims that people should abstain from sexual activity until they have developed the skills to make their lover an omelet in the morning. Lovely.

This got me thinking. I agree that it is the duty of parents to teach their children about food. Everyone should know how to feed themselves from fresh whole foods. This is a character development that will serve them in life indefinitely. I’ve come up with a few of my own that I think are important virtues to instill in our children.

1. Showing up on time. Blame this on the kraut in me, but being there at the beginning, before whatever it is starts, is the easiest way to convey that you’re serious and you care.

2. How to Dress. Mothers, teach your daughters how to dress. How to dress for a job interview. How to dress for work. The difference between dressing for an afternoon wedding and a cocktail party. If you don’t know how, then find out. There are sources in every grocery store check-out lane.

3. How to Include Yourself in social situations. This is something I never learned and am irreparably socially awkward because of it. Encourage your kids. In other words, give them confidence that Susie Q over there will actually enjoy their company and conversation.

4. How to Enjoy Reading. Reading books makes you a more interesting person. It’s that easy. If you notice your teenager doesn’t take to reading, maybe introduce them to non-fiction. Assuming that every 15 year old girl wants to read Twilight is a mistake. I didn’t start enjoying reading until I started browsing the non-fiction section. Now I feel like I wasted all my teenage years frustrated thinking I was stuck with fiction.

5. How to do Without. If there’s anything our generation needs to embrace, it’s how to live below your means. That stuff is not an asset, but a burden.

Got any more? Let me have it.


2 Responses to “How to Be Cool”

  1. 1 laura September 1, 2010 at 10:21 am

    I would include how to give appropriate gifts. What to bring to a dinner. What to being as a house guest. What to send to a funeral.

    Also, I love AB’s show, but have not read his books. I’ll have to pick them up. My favorite episode is Sardinia. What’s yours?

    • 2 randomanderson September 1, 2010 at 10:59 am

      Good ones. It seems like the concept of traditional etiquette in general has fallen by the wayside.

      I haven’t seen the Sardinia episode, but I’m intrigued. I recently saw the all black and white Rome episode and loved it. But my old favorites are Saudi Arabia and one where he was in Romania with a drunk Russian friend.

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