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AB in Mexico

Don't watch this episode if you are prone to depression.
The first part Tony explains how the entire country of Mexico is 100% owned and operated by the 'cartels'. He even provides a map of where each cartel controls which part of the country.
Pretty damn bleak business.
In the last quarter of the episode Tony throws in a few compulsory/compensatory scenes about some local foods.
But by then the damage had been done to my psyche.
I'm not 'glad' I watched the whole episode but I now have a clearer picture of the very sad reality facing those you live there.
I did note that the point was made that at first the drugs were mostly being smuggled into the US. But now a lot of the drugs are for 'home consumption'.
After the Mexico episode the TV station re-ran the Lyon episode.
The contrast was mind numbing.

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  1. I likewise was disappointed. It focused too much on the dark side and overlooked the beauty and spirit of the vast majority of Mexico and its people. I have traveled through more than 20 of the 32 Mexican states (counting D.F.) and lived there several years and had nothing but good experiences and great food there. The national Por Eso newspaper regularly shows gruesome photos and does not help the cause.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      Por Eso is trying to help IMO.
      It's no good to pretend the cartels aren't running the entire country. "Sunshine is the best remedy" as they say.
      I have visited Mexico also but in all honesty I would never consider returning nor recommending anyone visit there as things are now.
      Pretty sad state of affairs for such a beautiful country and it's mostly kind honest people.
      I don't know what the touristm stats are but I'm guessing they aren't going up.

      1. re: Puffin3

        Actually, tourism stats *are* up and growing monthly.

        It is true that tourism took a major hit from about 2007 - 2011, but it is rebounding surprisingly well. Between the sensationalization by the American press and the travel warnings from the State Department, the U.S. government has done a remarkably good job at scaring the hell out of many Americans about Mexico. It's a very one-sided, and inaccurate portrayal. Other countries are not so quick to do a hatchet job on Mexico and have supplied a lot of tourists.


        1. re: DiningDiva

          In Quintana Roo in the Yucatan, from Cancun to Belize, many additional federales and resources have been deployed to protect the valuable tourist industry, with a message to cartels not even to think about camping out there.

          1. re: Veggo

            The Yucatan is one of the safest places in Mexico. The number of drug related crimes and murders is very low, particularly when compared to states where the cartels are particularly active.

            1. re: DiningDiva

              Agreed, I feel quite safe there. On my last visit I wanted to take a side trip to Chiapas, but out of an abundance of caution I didn't go. Very frustrating.

              1. re: Veggo

                I think you would probably have been okay, but I understand your hesitation, and frustration. Michoacan is my catnip and I feel quite safe there, but it's an active state right now and it is more than prudent to exercise caution in abundance :-)

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  I love the glazed pottery and distinctive folk art and pine forests and giant eucalyptus trees and mariposas in Michoacán, it is way too beautiful for criminals.

            2. re: Veggo

              You are so right. The Mayans detest outsiders who come to disrupt. Non-Mayans are relegated to their own area of Cancun. I see no trouble at all in Playa del Carmen. The Yucatan is safe. Safer than many areas in the USA.

          2. re: Puffin3

            Tourism is huge business in Mexico. It bounces between 10th and 12th most popular place to visit in the entire world. Think about that, that is tens of millions of people every year!
            Mexico has learned, the hard way, to support and encourage tourism from all over the world. They learned not to depend on the USA for tourism due to their politics and economy. It is paying off big time.

        2. Too bad tony sold out to CNN and media wants. Your post expresses someone's complete ignorance of Mexico and the people of Mexico.
          :he even provides a map..." which is given out free by the USA Department of Tourism.

          1. After reading ABs Under the Volcano blog piece I was really looking forward to seeing his Parts Unknown segment on Mexico. About 5 minutes in I realized he had a massive agenda to push, and it wasn't about food and culture.

            Certainly cartels are powerful and active. That corruption is an issue all all levels in Mexico is no secret. I think an argument could be made that corruption in American politics is also as corrupt...but I digress. I live on the border, I saw what happens when cartels go to war. But I day trip to Tijuana regularly and I travel pretty extensively and regularly in Mexico including nearly off the grid in Oaxaca and to Michoacan. I'm pretty sure I don't have the "head in the sand" mentality that many in the ex-pat community have about the violencia or corruption.

