When I learned that Anthony Bourdain had died by suicide on June 8, I wanted to look through some of his life’s work, to celebrate the great talent that we had lost with his death. No Reservations is a book developed out of Bourdain’s television program of the same name. The program was an innovative and unexpected consideration of food, and so is this book.
The book has sections on Asia, Africa, Beirut, Europe and North and South America. In these sections, some of the important culinary traditions for these regions are explored, explored through the eyes of someone who understood food, and how it’s prepared, at an intimate level. His descriptions are candid, no holds barred. For example, one picture of an Icelandic scene has the caption: “Lovely, yes, but possibly the most boring place on earth.” (Page136) Here’s an example of one of the most positive things he says: “Indonesia: Home of some of the most hospitable, no-bullshit, humble and fun people on earth.” (Page 48)
As well as the sections about food in various regions of the world, there are other more general sections. There is a section of remarkable pictures, Food Porn. That’s not a surprising section, nor are the sections Indigenous Beverages or Cooks. However, you might wonder, as I did, how Bourdain fits in a section called Bathrooms. I suspect you’re already contemplating your own connections, but I’ll leave you to do that on your own – I wish Bourdain had done the same.
The best thing about this book is that it does give the reader an appreciation for the type of man Bourdain was. He tells the reader: “When you feed someone, they’re saying something; they’re telling you something about themselves.” He does exactly this with his book.
(Note: I read the 2007 Bloomsbury edition of this book.)