Happy World Book Day!
When I was living in Barcelona, April 23rd was my favorite day of the year (second to Christmas). On this day, usually, Barcelona is transformed into a huge street library, where every square and avenue is full of people browsing bookstalls, having their books signed by authors, and buying red roses. Everything is decorated with Saint George beating the dragon to save the princess. It is actually the Catalan Valentine’s Day, and instead of chocolate and other random gifts, people exchange books and roses. But this year… well, you all know.
So we might not be able to walk the streets of Barcelona looking for the most moving or interesting book and the perfectly beautiful rose for our loved ones, but Literature, thank goodness, is still here with us to help us through these weeks of confinement. As cooking is! I know that lots of people are using this time to learn or perfect their culinary skills.
Then… what about when those two passions merge? I am an avid reader of gastronomic narrative, and the idea of adding a book recommendation section about this genre has been in my mind for quite some time now. I believe today is the best day to do so, don’t you think?
And my first recommendation couldn’t be other but
Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour”. I’ve read it three times and I know there are more re-reads to come. That book was the reason why, earlier this year, I decided to move to Vietnam for a while.
Anthony Bourdain was a chef, writer and TV show host who, tired of the world of haute cuisine restaurants, hung the apron and wrote in 2000 a best-seller exposing all the controversial details happening behind kitchen doors: “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.” I first knew about him thanks to his “Parts Unknown,” a CNN produced travel show where he explored culinary cultures around the world. So, if you’re wondering, the answer is, undeniably, YES, he was my inspiration for this blog and my lifestyle, even. Sadly, he committed suicide in 2018.
“A Cook’s Tour” is the result of one of the TV series that preceded “Parts Unknown” that was aired, according to Wikipedia (I love my reliable sources), between 2002 and 2003. As Bourdain himself explains in the book, he wrote it to make up for the things he had to do to keep the show relevant to a broader audience, in order to be truer to himself and his experience. Each chapter is devoted to a different country (except one that deserves more than that) and the premise is the chef going around the globe, searching for the perfect meal. My dream job, basically.
However, this book is not so much about the amazing stories he shares, the delicious food he describes, or the beautiful places he visits… as it is a walk down memory lane and an inner search for meaning in life. It is beautifully written: honest, witty, simple yet profound. It is not very long, so I read it in a couple of lazy afternoons, but some parts beg for a re-read. At certain points, you need to stop and be quiet for a minute. It’s the perfect “food for thought.”
“Memory, that’s a powerful tool in any chef’s kit. Used skillfully, it can be devastatingly effective.”
A Personal Anecdote
When I was in Istanbul, in October last year, I was meandering the streets around my hostel and, although I was not hungry, the smell of a little corner restaurant made me stop and ask for whatever that aroma was emanating from. It was Dürümzade. I don’t usually like kebab-like food, but the freshness of the bread, the juiciness of the meat, and the perfect balance of the sauce made me rethink my whole concept of what a dürüm is. While I was sitting in a plastic chair in an uneven pavement eating that mouthwatering wrap, I decided to Google the place to give it some stars in my reviews, and then I found out it was one of the places Anthony Bourdain visited in his travels. My instincts are not bad, then!
Well, I hope you like this section. I was thinking about even organizing a book club at some point! I would love to hear your opinions…
P. S. This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy the book using my link, I will earn a small commission, so thank you!