In October, I did the seemingly impossible, I read two non-fiction books. Which is (and was) nearly impossible. I was lucky that Bourdain is so readable and fun because Miss Dior was a tome. It took nearly 7 weeks of lunch hour reading to finish it.
This was a very interesting book. It’s a biography of Catherine Dior, sister of designer and fashion house founder Christian Dior, but Justine Picardie also tells us the story of her researching Catherine. It creates this dreamy, romantic connection between the two of them. The other part that makes it interesting is that Catherine was an extremely private person and didn’t talk a lot about what happened during the war, so the author pieces it together through the stories of the women that Catherine was in the Resistance with, arrested and tortured with, jailed with, and shuffled from Nazi concentration camp to Nazi concentration camp with. Through Catherine we get to learn about so many female war heroes, the spies, the resistance fighters, who fought to free France throughout the whole occupation with this background of high fashion, art, and business.
I don’t love the way that Miss Dior smells on me, but this book makes me wish I did. The roses used it in are still from the breeds of roses that she cultivated in her post-war life as a florist.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain is one of my comfort people. He is so crass, so honest, so up-front about everything, he’s kind of a bad person but he makes no bones about it. No Reservations got me through the end of undergrad and grad school and ever since then I have lovingly consumed every piece of art that he ever made. Except for the last season of No Reservations and the unauthorised movie that they made about him. I don’t know if I am ever going to be ready to watch that last episode in Paris. They did finish it, but it cuts to the crew’s perspective after he was found and it has to be so raw.
Anyways, this is the book that put Tony on the map as a personality, his first book, the one that exposed what restaurants are really like behind the servers to the general public. I especially love this version because he went back through it several years after it was originally published, after he got to meet some of the greats that he wrote about – and realized he hurt some of their feelings. He also changed some of his opinions which was really interesting to see, it was like observing someone’s growth as a person in front of your eyes. Not in a fictional book, character progression type way, but in a real human learning and changing.
It was also interesting to read now that I have been a server. It reminded me of how good the chefs can be, as in good people. The chefs spotted a college girl with food issues instantly and totally helped my relationship with food. They always made sure that I ate, they asked when the last time I ate was, they reminded me that it was okay to eat. Working in restaurants was also where one of the bartenders called me out for flinching every time a man walked by – to say that these men changed my life is an understatement. So hopefully, this serves as a counterpoint to Tony’s stories of debauchery, casual sex, and drugs in the 80s and 90s in restaurants.
I’m taking a detour back into the land of fiction in November, these were both great books, but non-fiction is tough no matter how good it is.