I am no foodie from any angle. Food for me is strictly utilitarian. One eats because one has no choice in the matter. There is no food that I would look at and exult, ‘Aah! Food.’
That said, I am also conscious that food is perhaps the most important definer of cultures. It is from that perspective that I think Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Parts Unknown’ is the best show on CNN.
The show offers much greater throwaway insights into cultures than many of CNN’s so-called serious news shows simply because Bourdain seeks to connect with peoples at an elemental level. People are generous, open and tolerant when they are eating. His three segments out of Myanmar, Colombia and Morocco may have been very diverse in terms of what the people of these countries eat but they were unified in their passion and joy about whatever it is they eat. There is something to be said about a stomach that is full making its owner particularly joyous and tolerant. That is because the presence and sight of food is reassuring for humans.
There is a perfectly good chemical reason why empty stomachs can lead to bloody revolutions. That’s because the digestive fluid gastric acid is predominantly hydrochloric acid (HCl). If you have handled HCl in a college lab you would know that that stuff can be wicked. With no food to digest HCl has the potential to digest the stomach but before it does that it can make people particularly irrational.
Bourdain’s epicurean propensities are on full display on the show as he walks in and out of cultures and countries. You can see that he just loves food and uses it as a gateway to fellow humans. Bourdain also has that ease of bearing in new places that separates a seasoned traveler from a gawky tourist. Of course, one must recognize the whole paraphernalia that must attend Bourdain’s travels.
‘Parts Unknown’ is also a very well shot show. The production values are fairly impressive. One always finds at least one or two striking frames and shots in each segment. Check out the first two frames, for instance, from the segment on Myanmar and the third from the segment on Colombia. Don’t miss the dragonfly just in front of the farmer.: