Anthony Bourdain has a rich personality that is mirrored in his writing and TV show. His spirit is captured so well in the show, and his honesty in the book reinforces my respect for the guy. I absolutely adore how Bourdain is so well received by the cultures he immerses himself into. Of course, the camera crew, publicity, and celebrity of the situation add to his reception, still the guy is damn charming. I really enjoyed his piece on Tokyo, and watched the subsequent episode to be able to compare the two.
As I began to watch, I couldn’t help but smile at the parallels between the book and show. It was almost if the words were put into animation, and my imagination and reality collided. I usually find that the opposite often happens to me with books turned movies. Your expectations challenge those of another’s vision, with often a poor outcome. (“The book was soooo much better.” “OhMyGawd, they left out all the good details.”) To be honest, my expectations were on the same plane as what was actually shown. I enjoyed Bourdain in the book, and the show only enhanced that.
There is no doubt that the translation from experience to print is masterful. However, I could make one distinction that would be quite impossible for him to describe in his book. One of the main differences I did notice from the two was the spectrum of emotion and uncertainty I saw from him. In print, he can describe his hesitations, yet it can’t compare to the raw footage. For example, at the fish market Bourdain’s words flow with certainty. He has had the time to reflect on his experience, and therefore has more confidence in his words.
“All that unbelievable bounty, spread across acres and acres of concrete, wriggling and spitting from tanks, laid out in brightly colored rows, carefully arranged like dominoes in boxes, skittering and clawing from under piles of crushed ice, jockeyed around on fast-moving carts, the smell of limitless possibilities, countless sensual pleasures – I am inadequate to the task of saying more” (140).
His feelings are sure footed; he can give exact descriptions of the setting and the happenings that are playing out before him. Watching the footage, I see a slightly different man. One in awe, questioning things and absorbing all that is happening around him. That isn’t to say he doesn’t have a grip on things. He does mention that the chef gave him a lot of self-assurance in the market. Yet, watching the man I see a kid in a candy store.
As much as I enjoy Bourdain for his badass approach to life and his competence as a chef, I his passion for cooking was more attractive. He is so eager to learn and enjoy experiences that might make others uncomfortable. I used to be really uneasy at these situations as well, preferring a vanilla life. However, I’ve come to appreciate the value of exploration outside of the daily norms. In my opinion, I believe Bourdain captures a different kind of American spirit, one of expectance and drive.