A Cook’s Tour (CBR7 #73)

::sigh:: I’m pretty sure the problem was me, and the fact that in the many years since this book was published I have watched many a show featuring Bourdain do exactly the kind of thing he originated in this work. In fact, one of the running asides in this book is his experiences with the camera crew that followed him as part of the series of the same name on The Food Network.

Here’s Goodreads’ rundown of what to expect with this one:

“The only thing ‘gonzo gastronome’ and internationally bestselling author Anthony Bourdain loves as much as cooking is traveling. Inspired by the question, “What would be the perfect meal?” Tony sets out on a quest for his culinary holy grail and in the process turns the notion of “perfection” inside out. From California to Cambodia, A Cooks’ Tour chronicles the unpredictable adventures of America’s boldest and bravest chef.”

Really, ‘gonzo gastronome’?

Anyway, My problems with this book were two-fold. 1. The shtick of Bourdain traveling around and eating local food amongst locals has over a decade worn thin. 2. The writing was uneven. And that sums up my general feeling about the work. The parts I enjoyed were fine, the rest left me skimming. If you’ve spent any time with Bourdain on No Reservations, or The Layover, or Parts Unknown you probably don’t need to read this book. Unless you have a pressing need to read Bourdain’s words about his emotional responses to Vietnam or Cambodia. Then maybe this book is for you. I would suggest Kitchen Confidential instead. Although I still plan to read Medium Raw next year.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.


A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove (CBR6 #45)

I read this and Bee Wilson’s Consider the Fork in the wrong order. I should have read this first. But let’s backtrack.

A portion of my reviews this year are books I am reading for research at work. This has been a nice boon for me, since I can use work time towards my cannonball goals. For research to date I have read Voices from the Back Stairs, Ordinary Days, Extraordinary Times;  The Irish Bridget, Mrs. Seely’s Cook Book, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, and Consider the Fork.  I think you may be able to piece together what I’m working towards.

In all seriousness talking about historic foodways is a niche hobby for me and I have cooked on both an open hearth and a woodstove and in a few weeks will be leading a historic cooking class for homeschoolers. So, I needed to get ready with the background information. To that end, I should have read A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove first since it is a more sweeping view of culinary history by intertwining it with women’s history while Consider the Fork is a study of the implements and therefore the history, of cooking.

Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:

Filled with over 50 classic recipes – from federal pancakes to sweet potato pie – and inspirational stories, this book should make you think twice about the food on your plate. It recounts how American women have gathered, cooked and prepared food for lovers, strangers and family through the ages. We find native women who pried nourishment from the wilderness, mothers who sold biscuits to buy their children’s freedom, immigrant wives who cooked old foods in new homes to provide comfort. From church bake sales to microwaving mums, this is a celebration of women’s lives, homes and communities.

Both are very interesting reads, and suggested if this is a topic of interest for you. I felt like I slogged through certain sections of A Thousand Years but I think it has more to do with what I already knew, not what the book has to offer. I also made copies of some of the historic recipes to use in my own cooking, and often found the most interesting portion of each chapter to be the asides about historic recipes and the realities of cooking in different times.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

Consider the Fork (CBR6 #38)

This is exactly the kind of book that appeals to my historian self. Yes, I’d love to read 300 pages about how the various technologies we use in cooking have changed over the course of recorded history. It’s also a boon to me when these types of books qualify as research for work and I am able to spend a couple days reading happily at work. I have done just that and with 10 pages of typed notes I have lots to work with as I move forward with my work calendar.

But, does this book hold appeal to you? Maybe. If you like history it will, if you like to cook and have always wondered why your whisk is the shape and material it is, then yes. If both of those things are completely out of your normal interest than I would say to stay away.  Here’s the recap from Goodreads to help you decide:

In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted. Knives—perhaps our most important gastronomic tool—predate the discovery of fire, whereas the fork endured centuries of ridicule before gaining widespread acceptance; pots and pans have been around for millennia, while plates are a relatively recent invention. Many once-new technologies have become essential elements of any well-stocked kitchen—mortars and pestles, serrated knives, stainless steel pots, refrigerators. Others have proved only passing fancies, or were supplanted by better technologies; one would be hard pressed now to find a water-powered egg whisk, a magnet-operated spit roaster, a cider owl, or a turnspit dog. Although many tools have disappeared from the modern kitchen, they have left us with traditions, tastes, and even physical characteristics that we would never have possessed otherwise.

Did that help? I’ll mention that if you are on the fence about this one I would probably suggest not reading it. Each chapter is probably 10-20% too long and at times can absolutely drag. But all in all I did enjoy this book and it was full of the fun tidbits I like to get out of a history monograph.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.