Keeping with Fanny’s rock theme, I decided that as I have at least ten other things I ought to be doing, it was time to urgently seek out the episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservation where he makes pulled pork with Josh Homme, queen of the desert.
Groans all round of course; Josh Homme is, for the disinterested, the man responsible for such audio greatness as Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal and more generally the Desert Sessions, living as he does on a ranch of grown children in the middle of the Californian desert. Anthony Bourdain writes, travels, eats and smashes guitars. An ideal combination that (I thought) set Twitter alight last year when rock met pork in an instructional video.
At the start of part one we find Anthony rocking out and driving down a road. Apparently, the Californian desert is where people go to get weird- he’s headed out to Rancho de la Luna, home of the Desert Sessions to “understand the mysteries of the desert” and get some free soundtracking.
First though, a stop off at Papi and Harriet’s Pioneer Town Palace, “an authentic honky tonk”. Chez Gnawson, there’s not a great deal of desert and I have absolutely no idea what one of those is except that it seems to be a roadside bar. The Little Chef of the American West, perhaps? Biker babes, booze and barbecue are promised, alerting my interest to something more than interestingly plastic fried eggs being on the menu.
Wait, I understand, it’s a roadhouse. Like in Supernatural. It’s ok, though, they’re not going to try and shoehorn any female characters into the mix. The boys are here to drink Corona (eurgh) and Tequila (oourgh) and I conclude it must all be better if it’s like 45 degrees centigrade under the aircon. What they’re really after, though, is the barbecue- apparently the best food in the entire desert; Josh claims that everything meaty is transformed into something so smokey he could blow a smoke ring over Anthony’s head, which I presume is an endorsement.
(I should probably admit at this point that my idea of a barbecue is five students huddled around a disposable grill, blocking the rising gale from the Irish Sea, hoping that the sausages are cooked; your results may vary)
What they mean by barbecue, it turns out, is an enormous smoking bowl of hot coals, over which a grill swings. Far from the wet summer afternoons of a British attempt to make something to go with your fifteenth glass of pink wine, this does actually look like a valid way of doing anything other than breeding salmonella. The thick cut rib-eye steak is grilled the way I like it (I am always baffled by anyone wanting to fry steak, tightening and toughening the outside while never reaching the centre to create a chewy lump rather than the succulent, fat-crisped results of slowly grilling while constantly flipping) and the ribs look equally gob-worthy. I’m not a massive meat eater- I’m totally omnivorous but spent a few years in poverty-based veganism and usually consider meat as a bit of a garnish rather than a main attraction but even I’m salivating a little.
Anthony and Josh get totally shitfaced on tequila and forget to record any music. Well, it is the desert. The next morning they head off to Rancho de la Luna for a car boot sale. They take time to assess the George Foreman grill, which Anthony says “transformed cooking in this country” and in classic car boot style fashion, try to work out what something that looks quite dangerous and possibly cooking related is, eventually concluding it’s a sugar can press. After a bit of Professor Cox-style musing on the endlessness of the universe and continued material existence of articles in the desert from Anthony I realise they’re actually at Sky Village marketplace not Rancho de la Luna but since they’re not cooking anything I’m really just willing this portion to speed up, being stuck in the unclement British bank holiday weather rather than languishing in mirage-inducing heat.
Having finally realised they are aimlessly hangover-shopping, they head to the Sky Cafe for breakfast. Which appears to be like most other places- Josh has a ham omelette and toast and Anthony has, err, chilli and onions and eggs.
Anthony asks Josh what his childhood was like growing up in the desert- apparently as a kid it was a paradise of catching snakes and chasing turantulas but as a teenager you had to make your own fun, which apparently meant playing music not for girls or money but because it was that or go insane with boredom. This sounds suspiciously like rural Oxfordshire to the Gnawson ear, if you swap out snakes for slow worms and turantulas for stag beetles but I’ve never written Songs For The Deaf so there must be something to it.
Finally, they head to Rancho de la Luna to get started writing some music for the soundtrack of the episode. When are they going to pull some pork? Seriously now. The other half of Eagles of Death Metal and Hutch, chief sound engineer for Queens Of The Stone Age, join them in the studio to get things going.
A quick discussion of whether or not it’s too Charles Manson out there and we’re on to (as YouTube watchers) Part Two for some nonsense about cars with Brian O’Connor. I guess this is interesting if you are into this sort of thing.
Fortunately it’s soon over and onto the segment where Josh writes songs for the show and Anthony makes dinner, via a Corvette Summer cocktail; tequila, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, lime and tonic, which sounds like something sour enough to turn anyone’s mouth but clearly it tastes good in the heat. As Anthony emphasises, they certainly drink a lot of tequila in the desert.
