Anthony Bourdain was a world-class explorer, who eagerly traveled domestically and internationally, never intending to report or write about his experiences. He traveled and sampled foods of many places, satisfying his own curiosity, therefore this collection cannot be compared to a regular travel/eatery guide. Bourdain set his own standards, which were for himself and not for the rest of us. With everything that he commented on, from food to many aspects of human behavior and history, he could, at times, be irreverent. At the same time, Bourdain was ceaselessly curious and respectful about different customs. As a chef/cook, he was traditionally trained at the Culinary Institute of America, aka CIA, so he was very knowledgeable about basic culinary methods, which made him even more appreciative about innovative techniques. Laurie Woolever, who finalized this book, had met with Bourdain in March 2017 to think about the focus of the book, which would be, " ... an atlas of the world as seen through his eyes (and the lens of television)." They never met again, because he was very busy with numerous projects, and in 2018 took charge of his own destiny in an apparent suicide. It was Woolever's decision to move forward and enlist the help of Bourdain's friends, family and colleagues to write comments and essays about the man they knew and the places he loved and found exceptionally fascinating.
The book is arranged alphabetically by country and within that by cities. For many of the places there is basic information: getting there; arrival and getting around; where to stay. Anthony Bourdain's comments are printed in blue ink and are interspersed, where necessary, with basic explanations in black ink. Readers will fully hear his real voice and “acid wit and thoughtful observations” that have always piqued our interest in places, eateries, cuisines and people that he visited, many of which have undergone major changes. Tucked in among all of this are essays by those friends, family members and colleagues, and not at all referenced in the table of contents. It is very much like watching a television production, coordinated and featuring Anthony Bourdain--fresh and surprsing. Reading Bourdain's observations, I am reminded that there was always more to him than the pleasure derived from travel and food, there was the man who was steadily watching all of us. He spoke truth to power and to cliched habits about how we treat others. Here is a prime example of his astute judgement about how much we Americans love Mexican food:
"We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling 'Mexican' in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal, and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people--as we sure employ a lot of them. Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes toward immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes, look after our children. As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy--the restaurant business as we know it--in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers. ... So why don't we love Mexico?"