            The violence, fear and corruption are real. But the violence *has* lessened over the last 18 months or so, fear is beginning to lose it's grip, and even corruption is starting to slip, though it will be a long time before it's no longer an issue. After all, 500 years of codified practice is hard to break. AB may have felt that the way he portrayed Mexico was gritty and real. It wasn't, it was sensationalism journalism at it's worst and not particularly balanced. For every Tepito in D.F. there is a Polanco. AB told a one-sided story. His perspective is not invalid, just not very balanced. If I wanted to hear about the cartels and the violencia I'd simply just read Borderland Beat every day...

            There is another side to Mexico, I wish it's face and voice had been heard in this episode as well.

            4 Replies
            1. re: DiningDiva

              You say "violence, fear and corruption are real".But the violence has "lessoned" over the last year and a half. And it will be a long time before it's not an issue.
              All this is great.
              I just don't have enough interest in Mexico or it's food to want to risk my life. There's lots of beautiful places with great history and cuisine out there.
              The last two couples I know personally who have visited Mexico recently had two different stories:
              One couple spent years outfitting their Vanagon camper to travel for a few months through the rural parts of Mexico. When they heard warnings they laughed and said the warnings are "over blown". On the fifth day in Mexico they were 'car-jacked' and robbed in a convience store parking lot. They contacted the 'authorities and were told "the more money you have for use to pay over time to our police officers the better chance you will have of getting whatever remains of your van". They went to the airport and got the first flight home. That was last year. Neither will discuss what happened.
              The second couple, on their second evening decided to "go native" and took a cab into a part of the town their were advised not to go into. During dinner a man came through the kitchen door with a machete and robbed them of everything they had.
              Yes yes, these are (cough) "isolated incidents" but they occur just enough times to give pause to anyone planning a holiday.

              1. re: Puffin3

                "a part of town they were advised not to go into" , but they went anyways?

                1. re: Veggo

                  Well, almost every story that starts out that way ("we were advised not to visit that part of town ...") goes on to gush about how "all the warnings were unfounded, the people were so warm and glad to see us, we had one of the best meals of our life etc etc etc. ..."

                  Apparently there are some places where if you're warned to stay out you should stay out.

                2. re: Puffin3

                  There was a time, 2008-2010 when stepping foot across the border into Tijuana was a foolhardy proposition. When I began crossing south in late 2010 I looked over my shoulder with every step, certain I was going to be assaulted. I was convinced every cab driver was out to rob me. But, you know...a funny thing happened...the more I crossed south the safer I realized I was. No one was out to rob me, no one was out to assault me. As I relaxed and got reacquainted with Tijuana and the people in it, I began to realize they're really just like everyone on my side of the border in San Diego.

                  I am cautious in Mexico. I pay attention to where I am, who I am with and who is hanging around. I am responsible for myself and my well being when I travel and part of that means not doing stupid stuff, going places I shouldn't, and assimilating as much as I can. About a year ago I had dinner (in Tijuana) with a Mexican human rights activist. During the height of the violencia he had 6 body guards at all times. We talked about the cartels and the violence because, frankly, it's hard not to when you're sitting in a city that was torn apart by it but is recovering. The drugs and violence still exist they've just been isolated to the eastern part of town where, to quote the activist, "no one cares and it doesn't matter if they kill each other". TJ has a vibrant street food culture, but if someone told me the best taco truck in the world was in eastern TJ, I wouldn't go. I don't care how good it is, I would stick out like a sore thumb and I'm not setting myself up to be a victim.

                  There are many, many places in Mexico that are perfectly safe. There are also a lot of places that aren't. Know before you go...

              2. Interesting. Andrew Zimmern paints a less bleak picture in the Cabo episode of Andrew Zimmern's Big Departure. While he acknowledges there is a problem, particularly in the border areas. He contends it does not effect the entire country and he does not see it it in Cabo, which he visits 3 - 4 times a year.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mike0989

                  Zimmern just did Lima, which AB featured in PU season 1 or 2. It would be interesting to see the 2 shows back to back.

                  Zimmern also visited Columbia (Cartagena ), which AB shows earlier NR.

