World Travel

Bob’s Pick: World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain

Who likes leftovers? Not just any leftovers, the anecdotes and excerpts from Mr. Bourdain’s  life would excite just about anyone’s palate. A fine bouillabaisse of excerpts from all of Mr. Bourdain’s previous  TV shows, including “Parts Unknown”, “No Reservations”,  “A Cook’s Tour” and “The Layover” are part of the menu. Spicing the dish are anecdotes about his life and commentary about places travelled from his written works, friends and associates.  Bon appetit!

His co-author on this book, Laurie Woolever,  did a splendid job compending much of the material for this world travel guide and did much to add significant travel information. Even so, I had hoped that while reading this guide that perhaps some insights would surface regarding the untimely end of Mr. Bourdain’s life. Disappointingly, there were no such “Ah-Hah” moments. What I was able to surmise is that though he led such an apparently luxuriant life as a world traveler, author, gourmand, chef and TV personality, he seemed depressed and felt his life was somehow lacking.

This I inferred from some of his comments. One such comment he made was that he felt that his experiences were enough for several lifetimes and he felt that whatever he was yet to experience was essentially just icing on the cake. Also, he envied and coveted the Italian family way of life as he felt that it was a closer-knit and more fun loving way of life. Still, it should be noted that his contributions to everybody else’s lives were truly heart-warming and inspirational!

One such person’s life he greatly improved was a Korean TV producer who appeared on his shows regarding Korea. Born in Korea but raised in America, until she met Mr. Bourdain, she was very sensitive and even somewhat ashamed of her Korean heritage and backround. Growing up in American society, she was greatly embarrassed and wanted nothing better than to completely assimilate and forget that she was foreign born. In this book, she gives testimony as to how her life was transformed by Mr. Bourdain.  In visiting Korea with him, she came to the realization that Korea was a great country, worthy of her love and respect, and instead of shunning her backround, she should in fact embrace it.

Besides Korea, just about every major destination (even some considered minor) in the world is described in this travel guide.  I’ll just share some of the tidbits. One destination mentioned in the guide was Toronto, Canada. A unique and unusual pastime for some restaurants there was the “bone luge”. This consisted of a “still warm” veal bone sawn vertically in half and marrow removed. Then a shot of bourbon would be poured down the newly created luge into a recipient’s waiting mouth.  Sort of reminds me of some of those movies, usually about barbarians, where they would be sitting around a campfire, drinking some concoction out of a human skull! Hah!  Still, though not for me but for the occasional hedonist, I guess that this type of event would provide one a vicarious thrill!

Another location was Lyons, France.  This city takes cooking seriously and is the home of some “master” chefs, whose dishes are considered an art form. One of Mr. Bourdain’s favorite dishes here was the roast “hare”. It consisted of the whole hare or rabbit roasted with a sauce comprised of its internal organs, giving the roast the appearance of being “chocolate” coated. I guess if you could get by the appearance, it must taste pretty good because after all, you would be eating a work of art!

There are many other gastronomical locations mentioned in this guide. I just mentioned a few of the surprising ones! As a general rule though, if you are at all interested in pork or seafood dishes, Mr. Bourdain, a connoisseur, is one to absolutely follow for his recommendations!

Since his first appearance on TV, I have always been a big fan of Anthony Bourdain. A quintessential “New Yorker”, Mr Bourdain was never subtle, a little cynical, and always would tell you truthfully what was on his mind.  In discussing a country, its history and its menus, Mr. Bourdain would also often discuss the country’s politics and the affect it had on the country’s people and economy.

This quality made him not only a lot of friends but also some enemies along the way. You may not always agree with him, especially in some of the dishes he ate, but you always appreciated his frankness. When he came a few years ago to the Lakeland Convention Center, I went to see him. It was a very refreshing and memorable experience. He was just like he was on TV. No acting, just the same “Mr. honest and tell it like it is”.