Anthony Bourdain will do anything in his quest for the perfect meal, even it means traveling with gun-toting maniacs in Khmer Rouge territory in Cambodia, slaughtering a pig in Portugal, eating a beating cobra’s heart – even selling his soul to TV (in his own, albeit borrowed, words: “We’ve already established you’re a whore. Now we’re just haggling over the price.”)
At the outset, Bourdain sets forth the idea that perfect meals aren’t just about the food – they’re also about context. What’s the occassion? What are the sights, the sounds, the smells? What memories and associations will the meal conjure one, five, ten years down the line?
He leads the reader on one helluva of a ride, through country after country and meal after meal, describing each with acerbic wit and his signature, self-deprecating humor. The man is unflinchingly honest – and, as I have said before, a brilliant writer.
From the perils of the road to Pailin (a journey “up a no-name river to the worst cess-pit on earth”) to a six-and-a-half-hour, twenty-course tasting menu with fellow chefs at The French Laundry in Napa Valley, Bourdain brings every situation alive with vivid descriptions, and even more vivid – read colorful – language.
Dunno about you, but A Cook’s Tour marries my two favorite subjects – travel and food – in the Church of Irreverent But Absolutely Kickass Writing. ‘Nuff said.