February 19, 2007

Sound Bites – Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand

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sound bites

Sound Bites – Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand Alex Kapranos Published December 2006 by Penguin

Alex Kapranos, singer and guitarist of the band Franz Ferdinand, has done some traveling in the past few years. As a result of two hit albums with world-wide appeal this former back room prep cook found himself rubbing shoulders with all manner of folk at impressive (and unimpressive) restaurants around the globe. Sound Bites is a memoir of those eating experiences and Kapranos’ own adventures as a food preparer. It reveals a hilarious and sensory overloaded inner monologue filled with a wry perspective on people, places and of course food. He supplies an unending stream of short stories which may lead you to forever question just what goes into the preparation of your food.

Some of the stories were orginally published in UK newspaper The Guardian, so each story is no more than four pages long. One page your walking among the fish stalls of London, the next among the Kim Chi bars of Korea. Sometimes the stories will focus completely on the food, and sometimes the food isn’t the story at all but the unusual people he is situated with while consuming. Kapranos has a flair for capturing a complete sense of the environment he is in and the history that is defining the meal or the location for him. Each anecdote is transformed into a personal moment shared with the reader, an inside look at his thought processes and what led up to the moment.  

It’s fitting that one story is devoted to visiting Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant Les Halles. Kapranos’ story telling style seems inspired by the refined raunchiness exhibited in Kitchen Confidential as well as in Bourdain’s general demeanor. Only the bravest attempt bull testicles and raw shellfish of unknown nature, and often his bandmates are less than pleased with his choices. For them each meal is a culinary adventure tempered by a simple longing for In ‘n Out Burger. 

Kapranos’ descriptions of his past, and possibly himself preparing the very food he is about to eat at one of the numerous kitchens he was employed in, often leads one at the end of the story to wonder why he was eating it in the first place at all. He’s clearly unfazed any longer by the process for obtaining some of these delicacies. As long as it has the prospect of it tasting good or interesting, Kapranos is going to try it.

I’m eating with the band and some Austrailian friends. We’ve been let in on Sydney’s secret: primal eating at its best. Entering the reasuarant, we pass a stack of plastic crates containing the huge green monsters we are about to devour – freshwater mud crabs from the river estuaries of the Northern Territories near Darwin. I ben dover for a cloaser look and their eyes flick violently as they rear, straining heavy claws against thick blue twine, desperate to rip my nosey nose off.  Then minutes later their magnificence is shattered and they’re coated in barbe cue sauce, a jumble of legs and claws roasted red. I fight my obsessive-compulsive fear of stickiness and gra b a set of glistening tarantuline legs and set to with the implemements. The flesh is sweet – sweeter than their salty pals from the ocean.

I can honestly say this is some of the most entertaining writing I’ve encountered in some time. Each story is like the above paragraph. His vivid depictions of living life through the eyes of a foodie offer an enthusiasm and genuine excitement that is hard keep a straight face for while reading. This book is devoted to the experience of eating food and enjoying life, but Kapranos’ humor is what makes this book something special and something I will tell my friends about over and over again. It’s only 132 pages too, so you really have no reason not to.

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