Book Review: A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain

Title: A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisine

Author: Anthony Bourdain

Genre: Nonfiction, Food & Drink, Food, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography, Cooking

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Published: November 5, 2002

Page Amount: 277 pages

Goodreads Summary: The only thing “gonzo gastronome” and internationally bestselling author Anthony Bourdain loves as much as cooking is traveling. Inspired by the question, “What would be the perfect meal?,” Tony sets out on a quest for his culinary holy grail, and in the process turns the notion of “perfection” inside out. From California to Cambodia, A Cooks’ Tour chronicles the unpredictable adventures of America’s boldest and bravest chef.

Why I Read:  I know I’m coming out with yet another Bourdain read two weeks in a row. Trust me, I’m well aware. When I finished Kitchen Confidential, I felt like I was in the Bourdain zone. His snappy writing style and image-evoking work was the only thing I could imagine reading.  Luckily, my cousin had left a second copy with me and so without much trying at all, I fell back into into the world of cooking.  

Review: One of the funnier peculiarities when I read memoirs is the search for something meaningful never fails to appear. I find that no memoir goes without the author asking the “big questions.” Whether we’re discussing cooking, political aspirations or the search for happiness – it always crops up. I can almost guarantee it. What I really liked about this book was it made no allusions to the fact that Bourdain makes it up as he goes alone. Sure, there are moments of clarity every once in awhile, where the stars align and he finds that momentary truth. But most of the time – he’s searching, on a constant quest to find meaning – and most of the time: that meaning doesn’t present itself.

Similarly to Kitchen Confidential, the storytelling goes chapter by chapter and although the transitions between parts of the world is not always clear at the beginning – as a reader, that doesn’t seem to matter. He catches you off guard with weird and uncanny experiences and astounds with ability to pinpoint truths. This book is not as sassy or as dramatic as his other one, but it stands out in other, sometimes more poignant ways. I never felt like he was trying to be someone he wasn’t – and as a TV “Celebrity Chef” – it can be all to easy to appear that way.

What I took way from this book was the honesty and humility of it. Visiting other cultures often makes you value your own more, or feel more bias towards something you love and find familiar. But Bourdain, he has a way of writing at least that he understands and wants to explore more. That’s part of what makes me adore his writing so much. As a reader, I’m also excited and suddenly not content with the life I’m living. Books that move me like this are rare, and it’s even rarer to find an author that you feel speaks your language. There’s not a doubt in my mind that Anthony Bourdain accomplishes that for me. So if you have the travel bug (or don’t) or love food – pick up A Cooks Tour, you won’t be sorry.

Favourite Quote: “Just being able to talk about this issue [vegetarianism] in reasonably grammatical language is a privilege, subsidised in a yin/yang sort of a way, somewhere, by somebody taking it in the neck. Being able to read these words, no matter how stupid, offensive, or wrongheaded, is a privilege, your reading skills the end product of a level of education most of the world will never enjoy. Our whole lives, our homes, the shoes we wear, the cars we drive, the food we eat – are all built on a mountain of skulls. Meat, say the PETA folks, is ‘murder.’ And yes, the wide world of meat eating can seem like a panorama of cruelty at times. But is meat ‘murder’? Fuck no. Murder ,as one of my Khmer pals might tell you, is what his next-door neighbor did t his whole family back in the seventies. Murder is what happens in Cambodia, in parts of Africa, Central and South America, and in former Soviet republics, when the police chief’s idiot son decides he wants to turn your daughter into a whore and you don’t like the idea. Murder is what Hutus do to Tutsis, Serbs to Croats, Russians to Uzbeks, Crips to Bloods. And vice versa.” 

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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