                2. Hi, Puffin:

                  Too late--I watched it last night. I don't have a transcript to quote from, but I didn't take the episode to be all doom and gloom, especially considering where in Mexico AB filmed.

                  One thing I value about Bourdain's approach is that he at least attempts to portray food and culinary cultures in a wider societal and historical *context*. As you are fond of pointing out, AB has strong opinions about such things. Many are wont to see political motives behind anything that's not tightly focused on the plate in front of him, but I don't. From my point of view, there'd be no point *going* to these locales without giving a similar kind of context--otherwise Tony could just stand in some studio and cook that 37-pepper mole recipe.

                  Frankly, I'd rather it *all* be political screed than watch Guy Fieri stuff his face and just say "Yum" 40 times before driving off to some other Everywhere. But that's just me.


                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Hi Dining Diva, I'm El Gringo from A Gringo In Mexico...thanks for sharing my post! Just brought to my attention on my blog stats and I'm attempting to spread the good word on Mexico. I'm going to repost the link here as well :-)

                    2. To my mind the most radical political message from the episode was in showing Mexicans determined to stay and find a way to live as well as possible in their circumstances, which is the exact opposite of the narrative we get from US media on a daily basis.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ennuisans

                        There are actually more Mexicans leaving the U.S. and returning home. Partly because it is too expensive for them to live here and the political climate does not favor them, but also in large part because Mexico is creating more economic opportunities for them...something AB failed to mention.

                        During the worst of the cartel wars the Mexican economy actually experienced substantial growth and international investment.

                        1. re: DiningDiva

                          Almost 2 million Mexicans have returned to Mexico from the US. Many had been employed in what is a moribund construction industry here. The needs to process agricultural crops remains fairly steady. The Mexican economy sorely misses the money those 2 million used to send home, and don't have jobs for all of them when they return. Those factors plus the reduced American tourism in Mexico because of recession and fear have been tough on Mexico.

                      2. I am a small blogger at AGringoInMexico.com. I've spent thousands of hours in Mexico, and other than seeing federales and police on patrol, have not encountered any of the drug-related violence there (though yes, it has and does exist, though it is declining). I personally felt that the show last night spent an inordinate amount of time reporting on the drug violence, when the country has so many more stories to tell.

                        To this end, I've issued an Open Letter to Mr. Bourdain on my blog at:


                        Would love to know what you think.

                        El Gringo

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: agringoinmexico

                          Carry on, hermano! I share your love for Mexico.

                          1. re: agringoinmexico

                            Hi, agringo:

                            I think that anytime a photographer is employed full-time documenting tortured bodies dumped openly on the streets, it's hard to say it isn't a dominant feature of the culture.


                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              Hey Kaleo,

                              I see your point, and there is violence in Mexico. But again, it is a small part of the culture and I felt over-reported on last night's show...to the point of distressing many and maligning the image of Mexico as a destination, overall.

                              The same photographer would probably be quite busy in Chicago, BTW.

                              El Gringo

                              1. re: agringoinmexico

                                Hi, agringo:

                                Don't get me wrong, I love much about beautiful Mexico, and I have some great and fond memories from there. I and my family have had many kindnesses shown us in Mexico for which I will always be grateful.

                                But with due respect, the narco-corruption in Mexico is not only a dominant part of the culture, but its tendrils reach into literally *everything*. I think it's charitable to state that, in Mexico, criminals don't fear law enforcement because by and large they *are* law enforcement. Or at least two branches of the same tree.

                                There is simply nothing in the modern United States to compare with the many tens of thousands of organized murders fueled by the narcos and tolerated by many of those who they kill, terrorize, coopt, and cow. I find it disturbingly dismissive of such a appalling state of affairs to say merely "Things are better now".

                                Torture, murder, and the poisoning of democracy by organized crime should never be banal, but IMO they are in Mexico. There's really no glossing over it.


                              2. re: kaleokahu

                                Now that's a job I would pay good money not to have.

                              3. re: agringoinmexico

                                AGiM, I left a comment on your blog before I posted the link over here :-). I'm a local, so you can probably figure out which comment it was ;-D

                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  LOL! I do know...thanks for the comment Diva!

                                  El Gringo

                                2. re: agringoinmexico

                                  It was courteous of AB to reply on your blog, and so quickly. He certainly doesn't sugar coat anything and calls 'em as he sees 'em. I like the man.
                                  FWIW, I'm no AB but I chimed in, also.

