While I was not a Bourdain mega-fan prior to his death, I did always appreciate and respect him as someone striving to live an authentic life. He seemed to take a lot of joy out of wandering, and to have little patience for artifice. I like that. Another of his goals seems to have been to get people to veer off of their normally trodden paths and to try something new, just to see what was out there. Even though we’re very different kinds of men, I like to think we had those things in common. I picked up this audiobook (read by Bourdain) as a show of respect.
The best parts of this book are the beginning and the end. In the beginning, Bourdain fondly recalls a childhood family vacation to France. He and his brother were whiny, bored kids not quite ready for the whole world to open to them. But it did, and he was amazed and 100 percent in. Food, especially, caught his attention. He was amazed at cold soup, the horror on the face of his family members as he slurped an oyster straight out of the ocean, and that people would get excited and make an event out of eating. That trip seems to have steered Bourdain towards adventure and food. (He remarks later that he doesn’t get people, but he does get food.)
In the end of the book, a now battle-hardened Bourdain returns to those same ideas – love of food, and through that, truth. Some things are undeniable. The love that comes through his writing as he describes his craft is apparent whether or not you enjoy McDonald’s or Michelin-rated restaurants.
The saddest part of the book to me are the frequent references to death and suicide. I counted at least five suicide jokes or direct references. He also talks about his willingness to walk away from anything at any time to be true to himself.
Overall, this was an enjoyable but bittersweet read.