17. Cooking Dirty – Jason Sheehan
I was hoping this book would be a nice blend of Kitchen Confidential and Dishwasher. I like reading things from the low end and the high end of professions, especially professions where commitment and talent sometimes collide and become totally overlooked. Sheehan is not as lackadaisical as the Dishwasher and he’s not as great of a writer as Anthony Bourdain. Jackass or not, Bourdain can definitely write well when he wants to. When he wants to.
Anyhow, as for Cooking Dirty, well, I found myself wondering if any of the food Sheehan was cooking was actually good. Sometimes it clearly was, sometimes, for instance when he described thawing out ice blocks of fish using a pressure washer, it sounded terrible. I believe that the descriptions were somewhat deceptive, like when Andrew Zimmern is chewing on some wacky detritus and describes it first as “good” and subsequently as “chewy.” Most of the time having to chew something for ages is not good.
As a memoir, it’s a little less disconnected than Medium Raw but there are a lot of areas where I’m not quite sure what Sheehan was writing about was relevant and then realized I wasn’t entirely sure what the greater narrative arc of the memoir was…perhaps: “I’m still alive after all this heavy drug use that I glossed over and now I have seizures that I won’t explain despite explaining many other random things like these dudes’ living situation in New Mexico and I get to write for a living and you don’t”… “Oh, and I’m married to someone who’s nearly as wacky as me and I quite possibly did the worst possible things to get into writing, but I made it and you still haven’t, most other writers who did not start out as drug-abusing cooks who dropped out of college and traveled all over the country in shitty cars…” I’m over-using the ellipses because I’m still a little confused about what I was meant to be getting out of this. If you acknowledge Kitchen Confidential, but wanted to give a more accurate version of it, then why was I reading about your (not in the kitchen at all) girlfriends or your journey to becoming a writer and winning awards without paying any of the dues that most writers have to pay? It’s getting convoluted in here.
The Dishwasher didn’t seem like he was bragging and totally ended the story in the right place. And he gave me the phrase “bus tub buffet,” which I will take with me for life because of all of its disgusting possibilities. Eat off the other side of the hot dog, man.