When we think about Anthony Bourdain, nothing subtle comes to mind. The chef and TV personality has been labeled as the “bad boy” of the kitchen for his honesty about food. After all, he advised diners in his memoir “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” to not order fish on Mondays and not to order mussels altogether. He also says to stay away from ordering meat well done. Good advise.
Bourdain is also known for his dry humor, smirking sarcasm and his passion for a great-tasting dish.
The celebrated chef has had a long career in front of the camera traveling to different countries, trying an array of gastronomies everywhere he went starting with “A Cook’s Tour” with Food Network, followed by “No Reservation” on the Travel Channel, and on his current one for CNN, “Parts Unknown.”
“Parts Unknown” is a show that is beyond than just about food. It is going where other food shows have not. During a recent episode, Bourdain explored a country that is quite complicated and changing. Very few Americans have had the opportunity to visit Iran since the 80s. He says the country is “neither East nor West, but always somewhere in the middle.”
The TV host was invited to enjoy various feasts of Persian cuisine with dishes like slow-cooked lamb in yogurt, saffron and egg yolks, sour cherry rice with meatballs and chicken, milk and chicken soup, fried chicken stew with onions, ground walnuts, pomegranate, dry apricot and tomato paste.
One of those dishes is enough to make our appetite tickled and think about grabbing our passports and hopping on a plane. We wish we could have invited ourselves to their table filled with recipes passed down from generation to generation like sacred possessions, because according to Bourdain, “The great food in Iran is cooked in people’s home.”
The central part of the show is the connection the production has been able to accomplish between food and culture while delving into various political issues. It allows us to see beyond with a different set of eyes into a country we were not allowed into because of the controversial relationship Iran has with the United States.
This particular episode provided us with a small piece of a country that is rich in culture and has an old complicated story that makes it what it is today.
A show like this one not only makes us drool with home-cooked meals done the old-fashioned way or with dishes from chefs around the world, it also gives us an insight from a different lens we don’t see too often.
It is quite charming to see Bourdain warm up to sometimes-complete strangers and discover different places through its cuisine. It is also delightful to learn about traditions within those cultures. He has always taken us for exquisite culinary adventures across the globe. The show is definitely giving CNN a new light in its programming. Cheers to hoping the show gets picked up for many more seasons to come.
Montclair State | New Jersey