Reviewing the Central Market Cooking School
The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Useable Trim, Scraps, and Bones
by Anthony Bourdain
Bloomsbury, 288 pp., $24.95
When I saw the subtitle, I feared that this might be the leftover dregs of Bourdain's writing, that somehow this collection of shorts might be something less than his best. I'm happy to say that it's right up there with his finest writing, a free-wheeling amalgam that any fan of his brash, opinionated, and profane style (or any fan of food) will find endlessly entertaining.
The Nasty Bits is divided into six sections: Salty, Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Umami, and an uncharacteristic reworking of Dickens' A Christmas Carol for the happy ending. He opens with an Inuit seal hunt, which ends with he and the native family gorging on raw entrails and blood-glazed blackberries. Whether he's respectfully praising America's overworked and underpaid Latino kitchen helpers, ridiculing Vegas celebrity chefs and their overblown opulence, attacking Woody Harrelson's raw-food stance or the PETA terrorists' Mafiaesque aggressions against foie gras sellers, or eloquently describing the pure tastes of simple peasant fare at a Singapore hawker stall, Bourdain sucks you in with his sense of humor, his wordplay, and his masterful powers of observation.