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Book Review: Anthony Bourdain's 'World Travel'

Antony Bourdain on Uruguay: "It’s really one of my favorite countries. It’s progressive. Weed is legal."

Three years since Anthony Bourdain's death, a new book and upcoming documentary focus on the chef, author and host of No Reservations and Parts Unknown.

Laurie Woolever diligently pieced together World Travel, a 472-page hardcover that's filled with Bourdain's observations (excerpted from the 231 total episodes), Woolever's pithy descriptions and black and white illustrations.

Subtitled "An Irrerverent Guide," it features chapters on 43 countries, from Argentina to Vietnam. Bourdain's comments are highlighted in bold blue type.

The Morocco chapter flashes back to Bourdain's visit there in 2013 for the first season of Parts Unknown on CNN. He hailed Beat writers William S. Burroughs and Paul Bowles, who both lived there: "Tangier - the 'Interzone' that Burroughs described - where he'd found himself exiled, strung out, writing the pages that eventually became Naked Lunch, sounded, to my naive young mind, like an exotic paradise."

"World Travel" by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever

Bourdain devoted part of the 2017 Seattle episode to legalization in Washington State. A sub-section in the United States chapter, "Western Weed," reviews two Washington companies, Emerald Haze Cannabis Emporium in Renton, which he called "mind-boggling," and Hollingsworth Cannabis Company's who's "solar-powered greenhouses, handtrimmed buds, hand-packed bags are only the finest and freshest high-quality chronic up you ass." Bourdain samples Blueberry Kush, Alaskan Thunderfuck and Dutch Treat. 

About Uruguay, Bourdain raved, "It's really one of my favorite countries. It's progressive. Weed is legal... Democracy is not joke here. Ninety-six percent of eligible Uruguayans voted in the last election." The "Uruguay Dreamin'" sidebar by Bourdain's brother Chris refers to Cabo Polonio "where somehow a 1960s-style hippie community survived into the 21st Century, a bit like the Christiania enclave in Copenhagen, but on the beach and off the grid. Some of the denizens clearly had taken Timothy Leary's 'turn on, tune in, drop out' suggestion to heart." 

About Provincetown, Massachusetts, Bourdain, who was from New Jersey, recalled, "It was where I first landed, 1972, washed into town wih a head full of orange sunshine [LSD] and a few friends." Though the 2014 episode delved into Bourdain's eventual heroin use, it's not mentioned in this section or anywhere else in the book. 

Bourdain references cocaine (Peru) and opium (Laos) several times. That's pretty much it for the druggy aspects of World Travel.

Though he generally disdained vegetarian options, Bourdain gave it a try in India: "Vegetables here are actually spicy, all taste different, different textures and served with extraordinarilly good bread."

The book reserves significant space to gastronomic hubs like France and Italy, but also reminds that "London has long been a food capital." 

Some of the more interesting chapters are Cambodia, Croatia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Oman, Portugal, Spain and Tanzania.

Morgan Neville's documentary, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, is scheduled to hit theaters on July 16.

Bourdain took his life in a hotel room in France on June 8, 2018. He was 61. 

 

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.