Peterb's Reviews > Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain
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Jun 15, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: reviewed
Read from June 15 to 17, 2010

Bourdain has built a career on irreverent and edgy food writing. Medium Raw is a somewhat uncomfortable pastiche of essays that follow this pattern, but is larded liberally with self-doubt or, being more generous, self-examination.

The essay format is both the saving grace and an irritant. On the one hand, it means the book's high points - the scathing critique of Alice Water's "What, Me Worry?" approach to feeding the world, and an elegant and eloquent paean to (and eulogy for) the American hamburger, are worth the price of admission.

Other essays are less interesting. In particular, towards the end of the book Bourdain begins obsessively cataloguing and following up other chefs, restaurant owners, and reviewers that he has clashed with in the past. He discusses their reactions to his work, and how he feels about them today. I would normally describe this sort of thing as "inside baseball" but it manages to be even more boring than baseball, which when you stop to think about it is sort of a stunning achievement. Compounding this, the essays repeat themselves in several places, thus driving home the impression that they were written at separate times rather than as a cohesive whole (the "I even slept with a vegetarian" joke would have been funnier if he had only used it once).

Other parts of the book discuss Bourdain's long journey from heroin addict to straitlaced father. I enjoyed his writing here, but those reading solely for the food porn may find it somewhat besides the point. It seems to me that that journey is worth a book in and of itself, and he may have sold himself short by handing it out piecemeal as a part of this book.
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