A burger with conte cheese and truffles from Action Bronson's new cookbook, 'F*ck, That's Delicious' Gabriele Stabile

'F*ck, That’s Delicious' Gives Food Porn a New Meaning

The book, like the man behind it, is hard to categorize. It’s not a classic cookbook, but it isn’t an autobiography, either



“F*ck, That’s Delicious: An Annotated Guide to Eating Well,” by Action Bronson; Harry N. Abrams, 224 pp.

At the time this article is being written, “F*ck, That’s Delicious: An Annotated Guide to Eating Well” is in first place in four different best seller categories on Amazon: biographies and memoirs of TV presenters; celebrity cookbooks; books written by culinary experts; and hip-hop and rap books. It’s not a creative promotional website shtick, but rather a combination that characterizes the man who stands behind the book, and apparently wolfs down something while doing so: Action Bronson - the multitalented author who justifies this somewhat clichéd description for a change - is a rapper, a former (almost certified) chef, a popular internet and TV personality and an object of admiration for the world’s gourmands.

Bronson, a bearded redhead whose huge body is adorned with innumerable tattoos, is the stage and screen name of Arian Asllani, who was born 34 years ago in Queens, New York, to a Muslim father with Albanian roots and an American Jewish mother. During his teens and his twenties he flirted alternately with cooking and singing, and even started culinary school at a well-regarded Manhattan institution until he broke his leg in the kitchen and was forced to concentrate on music. That decision changed his life, he confesses, and led to four albums and regular world tours with big names like Kendrick Lamar and Eminem.

Still, Bronson owes his fame mainly to his affection – or to be more precise, his true love – for food. It began about three years ago with videos of eating tours on the popular YouTube channel “Munchies,” and continued with two seasons of the TV series “F*ck, That’s Delicious” on the U.S. cable channel Viceland. Recently he became a presenter for a nighttime cooking show on the channel as well.

If the start of his career was characterized mainly by short walks to find the best milkshake, pizza or pork ribs on offer in New York City and its environs, the next stage, on television, sent Bronson on culinary journeys full of cravings and curiosity all over America and beyond, and included meetings with several famous chefs.

One of them, Mario Batali, who says that their acquaintance turned into a genuine friendship, wrote the foreword to the book. There’s nothing particularly interesting about it, except for his description of the rapper as “a wild cross between Godzilla, a handsome 1950s movie star from Europe, and a cult Mexican wrestler” and a disclaimer that declares: “This book is a map of the inside of Bronson’s Brain.”

I read it for the recipes

Batali is correct. The book, like the man around whom it centers, is hard to categorize. Yes, it contains quite a number of recipes, but it’s not a classic cookbook. On every page and with every dish Bronson includes personal experiences, from childhood to adulthood, but it’s far from an autobiography. Foodies expecting a culinary guide for organizing their next trip to New York, Copenhagen or Australia are also likely to find themselves confused, at the least at the detailed explanation of how to eat Crispix breakfast cereal over the sink and the illustrations that rank Bronson’s favorite toothpicks (or other improvised solutions).

The division of topics in the book isn’t traditional or hierarchical either. But between the personal texts, amusing glances at the life of the writer in the past and present (“Ten tubs of ice cream with depression”, “Big Macs and fat camp”) and lyrical descriptions of food, you can find the usual suspects: recommendations for traditional ice cream shops, favorite sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, pastas, sauces and baked goods (Bronson, due to his background, has a soft spot for those from the Balkans and for challah and pita).

In case you were wondering, this is definitely a partial list. Despite this hodgepodge – which is also reflected in the different design approach to almost every page – there’s something very focused and deliberate in the book. It does a wonderful (and of course appetizing) job of distilling the cultural-culinary zeitgeist of our time, which is expressed in three central characteristics that complement one another.

Jack Newton

The first is the blurring of the definitions of “high” and “low” and the boundaries between them. There is no intention of dismissing the genre of haute cuisine, with all due respect, but rather of doing away with the archaic thinking that judges food by who prepares it, where he does so and how much he charges for it.

For example, a portion of fried chicken – which many consider the ultimate trashy food – is one of the stars of the book; Bronson enthusiastically describes his love for it, explains how to prepare a spicy version (“Explosive Chicken”) and lists 10 types of fried chicken from all over the world that he particularly likes. The meticulous methods of preparation, the use of high-quality ingredients and the unique and local upgrading of every such dish turn the result into the furthest thing from junk food.

This assertion is also true for pizza, Asian food or meat skewers: The freshness, originality and of course taste have the power to turn each of them into a superior food in absolute terms, which should be granted the proper respect.

Gabriele Stabile

The second element, a consequence of the first, is the rise of street food, an important revolution that has been taking place in recent years. Books, articles and studies will no doubt analyze the plethora of economic, cultural and demographic reasons for that, but in the meantime we can make do with a glance at the surroundings, which will reflect the waning of classic restaurants and the rise of food stands and fast-food eateries, which have become flourishing and talked-about urban focal points.

“Generally, I want to eat standing in front of the restaurant, leaning around the car parked just outside. I don’t want to have to put on a blazer or eat sitting on a stool,” writes Bronson. Faithful to that sentiment, he leads his readers, viewers and followers along streets in city centers, alleys in immigrant neighborhoods and various corners the world over, in wanderings that always end up the same way: eating while standing, with food that doesn’t require a fork and knife.

The final characteristic is in effect the strongest feeling that remains with anyone who regularly watches Bronson’s video clips as well as among lovers of the genre who read the book: It’s porn, plain and simple. The expression “food porn” isn’t new. It was coined several decades ago, but the conjunction of street food, smartphones and social networks charges it with a renewed and unbridled meaning.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that every one of the hundreds of pictures in the book is a model of fetishist aesthetics in high definition: the melting cheese, the caramel glazing of the chicken, the dough baked to perfect crunchiness, the overflowing taco, the multi-layered lasagna and more. It’s beautiful, fascinating, tempting and will probably send you to check what’s in the fridge or to call your favorite take-out place. Don’t feel uncomfortable; this is the spirit of the times and Bronson is one of its heroes. And unlike the tired joke about those who purchase Playboy magazine (“I only buy it for the articles”), here nobody feels the need to hide behind excuses; we’re not really here for the recipes.

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