                                  1. re: agringoinmexico

                                    I think one problem in this discussion is where you set the relevant or “acceptable” standard of violence for any country. If you compare discussions with citiziens (or official foreign departments) of different countries around the world about violence in Mexico you often will get the very different opinions depending from which country the person comes from. Most western (or countries with reasonable violence rates all over the world) would strongly disagree that the violence in Mexico is anywhere near an acceptable level with ~80000 people killed (and by far many not only because they where directly involved in drug dealing etc). Whereas countries like the US which has for most other countries a very high rate of violent crimes/murder often will argue that it is not “that bad” which for me is more a reflection of their indifference against murder and violent crime in their own country, as they see/read these kinds of killings/violence on a regular basis in their own country (and not because the press is more prone to pick up such stories).
                                    It always sounds strange for me when somebody describes trips in other countries with the caveat to make sure that you “don’t go in the wrong part” or “know your surroundings” etc. if you don’t want to risk your life. Is is possible to get killed or robbed during a trip to other western countries ? – Yes, but the likelihood is much smaller and you don’t really need “to know all your surroundings” or “avoid some parts of a city or country”

                                  2. Bourdain has been getting more and more into this murky mix of "travel writing" and "journalism" which I don't enjoy - particularly when it's a region of the world I'm familiar with. I've always found his "travel writing" to be a mixed bag (based on his No Reservations Egypt episode, I tried a few things with wildly mixed results) - but he's just not a journalist. His CNN shows that stray too far from food/culture/human stories telling always end (to me) feeling like someone who's gone a mile wide and an inch deep in any given issue.

                                    20 Replies
                                    1. re: cresyd

                                      Well, that’s kinda who he is. Read one of his fiction novels if you can get your hands on one cheap. He tries to come off as say the next Carl Hiaasen, but never quite gets there. The depth in the plot is never really developed to make a great novel. It will be a good novel, but you’re not anxious to run out and buy the next one. I don’t know if it laziness, lack of ability or both. That is for me, also how his journalism comes off. It sounds good, he has a great voice, but there really is very little insight or depth to it when you really look at it.

                                      1. re: mike0989

                                        Yeah - I mean it's easy to dump on various Travel Channel/Food Network travel shows - but if you rank the restaurants/suggestions from Bourdain on places to try food (excluding all home cooked meals) - in my experience they rank from "wow, that's yummy" to "what horrific advice". His suggestions on where to try pigeon in Cairo should NOT be followed.

                                        I do think he's a charismatic story teller, but it really is all surface.

                                        1. re: mike0989

                                          If I recall correctly, John Gardner's complaint about "The Grapes of Wrath" was that it was not great art because it only considered the point of view of the workers, while the bosses were universally villains.

                                          I don't know if Bourdain can be cast in so severe a light--many of the subjects in this episode were bosses in their own right--but generally speaking he is a rare animal these days, a writer who considers first and foremost the people who are doing the work.

                                          Viewers/readers may think a message like "work is hard and inevitable for almost everyone" is simplistic and obvious, but it's a message pretty well lost everywhere else (particularly on television) and should be brought into the mix from time to time.

                                          1. re: ennuisans

                                            I didn't watch the Mexico episode - so I'm not commenting specifically on this episode. But other episodes of both his Travel Channel and CNN shows have left me disappointed by how he chooses to research/collect/present stories that touch on issues beyond food and families.

                                            While I agree that he's a story teller who does consider individuals - I think he then makes very large leaps to what that says about larger issues. It's one thing to say "I talked to this family, and this is how this larger issue impacts their lives" - however, I find that he often goes "I talked to this family - and this larger issue is xyz".

                                            1. re: cresyd

                                              Hi, cresy:

                                              My wager is that you, like many others, disagree with what you perceive to be his politics, or feel that he comes down on one side or the other of issues.

                                              How large a statistical sample (and how small a MOE) can we expect in 20 minutes of actual content?


                                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                                I think if I was with Bourdain at a dinner party, most of our politics would align fairly well. Which is why when he tries to make a point that ultimately I agree with - his lack of depth and information is frustrating. Because it's so easy for opponents of that idea to dismiss him.

