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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Krampus, Pooping Logs, and trotters, anyone?

"The original bad, bad Santa. Because in Austria, when they tell you what happens to bad boys and girls, they ain't f*cking kidding."  - Anthony Bourdain

A classic German postcard showing Krampus with St. Nickolaus

If you missed the No Reservations Holiday Special on Monday night, you missed out on a classic. I'm sure in true Travel Channel fashion, it will be replayed... a few hundred times.

Anthony Bourdain and company put on quite the entertaining offering. It was also educational; we got to learn about several Christmas traditions from around the world: the Austrian/German character of Krampus, the Catalan "Pooping Log", and even the Italian traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes. And don't forget the appearance of Norah Jones and her soothing rendition of "Silent Night" in the hotel lounge, an appearance by the band F*cked Up, and the humorous "Vegan Death Metal Chef"!

I enjoyed getting to see some chefs I am familiar with, such as Lidia Bastianich and Dave Arnold. Tony meets with Lidia and Christopher Walken (which have a unique connection) at her house to show an example of the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes. It was humorous when Walken treated the octopus a little like a mob informant. Lidia created a very delicious looking feast out of what could easily be scowled at, by most people. The only time I've had octopus was on a birthday dinner at a local sushi restaurant, and I would like to try it again in something like that salad she created.

I listen to a weekly podcast from Dave Arnold, the Director of Culinary Technology at the French Culinary Institute, called Cooking Issues on the Heritage Radio Network. It's a very in-depth show taking questions from callers and emails about what else... cooking issues. He's got a bit of a hard-on about sous vide cooking more than I think someone should, but it's still a very good food nerd podcast. I enjoyed his segment with Tony about "What Would Jesus Eat".

The food featured in the episode left my mouth watering. From the meat orgy of a meal Tony enjoyed at his old residence of Les Halles, cooked by Chef Carlos Llaguno, to the delicious salt-crust prepared venison from Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner, from Blaue Gans. This was the segment where Krampus was explained. If you are not aware of Krampus, already, he is the "bad Santa". It's a very demon-like creature, with horns, an evil forked tongue, claws for hands, one hoof foot, one clawed foot. It is said if a boy or girl is bad during the year, instead of St. Nickolaus coming to your house to deliver gifts, Krampus would arrive to beat you with switches, chain you up, torture you, or often, toss you in his wicker basket to drag you off... seemingly to Hell. Germans and Austrians didn't screw around with kids; when they wanted them to behave, they just scared the ever-living crap out of them. Don't believe me? Google the book Strewwelpeter!

Another classic German postcard of Krampus

A trip to El Quinto Pino and a visit with Chefs Alex Raij and Eder Montero allowed Tony to try a traditional Catalonian dinner of escudella. Tony also got to learn about the tradition of Tió de Nadal and the Poop Log. Apparently, a smiley log, with its own song, will poop out candy... a confection with almonds or peanuts. If it doesn't poop, it gets hit with a stick. Odd... but entertaining. I especially liked the mini-figurines of pooping characters, including Santa leaving a steaming deuce.

Another great food moment came from a traditional, hearty English meal prepared with April Bloomfield, of the Spotted Pig. The duck, veal shanks, and pig trotters pie left me yearning to have some in front of me while I watched.

If you are a Anthony Bourdain fan, or follow anything from him in writing, Tweeting, or Facebook'ing, you will instantly know the absolute most humorous point of the show: Samantha Brown in a role as a crazy, drunken cat lady, and discarded "bubbly" travel host. She was a great sport to participate in the episode, especially in the setting she was put. I also loved the little quip that she only eats "takeout from Le Bernardin". And yet another jab, in reference to some of Tony's opinions, comes in the final scenes of the show with Paula Deen-loving nurse!

A great episode... and I highly recommend seeking it out on your program guide, and watching.


  1. I'll definitely watch this episode. Great recap. I love Tony Bourdain!

  2. this was an episode devoted to the ego of tony bourdain. not that all of the others aren't as well, but this one was over the top. the first two thirds were barely watchable. when the segment with lidia and christopher walken finally came on, it became interesting. finally about food and not poor tony's tortured existence. the final bits about samantha and paula no doubt stemmed from what has probably been an uproar to the travel channel about his snide comments. tony's travels and the food he experiences are always interesting. too bad he isn't.