Okay, not really. That would be a good story though, huh?
This time, we’re going foodie in a double update!
Anthony Bourdain. The name conjures images of a lanky, chain smoking swearing man enjoying a dish of something that you and I would probably not eat on a bet. And yet it’s cuisine and he loves it and hey, how can you argue anyway? Well, he’s back with another book – this time a collection of short stories and essays about everything ranging from how his show is shot to why we should all be nicer to the waiters. And sometimes, why we should just cook at home.
Since there’s really no “story” here, it’s sort of hard to review this book. I like Bourdain’s ramblings – he seems like an interesting guy with a lot of insight. I like how he’s gritty and blunt and seemingly honest with his opinions… but he sort of seems like someone that might knife you if you make him mad. He probably wouldn’t kill you, but you’d have a really cool scar. Which might be kind of sweet in itself. There’s probably a Facebook group for people who have been knifed by Anthony Bourdain.
Anyway, this is another fun one to read if you’re looking for something that you can pick up and put down without losing the narrative (one reason I like these short story/essay compilations). He never fails to make me want to cook and stay far far away from a professional kitchen.
Part autobiographical, part fiction, Down and Out in Paris and London is George Orwell’s first novel. It’s a gritty account of poverty and trying to get by in two of the largest cities in the world. Along the way, he finds himself working in the kitchens of Hotel X, slogging his way through in order to just keep afloat. Later in London, he finds himself maneuvering through the homeless and the “charitable” shelter systems in an attempt to find his way out from poverty.
I don’t think I want to be poor. I mean, not in the “what can I hock today for some bread” kind of poor, and that’s the kind of poor that this talks about. It’s the kind of poor where you have to sneak your clothes out of the building you’re living in so that your landlord doesn’t notice and want the rent. It’s the kind of poor where you sleep in barracks or in shelters that make you listen to a sermon before giving you some bread. That’s a kind of poor that nobody should have to live.
While this book is technically fiction, it’s commonly known that it’s very autobiographical and from the way it’s written you can tell that these things HAPPENED to Orwell. There’s a sense of absurd realism that rings true as you read along and you can almost start to see where his ideas about the class system and society (which are so pointedly lampooned in Animal Farm) come from.
I picked this up (and am including it in this post) because it was a book that Anthony Bourdain recommended. I wouldn’t say that this is REALLY a book about the restaurant industry although it’s a focus of the Paris portion of the story, so if you’re reading it for that you will probably be sort of disappointed. Those portions are written with the same grittiness as Bourdain’s writing, so you know they are probably fairly accurate, but this book is more than that. It’s about struggle and despondency and just being part of a marginalized population. Worth the read – it’s not a long book – and it’s now public domain so you can go to Google books or other sites and read it online for free. And we like free.
The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones by Anthony Bourdain, 288 pages
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, 213 pages