Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto


by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide


REVIEW by Kelly K Ferguson

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
by Anthony Bourdain
Ecco, June 2010
Hardcover 304 pp., ISBN: 978-0061718946

Do you want the dish on celebrity chefs such as Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Alice Waters, and David Chang? Do you want to know in exacting detail why a Kobe burger is the “cream of big-city douchedom”? Do you care that Rachel Ray sent the author a fruit basket? Do you want to read a book where the author’s default word of choice is “douche”?

Of course you do! Last Sunday I spread my blanket, soaked up the final rays of Indian summer, and tore through Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the Word of Food and People Who Cook. As Bourdain would put it, “Who doesn’t like a good wank now and then?”

Medium Raw is the follow-up to Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, the best-selling memoir that launched Bourdain’s television career. Times have changed. No longer down and out in New York, the author has traded in his Keith Richards earring for a James Bond suit. He can’t hang his memoir on the time-honored tradition of suffering, so he delivers the scoop, regaling the reader with debauched travelogues, profiles of food celebrities, and a hefty dose of food porn as he slurps, spanks, gulps, sucks, and licks his way through an international buffet.

Medium Raw doesn’t have the connective tissue of Kitchen Confidential. The looser structure reflects Bourdain’s transition from chef working a station twelve hours a day to international food whore. The “plot” of Medium Raw works loosely around the story of Anthony Bourdain’s transformation from potty-mouthed chef to potty-mouthed celebrity chef, but this never really gels. Kitchen Confidential was a mission. Medium Raw consists of episodic missives.

If Bourdain is going to travel the world, cavort with supermodels, and guzzle libations we will only ever read about, he does, at least, have the decency to feel (kinda) bad about it. He recognizes port as a vicarious, empty experience that can only be a poor substitute for the real thing. And he can own up to being a "loud, egotistical, one-note asshole who's been cruising on the reputation of one obnoxious, over-testosteroned book for way too long and who should just shut the fuck up.”

It’s Bourdain’s willingness to expose—both himself and others—that keeps Medium Raw from devolving into a pointless rant (as opposed to a focused, entertaining rant). He might call Jamie Oliver out on his “matey, mockney bullshit,” but deems him a hero for embarrassing the British government into serving schoolchildren real food. In a softer moment, Bourdain profiles Justo Thomas, the man who prepares all seafood for the renowned Le Bernardin. I was awed by the professionalism and skill Thomas brings to his work, and a reader can’t help but notice how he stands in stark relief against those who gush “Yum-O!” for the camera.

Bourdain uses his celebrity status to lance the blowhards and champion the deserving. His days behind the line might be over, but they are not forgotten, which (as a fellow twenty-year industry veteran) makes me gaze upon that craggy, coke-worn, bloated, self-aggrandizing, world-weary mug on the cover with affection.

December 5, 2010