The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, And Bones

1 Nov 2006 by intern22


Anthony Bourdain, Bloomsbury Publishing, US$16.47

The Nasty Bits is a compilation of 36 non-fictional essays and one fictional piece written by Anthony Bourdain for magazines and other publications over the years. The stories are grouped into chapters based on flavour: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami (a Japanese term for an inexplicable taste) and a taste of fiction.

Like the flavour names of Bourdain’s chapters, his writing style and observations are multifaceted. His sometimes grotesque descriptions, like the sucking of a seal’s eyeball “as if working on an oversized Concord grape” engage the readers’ senses of sight, smell, and taste, while his colloquial style creates the illusion of hearing Bourdain speak.

Yet it is not so much Bourdain’s descriptions and style, as his ability to provide readers with a very specific lens through which to view the world of food, that makes the book such a treat.

Bourdain is a food purist, preferring fresh, seasonal ingredients without frills. Unlike Bourdain’s previous novels, which arguably have more material to work with, The Nasty Bits showcases his ability to provide witty insight into small culinary morsels. Yet when one feels as if Bourdain’s observations are verging on didactic, his viewpoint shifts just enough to provide the book with much needed dimension.

For example, in one chapter Bourdain expounds upon his dislike toward the “celebrity chef” ideal, while in another he recognises its merits in seducing the average consumer back into the kitchen and providing a  “much-needed late-care lucre for older, broken-down, burned-out chefs, like well … me.” Bourdain doesn’t miss a beat in his fast and funny compilation.

Emma Sussex

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