EPS Review #60 - A Cook's Tour

By Anthony Bourdain, 2001

I gave "A Cook's Tour" to Patricia, then immediately read it first myself. We both enjoyed Kitchen Confidential, whose first chapter I read to her on a car trip back from France. Both books are laugh-out-loud funny and very rude. After the success of the first book, Bourdain gets a contract to travel around the world having great meals, filming each for the Food Network -- TV comes in for plenty of amusing abuse. I remember laughing at a gruesome detail at a pig slaughter, at his wise decision to wear briefs instead of boxers on a camel ride (the desert sequence is lovely), and at his description of a Japanese breakfast with natto and other objects ( "like salt-cured, sun-dried goat rectum -- unbelievably, woefully flavorful" ). He hates himself for enduring a set-up Islamic dinner for TV, but has no problems going to a bar that lets you play with automatic weapons (his whole trip to Cambodia is really off-topic, but still interesting).

The book made me want to go to Viet Nam, and to the restaurant French Laundry, both of which come in for raves (as do Japanese food and St. John restaurant in Smithfield -- I may dare to try the recommended bone-marrow salad!). In this book he mentions his wife more often, but it's still not clear what kind of person has put up with him for so long. Several times he sneers at the squeeze-bottle and metal ring, tricks he recommended in the earlier book (I bought both for P, who may have used a squeeze bottle once). I might try one of his novels (Bone in the Throat), though I hate gangster lit, and I wonder if they hang together well. No surprise that they feature druggie cooks!

Reiko wrote: I'm telling you now. Almost all the chefs are like Anthony, means fxxxxx up.

Scott wrote: I really liked Kitchen Confidential, but I found A Cook's Tour to be a little too self-satisfied. It was entertaining, tho'.

Jan wrote: [ We ] all read Kitchen Confidential and enjoyed it a lot

Tom wrote: I'm no fan of gangster movies, either, especially those that try to portray mafiosi in a humorous light (Ghost Dog, Midnight Run). Exception: Prizzi's Honor.

Andy wrote: I ordered the Cook's Tour over the weekend - looked pretty entertaining.

John wrote: Finally finished a Cooks Tour. Mentions fox coffee near the end. Every other chapter seemed to have something really gross in it; made it hard to will myself to read all of it. Did make me want to visit Scotland: deep fried pizza!

Am now slogging through a history of Japan by Jansen from around 1600 to the present. Rave reviews on Amazon but a very heavy go. Hard to figure out key bits of information, like when did such and such happen and what does this word mean, and so on. Did learn that Hideyoshi ordered Tokugawa to kill his first wife and force his son to commit seppuku. Like something out of Shogun the novel. Also, in Himeji I think, saw a portrait of Tokugawa. Unbelievably ugly. Huge upside down ears, bulgy eyes.