January 13, 2009
I'd like to take this short moment of our lives to express my infatuation with No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. It's shown on the Travel Channel on Monday nights about 9:00pm central time, and also seemingly randomly throughout the week. The show is amazing because of its host, Anthony Bourdain. He's a classicly trained (i.e. went to a prestigious culinary school) chef who travels around the world and experiences the local food and culture, understanding that those two are almost always very intertwined. You'll immediately notice that the show displays a "portions of this show may be inappropriate for some viewers" disclaimer, which in all honesty is what made me watch for the first time almost two years ago. I don't believe that the show should carry such a tag, but I can understand why the network forces the disclaimer. The show routinely shows the heart of the local culture, which usually involves some kind of alcohol or the ritualized killing of an animal for human consumption. Of course, in my mind at least, these two are integral parts of any culture and shouldn't be shielded from the youth that will eventually perpetuate the same activities, but we all know that we live in an era of euphemisms and watered down rhetoric. That said, the show is amazing precisely because it drills down to the essence of the culture, without distorting or sugar-coating anything. The result is that the viewer has a much more genuine understanding of the local culture than from any other travel show that I know of. This is helped along because Mr. Bourdain has no problem showing how he really feels about the events that he sees. In one episode about Malaysia, he is told that it's tradition for the guest of the local tribe to kill the pig that is to be roasted for dinner. Mr. Bourdain understands that to not do so will be an insult to the tribe, and so he takes the life of the pig, and is clearly upset by the experience, admitting that he's never done such a thing before.
The understanding that Mr. Bourdain gains and passes along about the local culture seems amazingly genuine, which is seemingly anathema to other travel shows that emphasize the touristy, beaten paths. If you have a genuine wish to learn more about foreign cultures with an emphasis on the food, then watch this wonderful program. I also think that it's funny, and in my book, that counts for something.
I don't have cable, so I can't watch the show all that often, but Bourdain is great. I heard him on the radio show Sound Opinions talking about the connection between Music and Food/Cooking. It was great. Bourdain's always fantastic when he's on the late shows, as well. Anyway, if you're a fan of music and food, track that episode down (Podcast on 1/27/2008).
Comment by: matt g at 4:04 PM, January, 13, 2009