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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
This time, the tables are turned on Anthony Bourdain. The gonzo chef who wrote what he calls "an overtestosteroned account" of his life in the restaurant business is no longer in control in the kitchen -- he's a guest at the table, hoping for a perfect meal.
Now a perfect meal, as Bourdain points out, is not usually the most expensive or most sophisticated. It's the pizza you had when you first fell in love, the first wild strawberry you ever ate. Context is a major player here; so is what Bourdain calls "food magic." As Bourdain travels around the world eating scary and interesting food, he doesn't get that perfect meal very often, but he always has adventures.
The Bourdain mix of bravado, irreverence, and self-deprecation that delighted readers of Kitchen Confidential is on full display in A Cook's Tour. Picture Hunter S. Thompson high on paella instead of peyote. Imagine Redmond O'Hanlon not only in trouble again but hungry, really hungry. In Pailin, ("a miserable one-horse dunghole in northwest Cambodia"), Bourdain writes to his wife: "Could you maybe make a doctor's appointment for me when I get back? I'm thinking a full workup, to be on the safe side. I've been wading in water -- and drinking it -- from the kind of worst-case scenarios you read about in the guidebooks and travelers warning. Needless to say, some of the food I've been eating -- well, the food handling has been...dubious, at best."
Trailed by a camera crew from the Food Network, Bourdain treks from Tokyo and Ho Chi Minh City to Morocco, Portugal, and Russia. In Japan, he eats fugu, the deadly puffer fish that can only be prepared and served by licensed cooks. In Saigon, he gets a meal of live cobra heart, guaranteed to make him "very, very strong." He eats haggis in Scotland, reindeer in Russia, iguana tamales in Mexico, and drinks homemade rice whiskey in Saigon with all the old war heroes from the American War. He takes his brother back to the coast of France to taste fresh oysters, and lures his best chef pals along on a pilgrimage to the French Laundry in the Napa Valley. It's a helluva meal. (Ginger Curwen)