Wednesday, December 19, 2007


In his cook's tour, Anthony Bourdain mostly praises Vietnam. As a matter of fact, while the book is about his culinary peregrinations around the entire globe, he dedicates two chapters to Vietnam (though I'm maybe remembering the local leg of his Cambodia entry as being that second chapter). Anyway, the ranting adjectives multiply throughout the book in tribute to the food of my new home. Its commercialism too: Mr. Bourdain expends plenty of words describing cheap tourist trinkets, ersatz war-era Zippo lighter sales,1 and the hubbub of the large market areas. There’s a page where Mr. Bourdain meets a man he assumes has been wounded by napalm, begging for money in the streets. Mr. Bourdain shares his feelings about the experience, but to my memory does not delve into the pitiable unpleasantness, the horror, or even the sideshow circumspection, of describing the burnt man. I haven't reread A Cook's Tour2 since moving to Vietnam, but I clearly remember that he spent his time describing opposite things. I was out and about today: there are more caves and Christmas decorations everywhere I look. The whole of Đồng Khởi Street is currently being festooned. Men squatted on the ground affixing lights to sheets of chicken wire in the park. The street is now overhung with strung bulbs from Reunification Park to the river. I was there during the day, so to me it looked like white electric netting over everything. The trees up and down the street are striped with red and green satin and they are also netted in wires. Restaurants and bars have covered their entries in tinfoil, recreating their Christmas caves, though nowhere inside are the figures one expects to find in the Nativity and outside on the pavement sit men who've been hurt, begging for change. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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