                                                I would just rather he try to do less. I think there are stories he can tell very well about people, food and culture. But too often he dabbles in larger issues (often political) and what he presents is weak.

                                                1. re: cresyd

                                                  Hi, cresyd:

                                                  I see and respect what you mean. But now I'm unclear if you think he's doing too much or too little.

                                                  I agree that big issues are generally not amenable to resolution via commercial television. At least this show attempts to ground some such issues in their local contexts with the people who live--and cook--in the moment with those issues. I'm not aware of any other show that does this as powerfully and succinctly as AB's.


                                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                                    At the moment I think he does both too much and too little.

                                                    To provide an example without starting a political discussion - Bourdain was very happy to snark at Paula Deen about being horrible regarding her recipes and relationships with corporations. He's also had some pretty nasty things to say about Alice Waters and her take on organic/slow food. Now I'm not saying you have to be either Deen or Waters and that there isn't a middle ground - but Bourdain doesn't really provide "his way" in what he thinks is a better role model for food/eating in a succinct or focused way. He meanders about food ways that he respects in his various books/shows - but he doesn't really provide any kind of alternative model (or hero) that's cohesive.

                                                    This approach to being a food celebrity doesn't bother me so much. As he is just a food celebrity who's built a brand off of being a "bad boy". But when he gets into various more politically charged issues - I find it careless and disappointing.

                                                    If you want to yell "Rachel Ray is corrupt and evil" and then sit back down and have minimal follow up thoughts, so be it. But when you do the equivalent of "The leaders of X country are corrupt and evil" - I'd prefer more behind it.

                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                      Hi, cresyd:

                                                      So you'd want him to do more *and* less.

                                                      I find AB off-puttingly abrasive in his writings, but I don't get that as much from his TV shows. He might throw a few Molotovs, but I really find it refreshing that he's happy in an observer/commentator role. There's far too much throwdown and self-aggrandizement going on already in "foodertainment", and I like that AB usually won't go there. My sense is he'd rather self-deprecate. I find a admirable specie of humility in that.

                                                      Maybe CNN will underwrite AB doing a multi-part investigative series on corruption in Mexico, give him some real incendiaries to drop. I'd watch!


                                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                                        An investigative series on corruption in Mexico would be highly risky and better left to others.

                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                          Here goes: Tony is a very creative soul. He must continue to 're-invent' himself. That's fine.
                                                          As I suggested in this or another thread he needs to give us less of Pol Pot and more polenta.
                                                          "A foot wide and an inch deep" describes Tony's sometimes snarky ironic NYC style take on the rest of the world.
                                                          I don't like how Tony assumes that his viewer base is 'stupid' enough to believe his 'expert' take on all things 'foreign and 'political'
                                                          I'm reminded of a kid who just got back from a two week family holiday in Switzerland who wants to tell me about the failings of the Swiss parliament.
                                                          Note to Tony: You ain't so much pal.
                                                          What I'm seeing now is a third 'About Tony and how he got pissed last night. A third about the local food. And a third about whatever biased propaganda his LIB producer has 'Goggled' up about the country he's 'not having a good time in".

                                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                                            Exactly. I can think of one specific example on his CNN show where in order to create the "narrative" he wants he basically has some locals (who I'm familiar with and are incredible attention seekers - so this notion that he's just pulling undiscovered folks out of thin air....) say a sentence that is untrue. In context and with a lot of explanation the statement has truth. But as it's presented, it's not. And knowing the girl who said it - I know that she knows that sentence in that way isn't true.

                                                            Now this is one episode about a place and a context I am very familiar with. And yes, the issue is politically charged. But it just puts doubt on his overall credibility. I don't expect anyone to be a true expert on the number of places he has visited over the years. I know the show clearly hires researchers to do all the work he's not - but I don't get why there's such a reach to try and make such sweeping statements.

                                                            I'd bet a lot that his next season will include a trip to the Ukraine. And some very insightful commentary, no doubt.

                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                              I admire his passion for all things foreign, and his desire to be immersed in local cultures, but there are simply too many worldwide to thoroughly understand them all and articulate accurately about all of them. In Mexico, there is a big difference between being a dilettante and being an hermano. My experiences there span 43 years and I truly feel accepted there.

