Food Fight: Safron Foer Vs. Bourdain

By John Capone
|  Wednesday, Oct 21, 2009  |  Updated 6:46 AM EDT
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Food Fight: Safron Foer Vs. Bourdain

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The soft-spoken, mild-mannered Anthony Bourdain.

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As flame wars go, this one could only get better if one of the participants broiled and ate the other: Jonathan Safran Foer has gotten himself into a multi-media spat with Anthony Bourdain, of all people. It started on Larry King, where Safron Foer, a recent convert to vegetarianism, appeared with Bourdain and a meat industry shill to promote his new book "Eating Animals" and discuss the topic "Is Meat Safe?"

After a brief green room exchange with Bourdain -- which Safran Foer recounted to New York magazine, "He was saying factory farming is the worst blight in America right now ... In fact, I'd say he agreed with everything in my book" -- Safran Foer was "disappointed" that Bourdain said (in Safran Foers' words) "he thinks humans are designed to eat stupid little animals. Now, that annoys me. I find that disappointing —- that his shtick is much more important to him than what he knows to be right.”

A review of the television exchange shows nothing of the sort, with Bourdain actually questioning the agri-business practices he called "unconscionable and border[ing] on the criminal." Perhaps Safron Foer's mind wandered during this part (he's got quite an imagination, that wunderkind) and he misunderstood Bourdain's saying, "We may be designed to eat meat. We are not designed to eat fecal coliform bacteria."

For his part, Bourdain remembers it differently. He wrote in the comments section of Grub Street's story, "Strangely enough, Mr. Foer's comments to me immediately following the show were somewhat at odds with his account above. 'I would have been afraid to say what you just said. They (the meat industry) are really litigious. They sued Oprah for less.'"

And we can only assume that Bourdain's capital 'H' here is meant to imply something about JSF's sense of self-impotance: "Mr. Foer is surprised that after a casual and brief conversation with Himself, I did not instantly convert to vegetarianism -- somewhere between green room and studio."

Isn't it disappointing that Jonathan's shtick is much more important to him than what he knows to be right?

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