I was surprised to find Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal in my neighbourhood library, along with his other witty titles like Gone Bamboo. Didn’t know that he wrote fiction as well.
Written in a casual, colloquial style peppered with swear words, which his travel TV show No Reservations had somewhat acclimatized me to, A Cook’s Tour proved to be a highly entertaining read. Bourdain reminds me of Richard in The Beach (the novel, not the movie) in his American nationality, frequent dropping of the F-bomb and love of Southeast Asia. His insatiable thirst for the perfect meal takes him to corners of the Earth like the Mexican town of Pueblo where many his cooks are from and the remote province of Pailin in Cambodia, and puts him in strange situations like being presented with the freshly-removed, still-beating heart of a cobra slaughtered at his feet for consumption. His hilarious mentions of the crew give a behind-the-scenes glimpse of making a travel show, which involves sacrifices on his part eg. being forced to eat grilled iguana and to re-shoot scenes under unfavourable conditions like the cold. It’s all in the name of entertainment, as they say. If nothing, his lovingly-crafted descriptions of delicious feasts such as Portugese roasted pig and Vietnamese street food would make any foodie swoon. Since most of us can hardly boast of such amazing travel experiences, experiencing it vicariously through Bourdain’s book is a good option. It’ll be a fun ride despite (or maybe because of) his occasional grimaces of pain.