I felt a little strange. The second
half of the book didn’t fill me with the urge to travel so much as it made me a
little confused. I think Tony Bourdain lost me around Tokyo, or maybe it was
England when he begins elaborating on the life of a chef. I had been enthused
at first by his bad attitude, his smoking, the drinking and the danger, and in
the second half I was more critical of it. How much of his, “nothing to lose”
attitude was real or constructed? He was always careful to mention what could
go wrong in everr situation. When I watched a few clips of the show on YouTube,
I picked Cambodia and Russia, the two that fascinated me most. I don’t think
it’s the food so much as the place though. As Bourdain explains though I think
that they are intertwined enough.
In the show you can see his
mannerisms, as Kelsey Baak mentioned in class, and see how they apply within
the book. He is on the little boat in Cambodia cracking jokes about Gilligan’s
island while the cameraman shoots up close scary men that invade their boat.
I like being able to see this, but I enjoy the book more, because I feel like
his adventurous self is balanced out with honesty, if only a little.
It is however interesting to read
the book, and then go watch clips of it. I enjoyed seeing what matched up in my
head and what didn’t. The tiny fried birds in Cambodia looked exactly like they
did in the TV show. I didn’t know whether to be disturbed that I could imagine
the tiny crunch of bird bones, or pleased with my imagination.
back to my original point. By the end of the story I had enough of Bourdain’s
bad attitude, his hating on vegetarians, his constant notation of ‘whores’ and
‘beautiful women’ throughout the narrative. What I had trouble reconciling with
was, isn’t Bourdain as privileged as these vegetarians that eat bland
vegetables and sit in their house that he spend a whole chapter complaining
about? After all, just because he has seen the plight of the world doesn’t make
him any better if he’s just seen it for his benefit.
I am reminded when he pays the boy
that has driven him around all night $2 extra, and yet he mocks people that sit
in their house and send a few dollars to help the reconstruction of the rain
forest. Is this not similar?
constant attention to women also leaves me a little confused. I begin thinking
things like, “where is Nancy,” and, “why did she not come with him.” Throughout
the story she is only mentioned when he needs to call her to remind her of
something, at least for the most part. There are exceptions, such as the
beginning and the end of the book where he seems genuine about his wife, and to
her. Because of this, I end up being conflicted.
the end though, there is still something in me that wants to eat a cobra’s
heart, even though I am absolutely terrified of snakes.
A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain could most definitely be
considered rapid fire of food. I found myself flung across continents into all
equally bizarre situations with bizarre and new foods. As each page turned a new
scent, or a taste lingered for a moment in front of me before being completely lost. I would consider myself a new food fanatic, but I can’t even
imagine savoring something as new as lamb’s testicles. I’m just not that brave.
Something I do wish is for the time to savor each section of this book; there
is just so much to be said! Furthermore, with each story Bourdain told, a
memory of mine is triggered, and I find myself traveling on my own cook’s
tour.There are two that stand out
the most to me, one is my own travels, and the other is of my boyfriend,
Jordan. I will tell you the least serious first.
best friend in the world happened to live in Sydney, Australia. So, when said
best friend said, “Hey Kate, I’m going to be only 7,000 miles away in Paris,” I went. My mom, her friend Becky,
and I flew into London Heathrow only for the two of them to dump me on the
Eurostar with my friend Grace. Long story short, she and I ended up in Paris,
alone, trying to find her godmother’s apartment in Montmartre. An Australian
trying to speak French is even more horrible than an American. Trust me.
Finally, so tired we felt drunk, we ended up on a stone street somewhere
in the 18th in front of her godmother, Christine’s, apartment.
Christine was originally from England, but had French down to a science, and
she made us speak it. When we went out for dinner she made us do the ordering,
wine, cheese, and escargot. She was laughing, because we were going to eat snail
for the first time. There is a video somewhere in Australia of this occurrence,
and I hope Grace can find it so I can post it on here. She and I were half
laughing, half disgusted, chewing on snail that tastes mostly like garlic.
That’s about as food and travel brave as I get.
On the other hand, the
story of the pig, the lamb, the malaria drugs, and the stars reminds me of my
boyfriend’s various “tours” of the Middle East. Jordan did three tours with the
Marines, two to Iraq, one to Afghanistan. I was constantly reminded of the
colorful stories that Jordan shared with me while reading this book.
One, when Jordan was in Iraq he spent time living with Iraqi soldiers
while helping them with construction. Jordan said he witnessed the ceremony of
killing a goat. They gave the goat his last drink of water, and then there was
blood everywhere, they slit the goat’s throat. He describes it in this way that
makes it seem so purposeful, perfect in a way. I’m not even sure I know how to
Secondly, the malaria drugs that Bourdain was taking were definitely the
cause for his crazy dreams. Jordan tells me that in Afghanistan they would save
malaria drugs for when they wanted to have ridiculous dreams, on purpose. So,
Lastly, Jordan says the only redeeming quality of Iraq is that the night
sky (like Bourdain describes in Morocco) he says it is absolutely magnificent in the
desert. These are places I wish I could experience, if things were different.
don’t know how Bourdain finds himself in some of these situations, but I know
that I am envious. I would even let someone film me in order to go these
places. Yes, I am aware of the soul selling that he describes would not always
be enjoyable. But, to run around Russia, get hammered in Vietnam, or go on a
new version of a bar/tapas crawl in San Sebastian would be completely worth the
hassle. We should see if we can get some money from the school to go on a
similar trip. What do you guys think?