                                                              1. re: Puffin3

                                                                Hi, Puffin:

                                                                Then why do you watch? Just to keep tabs on the "LIB"s?

                                                                It's not like there's a shortage of viewers--the show beats Fox "News" in the time slot. http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2014...

                                                                Maybe all 800,000 average viewers hate the show? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04...


                                                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                  I watch his shows b/c I think he's generally a very good observer/reporter on things food related and how culture and food are always intertwined.
                                                                  Every one is entitled to their opinions. You, me and Tony.
                                                                  Oh yeah. I watch b/c more often than not Tony does a 'Lyon' which makes up for his past and future sins visa vi making broad stroke generalizations about cultures he does not, nor can never know well enough to be taken as any sort of authority on.

                                                                  1. re: Puffin3

                                                                    Hi, Puffin:

                                                                    OK, good. You enjoy Bourdain's shows enough to keep watching, in *spite* of all the "LIB", "snark", "Pol Pot", and "You ain't so much pal" invective you like to throw his way.

                                                                    I get it now.


                                                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                      I'm sure AB is horribly hurt and discouraged by Puffin's insightful assessment.

                                                                      Makes you wonder how he can keep going on doing what he's doing.

                                                                2. re: Puffin3

                                                                  As he wrote in his response to the blogger, he produces his own show. HE decides what he says, where they go, etc.

                                                                  Ain't no LIB (?) producer telling him anything.

                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                    I stand corrected. I should have wrote "LIB researcher" not producer.
                                                                    I've been watching Tony from his first shows years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that Tony's 'people' all 'lean' in the same direction politically as Tony does.
                                                                    I have a relative in the food show TV production industry. She tells me, and I believe her that when a production crew of six or eight people go on the road for a couple of weeks with the 'talent' there's no way they are not all generally of the same political stripe.
                                                                    On a scale of one to a hundred what are the odds of a young perspective intern walking into any of the 'food-show' production businesses like the one Tony has a share in, wearing a 'Now aren't you sorry you didn't vote for Romney?' button getting the position?
                                                                    Got it in one.

                                                              2. re: kaleokahu

                                                                No - going forward I would like to see him do less. If he wants to do more, I'd like to see him do it seriously and in a narrow context.

                                                                I think that there are specific countries that he has shown a greater affinity for and interest in (Vietnam comes to mind) where if he were to really invest time and research, might be worthwhile. But as it is, since I doubt him of being able to do that, I'd rather he just do less.

                                              2. Another response to PU (and let's face it, this episode *was* a stinker) Mexico. This time from a Mexican blogger


                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                                  Here's more about Bill Esparza. I believe he's still based in Los Angeles, not Mexico. He used to post on the site. http://m.laweekly.com/squidink/2009/0...

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    Yes, he is definitely still in LA, and he is still definitely Mexican ;-D

                                                  2. re: DiningDiva

                                                    no big shock to see mr. esparza complaining about somebody ELSE'S view of mexico or part of mexico.
                                                    i love his food recommendations, but having read a bunch of his stuff, he's a little too macho and a little to into his own view of being "real" and "legit" for my taste.
                                                    also, one might notice the comments section on his blog is moderated, and, shocker, only comments agreeing with him are posted thus far.

                                                    people are welcome to not enjoy an episode of television, but much too much is being made of forty odd minutes here, in my opinion.

                                                    this was bourdain's view of a part of mexico he finds interesting. nothing more, nothing less.

                                                  3. He has some stinkers. The show is inconsistent. But occasionally he makes a great episode. The Punjab and Jerusalem episodes really stick out in my mind. Overall, his switch to CNN gave him more production $ and freedom, and I think the product is at least on par with No Reservations.

                                                    1. I fast forwarded thru most of his blabbing. I don't need Bourdain's opinion on anything because there's nothing insightful. He's creative and witty but he's not much at analyzing facts and history.

                                                      1. It's funny, but we kind of had the same thoughts about the Detroit episode. A whole lot of ruin porn, poor pitiful Detroit, etc. But zero about the many many new restaurants opening, the crazy growth in the Midtown area, places where you can't even rent an apartment anymore because the demand is so high, etc.

