Ann Limpert
June 15, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Anthony Bourdain
genre
Nonfiction
We gave it a B+

Turn-of-the-century Irish immigrant Mary Mallon was a typhoid carrier who knowingly littered her workplaces with potentially deadly bacteria. But she was also a cook. And that’s what has drawn the attentions of culinary renegade Bourdain (he blew the cheesecloth off his industry in Kitchen Confidential), who examines the circumstances of Mary’s predicament and the ensuing medical witch-hunt through the lens of a peer. In raw, readable prose, Bourdain shows how the public’s perception of Mary was shaped by a doctor with questionable motives, and by a slanted media explosion. And he also suggests that in the end, Mallon may have just been adhering to the ironclad ethos instilled in her as a cook — that no matter what, one must show up for work.

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