Like a lot of people upon hearing of the sudden and unexpected death of Anthony Bourdain, I decided to read some of his work. I’d read Kitchen Confidential several years ago, so I didn’t feel the need to re-read that (plus, there were quite a few holds on the local library copies already). What was rather surprisingly available was his last cookbook Appetites; this worked well for me since I’d never read one of his cookbooks before.
Appetites is written by the same opinionated fearless voice of Kitchen Confidential. If you’ve ever seen or heard Bourdain on tv or the radio you know the voice I mean; he’s one of those people who really and truly does not care what other people think. The interesting thing here is that the writing in Appetites is also a lot more personal. In the introduction he talks about why wrote the book which relates loosely to his becoming a father for the first time at the age of 50 (about 10 years before this book was written). The bit that really stuck with me here is when he mentions the effects of celebrity (like being recognized and asked for an autograph in an airport while seeking a restroom), and using that to explain why the photos that include his daughter obscure her face. I’m not going to quote the whole paragraph, and I can’t do it justice in my own words—you need to read this for yourself to get an idea of the tone of the book.
Then there’s the art and photographs. There’s a slightly edgy quality to some of the photos that really fits the book. For example there’s a picture of Bourdain’s close friend chef Eric Ripert with what I think is gravy from the facing page’s gravy and biscuits recipe dribbling down his chin. A lot of the food pictures include things like broken crackers, used lime wedges, or noodles spilling over the side of a bowl and dripping sauce. But then there’s really cute pictures too, like one of Bourdain and his daughter both holding up a kitchen knife in each hand, and where face is hidden by a stack of veggies.
This is also/mostly a cookbook, so it’s pretty much a must to consider the recipes. Very few of them are things I will ever try or want to try. First, there’s a lot of slightly obscure things that are hard to find unless you live in a major city, like whole octopus. Second, there’s a lot of liver; I don’t like liver, or a lot of meat at really, and there’s maybe 2 vegetarian recipes in the entire book. I think my favorite chapter in the whole book was “Dessert”. It’s 2 pages, counting the full page photo on the left, and it begins “F**k desert. Okay. I don’t mean that.” Bourdain then goes on to say he’s not a pastry chef, and prefers the cheese course to dessert as the official end of the meal because “all the knowledge accumulated by mankind and all the mysterious forces of the natural world reside in cheese.” But not just any cheese. Bourdain specifies, it really should be “that king of cheeses: STILTON. And I would like some good port with that.” He continues for a few lines more, and again, you need to read it for yourself to get the real gist of things.