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Wednesday, December 12th, 2001


A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines

by Anthony Bourdain

Tony Bourdain Eats the World

A review by Adrienne Miller

Take a little Bruce Chatwin, a heavy dose of MFK Fisher, the lacerating nastiness of Gore Vidal, and you might come up with something like A Cook's Tour, a thrillingly alive, somewhat out of control, mad, swirling bacchanalia of a book. Bourdain's around-the-world party (with stops in Cambodia, Vietnam, Russia, and Japan, among other places) of eating, drinking and surely participating in lots of activities that didn't make it into the book, is rapturously gluttonous, unrepentantly hedonistic. No one (except maybe the great Ms. Fisher or Elizabeth David) writes about food like this food as love, as passion, as life. Braised bat in Thailand is rather like "braised inner tube, sauced with engine coolant," and a Spanish duck dish that's too complicated to go into here is so good "it hurt to eat it" because the experience was "tinged...with the certain knowledge of my own bad choices and shortcomings. How did they come up with this?" Bourdain is an artist, and like all great genius-ish manic-depressives, he veers between ecstasy ("I am the luckiest son of a bitch in the world") and near-suicide ("They look evil, like carrion-eaters. The inscribed Zippo in my pocket burns, no longer amusing suddenly about as funny as the shrunken head of a close friend. Everything I eat will taste like ashes now."). As anyone who's read Kitchen Confidential knows, Bourdain does not suffer fools gladly. TV's Burt Wolf is a "useless fuck"; the guy across from him on the plane is a "snoring human compost heap"; Oaxaca, Mexico is a "magnet for the world's ugliest tourists." You get the idea. What sweet, viscous fun.

Adrienne Miller is Esquire's literary editor.

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