Anthony Bourdain – A Cook’s Tour
37. A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal by Anthony Bourdain (2001)
Length: 278 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travelogue
Started: 05 March 2011
Finished: 07 March 2011
Where did it come from? BookMooch.
Why do I have it? After reading and loving Kitchen Confidential, I wanted more!
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 22 January 2011.
If I eat cobra
for live TV, can I get
a vacation too?
Summary: Chef Anthony Bourdain managed to parlay the success of his memoir Kitchen Confidential into the kind of deal that most people only dream about: he would travel around the world, eating local (and often strange) foods in exotic and adventurous locales. These travels would form the basis of this book, and of the TV show of the same name. (Both are somewhat of a preliminary version of his current book/show, No Reservations.) Each chapter takes place on a different trip, from Portugal to Russia to Vietnam to Mexico, as Bourdain travels in search of the perfect meal – both in terms of the food and the experience.
Review: Memoirs have not been a large part of my reading life up to this point, mainly because I dislike the “oh, look at my poor, tragically bizarre childhood and how I overcame it” flavor of memoir, and that’s all I was exposed to for quite some time. However, the two types of memoir for which I will happily make an exception are 1) travelogues, and 2) foodie memoirs, so A Cook’s Tour was right up my alley.
Bourdain’s prose is not the smoothest or most polished that I’ve ever read, but it doesn’t matter. He writes like he talks, and the effect is such that everything feels immediate, personal, and typically funny as hell. He doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to describe flavors with flowery similies, yet still talks about food in such a vivid and appreciative way that I wound up wanting to eat everything he’s describing. (Dieters, beware; this book will make you hungry like nobody’s business, even if you have no actual desire to try some of the oddball foods he’s eating.)
The best chapters are the ones in which he manages to hit the right blend of food and travel (i.e. unlike the chapter on Cambodia, which was a destination more for the adventure and less for any notable food) – and where he didn’t get too off track in trying to make a point. However, even when Bourdain did get a bit rambly, I was still interested, and given his biting sense of humor, hugely entertained throughout. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: If you like travel, food, and/or reading about either of them, A Cook’s Tour will keep you entertained while you plan your next meal… or vacation.
First Line: Dear Nancy, I’m about as far away from you as I’ve ever been – a hotel (the hotel, actually, in Pailin, a miserable one-horse dunghole in northwest Cambodia, home to those not-so-adorable scamps, the Khmer Rouge.
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