Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Fact: Summertime is the busiest and most active season for travel (Source: The Internet).
Hopefully you have a trip, vacation or travel planned in the next few months to relax and rejuvenate your soul. And of course prepare you for another football season filled with coaches eating grass while starting a quarterback that only plays well in B tier Bowl Games. But I digress.
Now wait you might be saying, trips, vacations, and travel, isn't that the same thing? No. They are each different and require a different book to maximize the experience. So without bidding you further adieu, here is the Blackened Out Guide to Leaving Where You Live and Reading Gooder.
A Trip- Trips have a specific purpose and oftentimes they are not how you would choose to use your frequent flyer miles. Out of town weddings, visiting relatives, or going to a doll convention are examples of trips. For this, you want a book that allows you to get absorbed into someone else's more fanciful life. For that, Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw is a perfect fit. This collection of essays explores food, but perhaps more subtly the changes Bourdain has gone through since becoming a star. Throughout the book I noticed a tinge of regret, that maybe what Bourdain wishes he would have become one of the chefs he has spoken so effusively of over the last 10 years. His piece of Justo the fish butcher at Le Bernardin is worth the price of admission alone. Plus, it is in hardback which means your Aunt will probably think you are really smart.
The Vacation- From the early Latin word for "chill out", a vacation is somewhere you go to get away from it all. Key distinction about a vacation is that the location hardly matters. For instance, you can take a beach vacation in Florida, Biloxi, St. Maarten, the Eastern Shore, Malibu, Hawaii, or Dubai and it will be almost exactly the same. There is lounging in the sun, maybe a round of golf for the sporting types, a fishing excursion for those who are into torture, and the drinking of copious amounts of cold, alcoholic beverages. Same goes for things like skiing, bird watching, and spelunking. For a vacation, I like to read historical crap, something with a story arch, but not anything with dragons or vampires. This way when you return from your vacation, you aren't totally braindead and can add something to your Monday night trivia team. Thus, read The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky. First, the backstory, during the Great Depression, the government hired a bunch of writers to chronicle what people were eating in America. The manuscripts were due in December 1941. Cue World War II, and the manuscripts sat untouched for over 60 years, before Mr. Kurlansky unearthed them and published the series.
Travel - Travel is the most intense of all wanderings. It is when you put yourself in an unfamiliar land and immerse yourself in the culture of others. It can be frustrating, it can be rewarding, and it should be challenging. No all inclusive or guided tours here. You blaze your own trail, eat native foods, and drink wine you can't pronounce. You need a book that echoes that adventure. Which is why you should read Jacques Pepin's incredible book The Apprentice. In this book, Pepin chronicles a lifetime spent cooking and learning how to cook. Consider it a front row seat for why food matters in America again.