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"A Cook's Tour" by the wonderfully worldly and well-traveled Anthony Bourdain, is a book about food like no other, and it is simultaneously entertaining, exciting, and revolting. Tony travels the world in search of the perfect meal; it's an exciting quest for any chef to ponder, but along the way he comes across numerous local delicacies that can be best described as only for the strong of heart.
Although he encounters several problems with dishes from around the world (the Mexican sautéed ant eggs and Scottish deep-fried haggis with curry sauce and deep fried egg stand out), the most stunning for my money are the things he eats in Asia, and especially Vietnam. I for one would not be able to eat the traditional Vietnamese breakfast of soft-boiled duck embryo complete with feathers, followed by a steaming bowl of "chao muk", a hearty soup made from ginger, sprouts, cilantro, shrimp, squid, chives, pork-blood cake, and croutons; later Tony enjoyed some braised bat ("imagine braised inner tube, sauced with engine coolant"). Even worse than that, though, is the concept of eating a still-beating cobra heart, after a very special snake disemboweling ceremony.
While Vietnam takes the proverbial cake, the book features other gastronomic nightmares from around the globe, with Japan coming in second in the contest for unusual and disturbing foodstuffs. The foodie tour of Japan started out benignly enough, with an appetizer of "amuse-gueule of hoshigaka goma-an" (dried persimmon and fried soy curd with sesame paste), but quickly progressed to things like "suppon-dofu" (a soft-shell turtle in egg pudding with green onion and turtle broth), and culminated in the classic and beloved Japanese delicacy, "natto", which Bourdain describes as "an unbelievably foul, rank, slimy, glutinous, and stringy goop of fermented soybeans". After the natto, Bourdain finished with a dish described as "mountain potato": of this he said, "I could only handle a single taste. To this day, I have no idea what it really was.... The small, dark, chewy nugget can only be described as tasting like salt-cured, sun-dried goat rectum".
Throughout the book, Bourdain maintains his wry, sarcastic sense of humor, possibly as a survival tool to get him through his next meal. He mocks a vegan potluck dinner as the "real heart of darkness", discusses fabled and exotic foods such as the unbelievably rank durian fruit, and always manages to do it while being respectful of local traditions and cultures very different from his existence in New York City. This is a great book for anyone interested in foods and cultures of the world, and I recommend it highly!
Another great book by the late Anthony Bourdain. Most people would associate Bourdain with celebrity chef status but overlook the fact that he was a really great writer. I assume he wrote most of the dialog for his TV shows as his books have the same amazing descriptive, and often amusing turn of phrase throughout.
In this book he travels to many places in the world and experiences their food and drink first hand. Most of the destinations are in Asia; Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan etc, but he also visits other odd destinations such as Portugal, Russia and Scotland. It's not all fun and games and drinking. There are some moving, souls searching moments when he first has to confront slaughtering and butchering an animal first hand.
Well worth reading. My complaint is that there does not seem to be an audio book that Tony narrated himself. A real shame as he also had a great voice.
This book is a must have for every Anthony Bourdain fan and travel log fan. Bourdain was a brilliant writer and gone far too early. He brilliantly paints a compassionate, complex, captivating image of every region he visits. Just loved it!!!
I have to start by saying that I LOVE Anthony Bourdain!!!! I watch old reruns of his show. I've picked up some invaluable skills (like how NOT to cut fingers when using knives!). I've read almost everything that he's written and this did not disappoint. When I read his books, I can almost hear his voice which is strangely comforting. I started with Kitchen Confidential and haven't stopped. He LOVES food and it comes through in his writing. He is articulate, funny, and a fellow New Yorker. He has traveled to some very remote parts of the world and eaten some very strange things. He is always up to try something new. A true adventurer. He is sorely missed.
The book if fun to read. Buy it. All right, borrow it from your library. This travel-food-olog mixes wild & interesting places and wild & interesting foods in about equal amounts. Yes, Mr. Bourdain does write like a chef, but what the heck? In his words, that's "pretty neat."
At all these wild places he goes -- Russia, North Africa, Vietnam, Japan -- one wonders how he survives both the places and the meals. The answer is, he threw himself into both with a gusto and with good expectations. This unintended lesson on life would be hard to improve on. Readers will be pleased to note how Mr. Bourdain leaves all his hosts delighted with his visit. This makes him the perfect guest. Very likely the aged Vietnamese army veteran was especially so, ever after being able to boast that he drank an American under the table.
His hosts liked him because he liked them, without prejudice. What a wonderfully entertaining book this is. If this man can find the value, and the fun, in all that he ran into, you can't help but put the book down a bit more inspired.
I loved every word of this book; I am new to his writing having not read this work Kitchen Confidential so his approah to his craft was surprising and refreshing. I was particularly impressed with his total love for the craft/art of food preparation and his total enjoyment of the products in their many guises of that craft/art. I must use these terms together because, as he so clearly shows in his book, preparing sheeps head soup in the back garden of a colleague in Mexico is one thing but eating the other-worldly creations of Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in the Napa valley is decidedly something else. I took Bourdain at face value: when he said after entering a pub in Edinburgh, "I'm never leaving" or in Nha Trang, Vietnam after many good experiences says, "I love it here" or in Russia drinking vodka with black bread and sausage that it was "in many ways a perfect meal" you're left with a profound respect for a person who can love his surroundings and the food of those surroundings so much. I was impressed with his obvious love for the people, the places and the culinary glue that held it all together: as food lovers we can appreciate these feelings but to find them duplicated and articulated so well by a professional chef makes for a very good and heartwarming read. If you like food and travel you could not find a better book in which to indulge yourself.
I am a fan of his travel shows, and have always been drawn to his writing style. This is the first book I read by him. It is about so much more than food, and it provides a better understanding of his experiences than the show did. It's a quick, fun read that had me laughing and tearing up at times, but mostly challenged a lot of my opinions - from goose liver to Vietnam, to my own love hate relationship with my job...he was so relatable and interesting, I could not put the book down. I will soon be ordering Kitchen Confidential.