Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Year of Eating Dangerously

The Year of Eating Dangerously, by Tom Parker Bowles
$15.12 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 0312373783
Tom is a member of the British royal family (nephew of the Prince of Wales, in fact). He's incredibly handsome, well-connected, and has a great personality; all of which make him an outstanding moderator and tour guide in this rather peculiar excursion around the world to sample the planet's most interesting, exotic, and delicious cuisine.
That's right: this book is about food.
Our hero grew up eating the rather bland fare for which Britain is famous. Not only does he sample the foods from all corners of the earth, but he also gives us an interesting synopsis of where this food often comes from. How does it get 
from the field, lake, or ocean to the consumer's dinner plate?
Naturally, in the interest of telling a good story, he eats a lot of things most westerners would find revolting. Some of his entrees even threaten to crawl off the plate. 
In the first chapter, he does some research into the edible eel industry. Now, I've never eaten an eel in my life, and don't intend to start doing so now. Still, I enjoyed reading about this suave British playboy on a raft in the 
middle of the night, catching slimy sea serpents for sale to restaurants. Most eels come from farms, it seems. There's a lot more to the eel industry than I would've supposed.
There's a chapter devoted to the chili pepper, and its popular derivative: Tabasco Sauce. Poor Tom nearly burns his tongue out sampling some of the spiciest pepper dishes at the World Chile Festival in New Mexico.
My very favorite parts of his travels take him to Asia. He visits Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Laos. Here he enjoys dishes  such as duck blood soup, items containing the penises of various animals, and a shrimp salad served under a glass dome so the live prawns don't 
hop off the table. There are  foods which contain crickets (which he says, taste rather like Pringles potato chips), ant eggs, and even the gall bladder of a King Cobra.
So there's plenty of weird and (to me) disgusting food, the descriptions of which made me crinkle my nose and smile. Most of it, however, sounds positively delicious. In fact, his entire one year journey sounds like a blast, and I enjoyed living vicariously through him.
This book is an outstanding choice for the food aficionado, or for someone who enjoys travel. 
The background information on the various industries was interesting and informative, and with each chapter it's another staple in a new and exciting locale.

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