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No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach Hardcover – October 30, 2007
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“Bourdain is one of the country's best food writers…His opinions are as strong as his language, and his tastes as infectious as his joy.” ―New York Times Book Review
“In addition to being an authority on kitchen scandals, Bourdain is now an expert eater, top-notch journalist, storied cultural ambassador and professional airline passenger. He's the rebel outsider with insider access.” ―Playboy
“[Bourdain writes] the kind of book you read in one sitting, then rush about annoying your coworkers by declaiming whole passages.” ―New York magazine
“ Zany antics aside, No Reservations amply reflects Bourdain's search for the heart and soul of humanity--and, of course, the ultimate roast pig.” ―BookPage
“More than leftovers of his show (now in its fourth season), this is a fresh, satisfying meal...with lavish new photos and commentary.” ―Booklist
“delivers another entertaining look at the best and worst places around the world in which to eat... Bourdain also provides many of his always incisive and entertaining observations” ―Publisher's Weekly
About the Author
Anthony Bourdain is the author of eight books, including the bestselling Kitchen Confidential, A Cook's Tour, Les Halles Cookbook, and The Nasty Bits. A thirty-year veteran of professional kitchens, he is the host of No Reservations on the Travel Channel (beginning its fourth season in August 2007), and the executive chef at Les Halles in Manhattan. He lives in New York City.
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No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach, is his latest accounting of the strange and wonderful in the world around us. At first I thought it was going to be just another version of his splendid series of the same name on the Travel Channel. Happily, I was going to be surprised.
This time, we are treated to an opulently illustrated and photographed look at Bourdain as he wends his way through five continents and many countries. Some of the places he went to would prove to surprise him, and full of colour and vibrancy, others were the last stop before hell, and one in particular would shake him up. Each place is accompanied by a short essay and captioned pictures, and while he doesn't mention everywhere he's been in the series so far, what he does include has a point to it.
In addition to these travelouges, the reader gets to meet the hardworking and at times, suffering crew, that is with Bourdain on his crazed travels. Too, there are insights as to what is going on behind the scenes -- as when the episode is going rotten and there's nothing to stop it. Such as Iceland and Sweden, which are, bluntly, boring as hell and not much to do there besides get blasted out of one's skull. Or Namibia, one of the most awful places on Earth.
To balance that, there's Japan, China, India, Vietnam -- Bourdain has clearly 'gone bamboo' as they say, and fallen head over heels for parts of Asia, and I suspect will be spending more of his time there. It's in these chapters that he waxes lyrical and his prose takes on a nearly poetic quality.
And then, there is the section on Beruit.
If you read just one section of the book, read this one. Arriving on the eve of renewed Israeli bombing, Bourdain and his crew find themselves thrust suddenly into a war zone, and they might not get out. If you've seen this particular episode, you know what I'm talking about. Bourdain has some of his strongest writing here, and he gets damn good with it, capturing the uncertainty, the confusion, and most of all the regret that two days has in it. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.
Then there is a lighter side to things to balance those dozen or so pages. Those who travel will find one section on bathrooms -- the best (Japan), and the worst (Uzbekistan) -- that is downright riotous. How to pack for a trip, and what is vital for survival -- hint: Imodium, an iPod, and aspirin are a necessity. How to find your way to the real food. How not to be an Ugly American.
Most of all, Bourdain shows his respect for the ordinary people here, in all of their many ways and thoughts. He might be profane in how he says it, and he won't be shy in telling you exactly how he thinks, but it's great fun along the way. He's got a wicked wit, an attitude that would shame the devil, and underneath -- he's in touch with his own humanity and fraility. It's refreshing to read in our world of craziness, where most celebrities hide behind a cosmetic mask and try to be perfect. Bourdain on the other hand, is brutally honest, and in the end, that's why I admire him. He's not putting on a con or an act, he's a traveller, and that's what makes him worth reading.
So settle in with your favorite drink of choice, forward your call for a few hours, and enjoy. No Reservations is a perfect little passport and snapshot of the more unknown parts of the world, heavily spiced with reality, and dished up with plenty of brazeness to give it all a bittersweet tang. Most of all, maybe you too will find a few places in here that you want to try for yourself in the future.
It's a big wide beautiful world out there, and Bourdain is the best of traveling partners. Five enthusiastic stars, and if Mr. Bourdain ever reads this, I for one hope that he will keep on writing.
But my connection to Bourdain goes deeper than the superficial affinity I have for a guy who seems like he'd be one helluva fun guy to hang with. When he confesses the difficult adjustment upon coming home to the predictable life in the states and the restlessness one feels because you possess secrets collected from your travels, I can relate to that sad alienation. You know that no one will understand if you try to share it with them, no matter how many photos you show, souvenirs you share, or tales you regale them with. Unless you've been there, you won't understand. When you embrace the life-altering perspective of your home land gleaned from life lived outside comfort zones, you are gifted with a cursed knowledge. It is hard to explain to homebound friends that different doesn't always mean better or worse or that criticism is meant as helpful and not America-bashing. In an age where talking ill of our country is viewed as borderline treason, trying to explain that the way things are done in some foreign land might just be more efficient or make good sense is asking for trouble. You become an outsider in your own country and the effects are permanent.
Ramblings aside, this book is for the fan who wants more. I borrowed mine from the library and may look for it at bargain prices down the road, but the current asking price seems to exclude all but deep fans. Consider this book the unnecessary albeit delicious dessert at the end of a splendid meal.
Most recent customer reviews
Poor. Three ripped pages