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26 July 2017
Morning Sedition

Books That Won’t Give You Indigestion

Graphic of the human digestive tract

The Guardian UK would be laudable if it did nothing more than just present better reporting about what goes on in America than do the NY Times or Washington Post. But beyond more political reporting that's either boring or upsetting, lies a valuable resource: the digested read. As the Guardian puts it, "Too busy to read the hot books? Let us read them for you". What this means is that it delivers "The must-read books in 400 words", but while retaining the author's style present in the original work. (Now, you're saying, if Citizen Arcane were shorter I'd have the time to read these books. To which I say, well, yeah, sure. How do you think I feel? I'm the one who actually writes all this verbiage...)

Anyway, one of my favorite digest reads is the version of Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour. (BTW: I quite liked Bourdain's early work; after a while it got repetitious, but it's still interesting even if you aren't a chef, amateur or professional.) If you're a vegetarian, you'd best skip these excerpts. (It's for your own good. Trust me.) This is such a good parody of Bourdain that as I read it I heard his voice narrating.

Yo, motherfuckers. I'm sitting in the bush with Charlie, deep in the Mekong Delta, drinking hooch. My hosts, VC war heroes, pass me the duck. I chomp through its bill, before cracking open the skull and scooping the brains out...

When you've just had a big score with an obnoxious and over-testosteroned account of your life, your publishers tend to fall for any dumbass plan. So when I told them I wanted to go round the world eating all sorts of scary food in a search for the perfect meal, they just said, "Where do we sign?"

Y'know, most of us in the west have lost contact with the food we eat. It comes merchandised and homogenised. The same goes for chefs. Cooking isn't about knocking up a few wussy monkfish terrines out of fillets that have been delivered to the kitchen door; it's about badass guys going deep into their souls and looking their ingredients in the eye.

Which is why I am in Portugal, outside the barn while Jose and Francisco restrain several hundredweight of screaming pig. I unsheathe my knife, bury it deep into the neck and draw it firmly towards me. The pig looks at me in surprise and fury. I lick the blood from my arms, make another incision and rip out the guts. The women pan-fry the spleen. It's indescribably good.

Digested Read for A Cook's Tour.


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