Friday, April 6, 2007
Nasty Bits, Hooves and Snouts
Dan and I both devoured the previous books ("Kitchen Confidential", "A Cook's Tour") by gonzo writer/chef/sushi freak/Food Network celebrity Anthony Bourdain. His high-octane style is witty and gritty, his adventures are always interesting and he is passionate about tasty, exotic food, although one wonders how he tastes anything as each paragraph seems to be studded with a cigarette or vodka cocktail.
"The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones" (NY: Bloomsbury, 2006) is another gastronomic treat. Aptly described on the front jacket copy, Bourdain "serves up a well-seasoned hell-broth of candid, outrageous stories from his worldwide misadventures". He is a vivid and snort-out-loud funny writer. The book is fascinating armchair travel to Vietnamese sidewalk noodle vendors, high-profile restaurants in Las Vegas casino theme parks, Afro-Brazilian restaurants, Bourdain's favorite New York hangouts, and a snoozy ocean liner condo for gigamillionaires. Wherever he goes, he has a disdain for elitists, bigots and non-omnivores. I loved his review of
a raw food cookbook:
"The cover photo of Boutenko's manifesto displays a truly hideous spread of such unappetizing, clumsy butt-ugliness as to frighten away any but the most fervently devoted; it looks as if some fifties-era Betty Crocker got titanically drunk and decided to lay out a buffet for the Symbionese Liberation Army. A starved Weimaraner would turn up its nose up at such appalling fare."
There was a fascinating entry about Spaniard Ferran Adria, a chef's chef whose restaurant El Bulli features his alchemical food. Adria has extensively studied how to transform various food textures, tastes and structures and has plans to encapsulate these magical experiments into a multi-volume masterwork (Internet copies of single volumes of this Spanish language work start at $150). Bourdain experienced a thirty-course, four-hour tasting session at El Bulli and brings this "gastro-thrill ride" to the reader, from Parmesan ice-cream sandwiches to sea cucumber cracklings to a raw egg yolk shellacked in caramel and covered in gold leaf.
The book inspired us to seek out two books that he mentions as favorites to re-read often: George Orwell's "Down and Out in London and Paris" and Nicholas Freeling's "The Kitchen". I'm sure we'll love them as we've loved this collection of food writings.