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Nov 20, 2007 08:55 AM

I Love Anthony Bourdain, but...

Did anyone else catch the US/Mexico border episode last night? When did the show get so political? I mean, I know a lot of the destinations he goes to, there's such a sense of political sensitivity that you can't help but mention it. The show last night though seem to be 90% political agenda, 10% eating. I want to see more food and less immigration policy talk on the Travel Network. Bring on the Mexican street food, let's talk more about pastor, cabrito, and tamales. Any other thoughts?

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  1. This episode has run about 30 times since it first aired. While it does seem to get political, it is easy to understand Bourdain's passion for the subject. He has spent years working with immigrants from Mexico and South America (some certainly illegal) that have, in his experience, worked harder and more honestly than most of the Americans he's worked with. In light of his experiences, he cannot help but feel strongly about this particular political issue.

    8 Replies
    1. re: notgreg

      Indeed, AB is an opinionated guy and that's part of the deal. I tend to agree with his take on things and if he didn't have a perspective you wouldn't get stuff like the Beruit show, which many would say was political..yet it wasn't. AB is right however, imagine the restaurant industry without immigrants (of any kind) and the cost of produce in the U.S.

      1. re: ML8000

        I think his experience in Beruit changed him. The show he did in Ireland shortly afterward was also more "political," though as you say that's not quite the right word. He had said before that he hoped a love of good food could bring people together and obviously it can't always. He seemed genuinely saddened by the situation in Belfast.

        1. re: Glencora

          I'd say it happened before Beirut. Recall the episode of A Cook's Tour, in Vietnam. Bourdain seems to have a true love and respect for the Vietnamese.

      2. re: notgreg

        Totally agree with notgreg. I think this is an issue that comes easily to him. It's been in his books, he's discussed it in interviews and on his book tour. I think you will see it as overly political if you don't agree with him probably. I thought the food pieces were great...especially the street food scenes (which Bourdain loves so much). I thought it was well done.

        It's important to not only be aware of what you are eating but who is preparing it. And 9 times out of 10 its an immigrant (if you are eating in the US).

        1. re: Elyssa

          I disagree. I actually agree with him politically. However, I think there should have been more food content as there is in his other episodes.

          Usually, at the end of a No Res episode, I feel like I want to hop on a plane the next day and go wherever Tony went. However, this episode, though named Texas/Mexico border, did not really have a region specific focus other than his visit to the border crossing Port of Entry. It's an episode about immigration and border issues in general. I was hoping for more tips on specific places (and items) to chow down in the Nuevo Laredo region, didn't really get that.

            1. re: Glencora

              Been there, wish I had known what Bourdain did :P Would've eaten better.

        2. re: notgreg

          Agreed. This episode aired before or at the beginning of the whole I-hate-Mexicans movement became acceptable to some.

        3. The original comment has been removed
          1. Political? He did an excellent job portraying the deep influence this particular group has on the way we eat today. I guess when we see a story about the positive impact of immigration, someone is automatically being "political."

            I thought this was one of his better shows - and let's face it, no one would be cooking in those restaurants if they didn't have the skills. 4 star dining is 4 star dinging - no one is going to risk their reputation on individuals that can't cook.

            Tony did a show in Season 2 on Mexico - that one featured the sushi chef in Texas in the midst of getting his papers (which made him unable to leave the country) - Tony took a gift and visited the chef's family for a home-cooked meal. That might have been political too - and he ate pleanty of street food in Piedras Negras.

            Tony's shows are not strictly about food. I found the episode on Korea especially moving as I really didn't know much about those caught between the border. To see the show on Vietnam showcasing a country trying to establish itself as a tourist destination instead of a war memory was a rather overt political statement. Even in his two visits to Russia, we've seen the emerging wealth of Russia and how it impacts the food.

            Tony merely dedicated a show to the big white elephant in the room that is the way a good number of us don't think about the individuals that cook our $100/plate meals.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Stephmo

              "Tony's shows are not strictly about food." - Word Stephmo. His shows are as much about food as they are about context - a rare treat in today's journalism (context).

              Only looking at a culture's "artifacts" a little like neocolonialist cultural appropriation, no?

            2. Funny that this episode has been aired over 30 times; last night was the first time I've seen it. I was very pleasantly surprised to hear him repeatedly give credit to the men and women on the lines of the kitchens of many fine dining esatblishments in the US. I personally think it would have been more awkward had he done an episode on Mexico and not mentioned this issue at all. On a side note, I loved his jab at Chili's when he noticed that "south of the border" restaurant actually south of the border!

              1. I absolutely adore that episode. It is so true in so many ways and I think it's one of the best eps of No Res ever.

                1 Reply