Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Review: Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who CookMedium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain

Warning: I'm an Anthony Bourdain fan. No, that's not strong enough. It's the kind of fandom that in younger days I'd reserve only for those who'd turned their guitars up to 11 shortly before smashing them. Yes, Tony's my new rock star.

So, of course, five stars and a strong recommendation for others who already love and follow Tony for both the No Reservations TV show and his previous books, particularly Kitchen Confidential. But, perhaps, only three stars for somebody who's never heard of Anthony Bourdain, and just stumbled upon this book on the New Releases rack at Borders.

Not that the writing isn't excellent. It is. His style is flowing and conversational, vivid and detailed, bringing you into the various kitchens and dining rooms, and making you smell and even taste every morsel. But many of the subjects are self-referential. Many chapters (really, only semi-related essays) assume you've read Kitchen Confidential, and provide follow-up on certain topics, characters, and places. Some make reference to specific episodes of No Reservations.

But if you're the type of person who's ever enjoyed a meal so much that it made you cry, and you're not aware of Anthony Bourdain, then you need to be. But start with Kitchen Confidential, catch Tony a few times on the Travel Channel, and then enjoy Medium Raw as your decadent, oh-so-rich, guilty little dessert.

Kitchen Confidential is required reading for anybody who ever has, or ever plans to eat in a restaurant, any restaurant.

Medium Raw is for those who've days on the phone, fighting busy tones to get through to that most exclusive restaurant for that most elusive reservation. Medium Raw is for those of us who've closed the regular menu and gladly put ourselves into the hands of the chef for the tasting menu.

Medium Raw is for those who've traveled far from home, turned down the hotel's recommended list of "safe" places for tourists to eat, deliberately wandered into the "locals only" part of town, and grinned happily while eating a dish you would have never ordered in a million years at home.

Anthony Bourdain is not for the squeamish. If you always get the same chicken dish from the same "reasonably priced" place down the street, then you may want to stay away. If you're ready for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, then this "bloody valentine to the world of food and the people who cook" might be right up your alley.

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