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The Amazon Book Review
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"Tom Parker Bowles is nothing if not a charmer. From the first page of his mad, odd and sometimes thoroughly disgusting "The Year of Eating Dangerously," this reader was hooked."--The Washington Times
“The Year of Eating Dangerously chronicles [Tom’s] travels to destinations near (Gloustershire) and far (Nashville, Seoul, Beijing) in an attempt to acquire new experiences and eat like the natives do, and ultimately what makes it so engaging is that he only partly succeeds…As a writer, though, he never wavers.. his sense of humor is intact throughout and never sharper than when he’s writing about himself…”--The New York Times
"A veritable culinary Odysseus, food critic Bowles set out from and returned to his native London to regale foodies and common omnivores alike with tales of exotic specimens from all ranges of the food spectrum. Over the course of "twelve months, four continents, 20,000 air miles and two inches on [his] waist," he managed to shove a lot into his thrill-seeking maw...while Bowles may fancy himself a professional eater with a penchant for risky man-food, he wins over his audience as a writer, describing dishes and sensations with the zeal of the recently famished, and his own hedonistic acts in delightful passages of unabashed bravado and self-deprecating humor"--Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
TOM PARKER BOWLES, son of Prince Charles’ wife Camilla, is a respected British food critic, with columns in The Mail on Sunday, “Night and Day” and Tatler. He is also the author of E is for Eating: An Alphabet of Greed. He lives in London.
Tom Parker-Bowles tried hard, but his book leaves one less than satisfied. He's a likeable guy, but not enthralling, a satisfactory writer, but not outstanding. The book often plods along with too many irrelevant references to his childhood, and the details of his time spent traveling are often pedantic overkill.
Ultimately, the book turns on its own premise. He promises you that he'll be "eating dangerously". He starts off with eels in his native England, an interesting insight to a world few will ever see. But what's dangerous about it? What's even so exotic? It's like writing about going to Louisiana to eat boudin. Not many of us do it, but it's nothing outlandish either. The idea of traveling the globe eating outrageously is hardly original, and is often hardly complimentary toward his destinations.
The exotic stuff comes in only as (1) bugs in Asia, and (2) dog in Korea. The only truly life-threatening food to eat is fugu, pufferfish, in Japan, a fish that can be fatally poisonous if not prepared correctly. But fugu is hardly a new and novel find; people have been writing about it for decades. Fugu is the only topic of the Japan chapter. Is there nothing else interesting in Japan? Other chapters deal with things such as chili sauce and American BBQ, hardly dangerous or exotic.
The worst chapter is about Korea, and it's another one-note song, about eating dog. Here he's done some research, telling us all about the horrific conditions in which the dogs are raised, and the even more horrific and cruel way they are slaughtered. He freely admits that he hates the whole idea, that it's wrong, wrong, wrong. And yet, he's going to eat it. He's not in denial; he recognizes the cognitive dissidence. But he's going to eat it.Read more ›
'The Year of Eating Dangerously' is a really good read with nine chapters based in specific locations:
Gloucestershire (hunting for elvers) New Mexico (chillies) China (all sorts of strange things!) Nashville (barbecue championships) Tokyo (puffer fish) Korea (dog stew) Laos (various bits and pieces) Spain (extreme fishing with percebeiros trying to find the ultimate barnacle) and Sicily (dinner with the mob)
Parker Bowles comes across as charming and self-aware (he knows that he's no Bourdain!) Occasionally he comes across like an overly-exuberant puppy on his quest for new tastes and flavours. But, this has to be balanced against all the times he gets horribly hung-over and is unable to taste anything. There are times when the locations seem to take over and he seems more like a frustrated travel writer rather than a gourmand!
This is a really enjoyable read, but I did prefer some chapters to others. The Nashville Barbecue and the quest for the ultimate chilli experience in New Mexico were highlights for me.
Recommended, but next time can we have a little less 'place' and a bit more 'plate'. Thanks!
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The problem with this book, and with the idea behind it, is that the author seems to have no self control. He gets himself appointed a judge at a barbeque contest, then gorges himself so that he can't do justice to the second half of the event. He continually gets himself so drunk on the evening before an appointment that he can't appreciate what he's doing or eating the next day because of his raging hangover. If he's going to report on the experiences for his readers, he should be a little bit responsible about it. I guess he thinks we'll feel sorry for him, and forgive him his youthful indiscretions, but not when we're paying this much for his book.
The subject has been treated better by other authors. Try Bourdain's book, and skip this one.
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Just finished reading "The Year of Eating Dangerously".
To say that this is a major declaration on food and humanity is an understatement! It should be a college course on how to live fully and very well.
While reading the book I wasn't really aware of Bowles famous pedigree. Even with it he writes with the common man's touch in his thinking.
Bowles is much more than his mother's son - he can flat out write. Reminds me of very much of Bill Bryson with hints of Pete Hamill and Calvin Trillin.
For a year he gives up his body in sometimes-hilarious circumstances for our education and entertainment by overstuffing it and imbibing more calories, liquor and heat than one really should. But what the hell, he's young and will recover from his gluttony, hangovers and ghosts. Besides some of us are very curious about non-bland foods.
Not simply a food and travel writer he has surprising insights into who we are and what we put in our mouths with an astounding feel for history, people and the unusual. His quest is about a love for good food and a fascination with other cultures.
In my travels I have been on the lookout for unusual foods and have not be swayed too much from the dangerous. The only thing that Bowles missed on my special foods list was horse, considered a mid-European delicacy.
While reading this marvelous work I was reminded of several wonderful things:
The best place to see inside a local culture is the neighborhood food markets.
Eastern foods must be the most delicate blending of exotic flavors in history.
The Chinese will eat anything if the correct sauce is found.
Laotians live for today only and their foods reflect it.Read more ›
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