Seemingly just to mock me now, they decide, once they’ve laid down a track, to go off to shoot arrows into a Jethro Tull record before dinner. FINE, IT’S NOT LIKE I’M HUNGRY HERE OR ANYTHING or as though standing around in the desert heat isn’t just RUBBING IT IN and I don’t mean like a tequila marinade on a tender shoulder of pork. Much as I want to right the wrongs committed not least to Jethro Tull by naming them the best hard rock or heavy metal band at the 1990s Grammy’s, I also want to cook some pig.
In another massive upset, Anthony starts on some vegetarian food- asparagus risotto with black truffle and pecorino cheese. I’m sure it’s delicious but I’ve recently decided to wage war on risotto as “a thing” and surely the heat must be fucking with the truffle? At serving time though, Anthony does confirm something I’ve previously thought, which is that “risotto should never stand up” -it’s meant to be soupy, rather than the cheese-clogged, starchy scones you get quite often.
After another night of tequila, they’re ruined enough to require a visit to the Joshua Tree Country Kitchen, a combination greasy spoon/Cambodian restaurant, run for 20 years by Mariah, who makes salsa and eggs for the boys. I dimly consider the fact this is the first woman I’ve seen in the programme but am too focussed on when there is going to be some pulled pork to really register it.
Now, to Landers in the high Mojave desert, an area Bourdain is bigging up as connected to a supernatural or extraterrestrial magnetic occurrence, “it’s the end of the road,” says Josh, “which really it turns out isn’t a bad place, it’s just where they stopped making more roads. After a long time on the Welsh coast, I can empathise with that in a slightly less suntanned manner,
There, they reach The Integratron, a hand-crafted dome “seated atop a freakish geomagnetic vortex” built from plans given to an aerospace engineer by “Nordic extraterrestrials.” Maybe the heat is beginning to get to everyone after all. They have a soundbath in the perfectly acoustic, geomagnetically freakish hall of the Integratron and there’s a loopy graffiti-dream sequence while Anthony contemplates somehow “weaponising” the Integratron. Let’s hope it’s making them hungry.
They head to the (mostly) abandoned settlements around the Salton Sea, where Leonard Knight has painted a mountain to demonstrate his devotion to god on the barren Eastern shore- it’s genuinely beautiful and eerie looking and probably could’ve done with a bigger segment but for some reason it’s filmed through fucking Instagram. Over on the Western side, though, it’s time to visit a desert vinyard.
They head over with the vinyard owner (another Anthony) to be cooked traditional Mexican food by the farm’s workers. Tripe, pork butt and ribs cooked in a copper kettle, simmered in pork fat and then grilled. Salsa verdana, flag salsa, is made with green jalapenos, tomatoes, white onions, what looks like coriander (though isn’t mentioned) and lime juice and avocado to garnish while on the grill ranchera beef (“with beer and spices?” I wish he’d explained what this was but I guess it may be obvious to Americans) and roasted jalapenos and tomatoes, smashed with a beer can to make another salsa.
Then we cross over into Part Three for a bizarre segment where the vinyard owner claims to be first at work and last to leave, to some eyerolling from the workers.
Then, Tripa- this is tripe cooked in milk until tender, then drained and sauteed with orange juice and milk. Um. I am 100% for the eating of offal and I would definitely try this if offered but that is an unappetising sentence really, isn’t it? Once it’s crisped, though, it looks like a delicious, meaty macaroni cheese.
Josh and Anthony start discussing the gateway bacon method of converting vegetarians. Apparently, duck fat is the sneaky method of conversion. Then, Anthony’s off to Palm Springs. I’m beginning to suspect that I may never see Josh Homme cook pulled pork.
They go to a fictional English pub, Lord Fletcher’s, where Toby Jugs oversee the house special, prime rib. Anthony orders a martini, I think about the fact I’ve never had a martini. They have prime rib steak with… a yorkshire pudding and creamed spinach. America, I know our version of a barbecue may be a travesty but what the fuck is this? They do look like they’ve got some ale on the table, possibly Golden Pride (a lethal 9.3% I think) from the look of the bottle but you only get a glimpse so it’s hard to tell.
Back at Rancho de la Luna it’s time for dinner- Dave makes jalapeno cheese corn breads and collard greens, Brian O’Connor does fresh veggie wraps with a soy peanut dipping sauce that Anthony threatens to add pork fat to. Josh does a red cabbage and rocquefort salad and Anthony spaghetti alla pomodoro, which is basically ‘spaghetti and tomatoes’ if you’re not familiar with it (most recipes involve an awesome bit where you squelch/smash peeled plum tomatoes in the pot with your hands, which is the sort of thing you’re probably not allowed to be instructed in on television anymore in case of hideous burns) which includes the opportunity for him to say ‘basil’ as “bay-zel” -disconcerting.
Finally, Hutch gets out the slow-cooked mesqi pulled pork and with a shudder I realise that this is not the Josh Homme-related cookery programme I am looking for. In fact, it’s barely a cookery programme. What am I doing here?