My choose your own
adventure is something linked closely with home for me, or rather for my
younger sister, Grace Belew. Grace is a senior at Marshall High School, (the
high school I also graduated from) and this past summer she organized and traveled
to Peru with The Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development, along with a few
of her classmates to help the village of Choquecancha build a greenhouse. Aaron
Ebner, a young man from Marshall is the creator of the AASD, which is how
Marshall became involved.
The need for greenhouses in the mountains is incredible, because many of
the people in the village are suffering from malnutrition, as it is so
difficult to grow produce at such elevations in the Andes. I’ve attached a
video as well as a link to the Team Peru blog to give some insight into what
the project is all about. I recommend typing “food” into the search component
on the blog to learn about the sustainable agriculture in the sacred valley.
According to my sister, her trip to Peru was legendary, and she can’t
wait to go back. While they were there they teamed up with graduate students
from Monterey Institute of International Studies to work on the project. I am
incredibly touched by the photos, (see the Flickr link on the blog, they’re
incredible) and my sister’s experience. I hope you will all see this as a
different way that food and travel can intersect.
I am the girl who had
a mother that made banana bread and put notes into her lunch, and because of
this background I felt uneasy at times throughout the first part of Bich Minh
Nguyen’s, Stealing Buddha’s Dinner.
However, due to my past experiences of growing up in primarily white Marshall,
MI I felt as if this experience placed me within her story. As the
memoir progressed I could see the complexities in the ways Bich was torn
between Vietnam and East Grand Rapids. Her struggles growing up appeared
colossal compared to the problems of my youth. Although my mother wouldn’t buy
me Hollister brand jeans or Victoria Secret Bras like the other girls my age, I
was not culture torn. I was not completely an outsider.
I was the girl with banana bread in my lunch. The kind my mother made
was the kind that I made again just this last week to remind me of home and to
save me from breakfast at Kalamazoo College’s Cafeteria, and because of this
memory I have associated with the banana bread I can’t help but feel guilty
that Bich feels split between foods. When she thinks of home will be it a
complex blend of noodles, beef, and 7Up? Will there be crushed Pringles at the
bottom of the spicy Vietnamese food? This
story makes me think back to my childhood in a different way. When I was five
years old I had a friend from Argentina. He and his mother lived in the
apartments on the outside of town and the furniture was sparse in their house.
At the time I don’t remember if I noted how differently he and I grew up. They
spoke Spanish with each other, and I can remember listening wide-eyed as his mother
would speak to him.
It is strange to me that the only thing I can remember about my friend
is that when I would go over to his house his mom would let us have dulce de leche ice cream.
I was dazzled by the exoticness of the name and the way the words rolled off my
tongue. Come to find out years later you can buy it at the grocery store like
any other kind of ice cream, but there is still this lingering memory of
different, but at the same time friends. I now wonder if my friend felt the
same way about me as Bich does with her neighbors. I lost touch with my friend
after kindergarten when he and his mother moved. I think I may go pick up some
dulce de leche ice cream sometime soon.
Upon reading, “The Reporter’s Kitchen,” by Jane Kramer I began to
evaluate my own life through the foods I have eaten, the people I have eaten
with as well as the places I have eaten. She begins by comparing her kitchen to
a sort of keeper for her memory, “The memory I ‘see’ is a kind of kitchen.
Where the thoughts and character I bring home go straight into a stockpot on my
big stove.” This quote supports one of the most important themes throughout her
reflection. The kitchen is the stronghold of her memory, and although memory is
not all she sees in food (she watches as it helps her writing, represents
different cultures, etc.) the aspect of food as memory is the most striking
observation within the text to me.
I begin to think of my own stockpot of memories that make me into the
person that I am today, but for me it is not so much a stock; it is my mom’s
Italian salad dressing. Growing up my mom made her own dressing and while this
doesn’t sound like such a feat, up until that age I had only ever seen most of
my friends’ mothers squeeze things out of bottles onto their lettuce. She
blended these oils and spices together letting me smell the garlic while
holding the whisk.
This is the way I see my memory. Occasionally, memories resurface and
sometimes they’re blended so far together I can’t separate their distinct
flavors. It is interesting that within her article she also discusses the
repressing of certain food and the memories that those tastes represent. She forgets about the cauliflower soup
that was served as a terrorist’s bomb exploded. Even in different situations, for
these same reasons I begin to taste bacon on my tongue even though breakfast
passed hours ago. The idea of repressing food memories quickly reminds me of
the breakfast for dinner meals we had for weeks in a row when my dad wouldn’t
come home during my parents’ divorce. It is almost as if someone is cooking pancakes
in the suite next to me. It is the same way when I think of hazelnut coffee
with two spoons of sugar, and I am reminded of an old house on Minor Street in
Kalamazoo where I tried to cope with my boyfriend deploying to Afghanistan. I
have since started drinking my coffee black.
Aside from memory I find it interesting how she compares good writing to
good cooking. I see the measured out steps, and the importance of pacing. Even
as I sit here now I am eating semi-sweet chocolate chips pacing out each bite
between sentences. Kramer writes, “Dishes like these become invocations, little
rituals you invent for yourself, in the hope that your life and your work will
eventually taste the same.” This I wonder about, as you are reading this do you
taste the semi-sweet chocolate chips? Is it strange that there is a double-edged
sword in remembering as well as there is in tasting food?