A COOK’S TOUR

IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT MEAL

Ultimately, then, it’s not about the food, it’s about the chef and author: a high-maintenance gent, brash, insightful, a...

Over-the-top and highly diverting international culinary adventures, always to be taken with a generous grain of salt—and make it Fleur de Sel—and best consumed a bite at a time.

Forget the “perfect meal” baloney. What chef Bourdain (the bestselling Kitchen Confidential, not reviewed, etc.) is looking for on his yearlong earth-spanning journey is a good mix of food, memory, and context, and if it comes with a modest side of danger and another of humor, more the better. Bourdain enjoys being outrageous—“blowing chunks” is how he vomits, and his “pig-fisting” is more aptly known as cleaning the intestine of a pig—and he over-relishes the mock macho (“Casinos? Run by the most vicious, hard-core Commie mass murderers in history? Well, why not check it out?”). But his enthusiasm is mighty engaging, and his snappy, full-bore writing style—whether being sarcastic, passionate, or descriptive—is good entertainment. And exhausting. Food, oh boy, does he know his food; only when speaking of food (and the rare landscape that gets right into his soul) does Bourdain get serious. In these tales, Bourdain lives close to the ground, getting the local experience, enjoying the alchemy of food in which necessity is the mother of cooking magic. With TV crew in tow—a series is in the works—Bourdain attends the butchering (literal and figurative) of a pig in Portugal and bacaloa-making in the Basque country, and partakes in vodka and black bread in Russia, a tagine of kefta in Morocco, and some truly nasty encounters in Mexico and Cambodia. (Truly nasty encounters, indeed, most everywhere.) And he seems never happier than when sticking it to the self-righteous, be they San Francisco vegans or folks decrying the making of foie gras (the birds, Bourdain notes, are fed “a considerably lesser amount comparative to body weight than, say, a Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast”).

Ultimately, then, it’s not about the food, it’s about the chef and author: a high-maintenance gent, brash, insightful, a jokester, and certainly someone you wouldn't want by your side at a touchy border crossing.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-58234-140-0

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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