Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Book Review Club: Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

(This is the August 2010 edition of Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club. For more reviews, click the icon at the end of this post.)

To paraphrase Anthony Bourdain (and make him roll his eyes were he to read this), as soon as I finished Kitchen Confidential, I wanted more. I am not the person for whom he wrote that book, published in 2000. By his own admission, he wrote that book for a select group and hoped for moderate success. What resulted is a ten-year run that brought the profane writer-chef international recognition and a devoted fans by people like me: foodies. I devoured the book and enjoyed it a great deal.

I love his Travel Channel program, No Reservations, and delight as he waxes rhapsodic on the wonderful deliciousness of dead animals, mainly porcine. I sometimes hang on his every word. I have made local excursions around Houston, all inspired by things he likes. He is easily my favorite of the television chef personalities.

So it was with great enthusiasm that I awaited this summer’s new book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. It’s a sequel of sorts to Kitchen Confidential. With the first book, Bourdain was a working chef who also wrote and did no television. Medium Raw sees his transition from a working chef to a television personality and celebrity chef, a personage he often derides. He discusses that aspect of his schtick in the new book as well as the genesis of his hatred for Food Network, selling out, and that thing about fish on Mondays.

As Bourdain said in the 100th episode of No Reservations this past Monday, he writes like he speaks, and he speaks profanely. This book isn’t for the meek or for folks who are easily offended. While I no longer speak like that, his sailor’s language makes for some mighty funny passages, none of which I can quote here.

To get the Full Bourdain, you simply must hear the audiobook version. Like Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain reads Medium Raw with joy and relish. He’s able to emphasize an F-bomb here or a put down there. The book was published in June and I patiently waited for the audio version to show up on in July. It’s more than worth the wait.

For all the chef-talk and foodie wisdom Bourdain sprinkles throughout the book, it’s his discussion of his only child that softens his edge and lessens the acerbic tone of his voice. As a man who never thought he’d be a father, parenthood has changed him. Mostly. A parent myself, I know what being a dad can do to a man. It’s really cool to hear Bourdain talk about what fatherhood means to him.

If you enjoy celebrity chefs and their programs and books, Anthony Bourdain’s newest non-fiction book certainly belongs on your shelf. Besides, the man can write*. You’ll notice there isn’t a semi-hidden co-author. This is Bourdain, sauteed in a reduction of his own prose. My only hope is that he doesn’t wait another ten years until he writes his next book.

*The 100th episode of No Reservations shows lots of footage from a documentary about Bourdain filmed in 2000. Surprisingly, in scenes showing him typing at his keyboard, he doesn’t type with all ten fingers. As best I could make out, he uses four: three on his right hand, one (index) on his left. Maybe that’s why it takes so long for him to write books on cooking.

Note: Famously, Bourdain’s mission statement is boiled down to this: I write. I eat. I travel. And I’m hungry for more. I tried my hand at my own Bourdain Quatrain: I love. I read. I write. And I'm eager to turn the next page. To see how I arrived at it, go here.

What might yours be?

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy


pattinase (abbott) said...

This guy drives me crazy-so full of himself. But my husband loves cooking books and books about cooking and food so I will send it his way.

Beth Yarnall said...

I LOVE Anthony Bourdain. But I can see why others wouldn't. He is full of himself, foul mouthed & opinionated, but he's honest, hardworking and about as straight forward as you can get. Having a passing familiarity with F-bombs, I don't mind salty language. I think I'll get the audio version, if only to hear his sexy, raspy smoker's voice. Thanks for a great review.

Barrie said...

Actually, I was just saying to someone the other day that I need a book on tape, well, CD. I wouldn't have thought of this one were it not for your review. Thanks!

Scott Parker said...

Patti - Yes, he is full of himself and that, ironically, is part of his charm for me.

Beth - As a former swearing "sailor" myself, I LOL at the F-bombs probably because I don't say them anymore.

Barrie - Absolutely get the audio. The only way to appreciate Bourdain.

Perplexio said...

I might just have to add this to my list. My wife & I changed our satellite package several months ago and unfortunately, in so doing we lost the Travel Channel. My wife misses her Samantha Brown shows and we both miss No Reservations. I get past him being full of himself quite easily. His other qualities-- not mincing words, telling it like it is, and etc. far outweigh his arrogance.

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