A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal by Anthony Bourdain

About A Cook’s Tour: In Search of a Perfect Meal by Anthony Bourdain: 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.

My two cents

Despite the strict weight restrictions on Air Canada, this didn’t stop me from scouring bookstores while in Winnipeg. I would haunt for hours on end the sale sections at each bookstore run in. So imagine my surprise (shock?) when I stumbled upon a C$6.99 hardbound copy of Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour: In Search of a Perfect Meal. I snapped it up and went home, sneaking peeks into it during the bus ride with, what I am sure was a silly smirk on my face.

(For those who cannot imagine why I would go gaga over a silly outdated book, here’s the context. I wanted to give the same book as a gift to Y one Christmas and flitted from bookstore to bookstore in the Philippines to get a copy. To no avail. Eventually my request to order in the book came in. Way past Christmas. And way past my limits of my patience. And Y and I had moved on to Jamie Oliver. Oh, at the time, I was willing to buy the book at a crazy close to 2000+ peso tag price.)

Have been reading it (Y has again moved on to another author) and marvel at how much better Tony Bourdain writes so much better than he speaks on TV. He’s not much a looker (he IS middle-aged and is a 28-year-old veteran of New York kitchens) but his book transforms him in my eyes. He is alternately hilarious, irreverent, insightful, silly … but compelling, strikingly honest, and in-your-face in his quest around the globe for a “perfect” meal.

I especially enjoy “Reasons why you don’t want to be on television” where he lambasts his network on his dilemma of how to make good TV and talking in sound bites and forced conversations at the loss of spontaneity. There is no worse thing than saying something scripted for the sake of TV while digging into a piously painstakingly prepared meal (thank goodness his network didn’t sue him for breach of contract, though I guess they realized this makes for even better TV).

You know the “joys” of eating – like indigestion and sometimes inevitable vomiting, and worries about food poisoning and hygiene issues? Tony tells it like it is, and his graphic descriptions are surely not for snotty gourmet eaters.

I’ve also seen his softer side to his oft-times irreverent humor. He become sentimental about his father, his brother, and his childhood in France.

Then in another section he comments about Jamie Oliver ("a boy"), Nigella Lawson’s breasts, and his utter respect for Gordon Ramsey.

Excerpted from the book jacket:
… the adventurous chef crisscrosses the world sampling local delicacies from the sublime to the bizarre.

Throughout his travels, Bourdain discovers again and again the importance of community, of kinship, and the power of food to bring people together.
So did he find what he set out to look for – over Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Morocco, UK, France? His conclusion is surprisingly simple. And so much closer to home.

(I also lugged home Michel Roux’s Le Gavroche Cookbook and Antonio Carluccio’s Italia. I couldn’t very well leave them to languish in an about-to-close bookstore, could I?)

{Originally posted 16 September 2006 on my foodie blog.}

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall