By Wendell Brock
Anthony Bourdain, that hard-living bad boy of food television, hasn’t published a cookbook in 10 years.
In the interlude, the snarky and opinionated host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown” became a father, and his new “Appetites: A Cookbook” is his response to what he calls the ultimate job: “the love and care of another human being.”
As such, the so-called “family cookbook” offers up the kind of simple, unfussy food Bourdain likes to make at home for friends and loved ones. It’s packed with recipes for straightforward, go-to food like tuna salad, cream of tomato soup, meatball-parm sandwiches, plus a handful of fancy, ambitious dishes like Poulette En Vesse (a variation of truffled chicken steamed in a pig’s bladder), Duck Rillettes (a two-day affair) and Halibut Poached in Duck Fat. Wondering where on earth can you find a pig’s bladder? Never fear, all you need is cheesecloth and twine.
Along the way, the slightly bipolar, edgy-meets-homey “Appetites” features a full chapter on sandwiches; party foods; pasta; and a three-day plan for making a Thanksgiving feast. It is interspersed with pointed essays on why the author hates the classic club sandwich (too messy, too much bread) and the sacred rules of making a perfect burger (which includes a pullout, frame-ready poster with text by “Modernist Cuisine” author Nathan Myhrvold.)
So has the proud papa of 8-year-old Ariane become a big-old softie? Hell, no.
He’s still the same old raunchy, navel-gazing, name-dropping Bourdain. Ever a showman at heart, he remains true to his brand, working hard to shock and amuse loyal fans.
Bobby Fisher’s photos are visceral and provocative, with images of the Bourdain holding a pig’s head on a platter (a la Judith and Holofernes) and other grotesqueries (the aforementioned hog bladder; many feather-y chicken parts).
At the end of it all, this book is Bourdain’s best effort at maturity, told with playfulness and heart. After so many years of seeking out the weird and living to tell the tale, the scabrous, trash-talking Bourdain seems happiest on familiar ground: home.