Skift Take

It continues to be surprising that so few travel publishers help readers discover a destination through its food.

Just eat.

Two words that encapsulate Anthony Bourdain’s approach to travel and appreciation of other cultures. Want a better understanding of the people and places you visit? Find something to shove in your mouth; it will be time better spent than studying traditional guidebooks. For the host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” it’s a philosophy. It’s a career.

And to help you approach the world from a similar perspective, Bourdain is throwing out the book on guidebooks, rethinking that trusty traveler’s crutch from a gastronomic angle to help you… just eat.

“Rice, Noodle, Fish” is the first guidebook — though the term should be applied somewhat loosely — to be published under Bourdain’s partnership with travel and food website Roads & Kingdoms. The book — written by Roads & Kingdoms co-founder Matt Goulding — is a deep dive into Japan’s food culture.

The book, which comes out this month, reads like more of a travelogue with interviews and news-to-use tidbits than a true travel guide. And that’s what makes it so refreshing. Goulding takes you on his journey, teaching you about the food as he travels. And in doing so, he leaves you not just thoroughly informed about Japan’s culinary culture, but craving it.

But while the book has the tone of a travel memoir, it reads in easily digested — and terrifically useful — bites. For example, the section “Operation Izakaya” walks the reader through eight easy tips for enjoying classic Japanese bar food. The result is a book that is enjoyable to read whether or not you have any travel planned.

Also rethinking the classic travel guide is Lonely Planet. The company has just released a new line of books with the tagline “From the Source,” cookbooks that offer thorough takes on the cuisines of Thailand and Italy. Though clearly pegged at the traveler who books itineraries based on what’s delicious, these are not the books you’ll want to lug into economy class. Instead, use these to get in the kitchen and whet your appetite in the months leading up to the big trip.

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Tags: anthony bourdain, food and drink, lonely planet, roads & kingdoms

Photo Credit: The cover of the book "Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan's Food Culture," by Anthony Bourdain. HarperCollins Publishers