Saturday, February 16, 2008

Book Review: The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain

The subtitle of this book called The Nasty Bits is "Collected varietal cuts, usable trim, scraps, and bones", and this is really what this is, both in literary and culinary meanings. Anthony Bourdain became famous for his book "Kitchen Confidential", where he described the inner workings of the New York restaurant life. After that success he has continued writing books, magazine articles, and made TV shows.

This book is a compilation of a diverse array of texts that either never been published before, or have been in magazines as separate articles. It is fun reading, but it really is a mess - a little bit here and a little bit there and no real coherent theme. But fun. A lot is about travel and eating strange things, some is about his friends and enemies (?) in the restaurant business, and a lot is simply just thoughts and ponderings about food, culture, and cooking. He can get away with this since we know him from his earlier writings and he is a genuine chef, but if this had been a first-time writer I would not have liked the scattered impression of the book. It really are scraps that fell off the writing table while other things were being produced. But it is great fun to read!

Some small excerpts:
"Here is the downside to having written a book about eating adventurously around the world: People want to feed you stuff. And not just any stuff. They want to see you nibbling on the nether regions of unusual beasties. They want to photograph you chawing on small woodland creatures previously believed to be indigestible. They want to dazzle you with turtle parts you didn't know existed, chicken feet, hundred-year-old eggs, snake snacks, fried bugs... and they want to watch you eat every little bit. "

"The scorpions sat proudly atop golden brown squares, fried into aggressive attack position, tails raised threateningly."

He also gives some kicks to Woody Harrolson that only eats raw food, the local vs. global food movements, Americans that doesn't try new things, and TV chefs that aren't real chefs ( = have never run a restaurant). I love that he writes like he talks, is provocative and honest, and one reviewer noted "it practically explodes off the page". In conclusion, a great read.


Michael said...

Yeah, I agree with you. Entertaining but kinda lightweight. I just blogged a review too.

LS said...

Great review - I also liked the El Bulli piece. Very interesting.