                                                        I guess it's what people expect to see, and they just fed that.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: coney with everything

                                                          To add some sort of weird insult to injury the station I watched the Mexico and the Lyon episodes on decided to run them night after night 'back to back'.
                                                          This went on for four nights consecutively!
                                                          Guess the TV station execs read CH. LOL

                                                        2. Hey, I'm watching his episode in Russia. Can anyone explain why we aren't having such an embroiled exchange about his liberal championing of the people against Putin?

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: ennuisans

                                                            IMO Tony needs to 're-invent' himself every few yews as so many creative people need to. It's in their genes.
                                                            Months ago when Tony was at 'those other' networks he was 'Tony Version 101'.
                                                            I predicted back when it was announced he would be moving to CNN he would become 'Tony Version 201' (Jane is 'nuts' about him) moving more towards 'political/social commentary'. Which he has done. In a couple of years we'll see 'Tony Version 340-A' when we will watch Tony travelling the world doing God knows what. (He's probably sketching out the 'Version 340-A' episodes already.)
                                                            I made a mistake whining about 'the new Tony'. He is who he is and whatever he brings to the 'Boob-Tube' I will eagerly watch. There are very few TV shows I will watch more than once. I've now watched 'Lyon' and 'Mexico' each four times. That says it all.

                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                              Hey, Puffin:

                                                              Since we're in mistake-admission mode, for the record I thought the Russia episode was a powerful argument for your original point--more borscht, less Bolshevik, Tony.

                                                              Let's see if it gets better or worse tonight on the Mississippi Delta. I may well capitulate if it's all BP all the time...


                                                          2. My wifeacita, brother and sister in law went across the border from South Texas yesterday, and...........lived.

                                                            54 Replies
                                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                                              Matamoros? There is a really good restaurant there, I wish I could remember its name. The drive from Matamoros to Veracruz is now unsafe; I won't do it again.

                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                No, Nuevo Progreso, a very small but safe border town. It's a border town junior with everything the bigger ones offer. Farmacia, dentistas, bars, poverty, etc. There are signs imploring people to not give the street kids money because it is more "economical" to beg than go to school. I like Arturo's Restaurant. They do a really good fried speckled trout, almost as good as mine. The margaritas at the bar will flatten you and are delicious, not the sweet syrupy ones sold in the US, premium brands $1.55.


                                                                    1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                      I might have just had a little epiphany:
                                                                      I'll phrase it in a few questions.
                                                                      All of us cooking show watchers over lo these many years started watching shows about how the host made this or that dish. JP/JC/The Galloping Gourmet/the dude who (cough) 'adopted' that young boy etc. Then people like Floyd started doing his cooking shows 'somewhere foreign' like France of all places!
                                                                      Then a lot of cooking shows morphed into cooking AND travel shows. We were getting a 'two-fur'.
                                                                      These strange exotic locations were and still are places most of us would love to visit. Burgundy any one?
                                                                      But now days if a cooking show is simply one in which we watch some one make cup cakes in her 'maybe kitchen' located in Guelph in what used to be a brick factory, we feel let down because we are not getting the shots of the town square somewhere in Spain.
                                                                      Along comes Tony. He's been taking us 'gastronaughts' to places many of his viewers would never want to visit in a million years. Beirut? Mexico? Present day Russia? Mississippi? Laos? Brazil? Punjab? And the worst real life horror movie location probably on earth Las Vegas!
                                                                      My question is is the negative reaction, by some, to Tony's current food-travel-politics latest incarnation based on the fact that our 'comfort zone' is being invaded?
                                                                      Has the time passed when we could come home, quickly get into our comfy cloths grab a cold beer and a piece of cold fried chicken and turn on Tony's latest 'Parts Unknown' and just sit on the couch and peacefully 'zone'? Or are we going to have to watch miles and miles of shanty shacks and little kids with flies crawling on their eyes carrying old AK45's while we listen to the voice-over he did in the sound studio in Manhattan?
                                                                      Is this the face of the next glut of 'cooking shows'?
                                                                      Have we moved from watching Julia and Jaques making an elegant meatloaf to RR screwing up making a meatloaf to GF gobbling a whole meat loaf to Tony explaining why no one has any meatloaf except the 'Queen' and 'Bush'.......and the Koch brothers?

                                                                      1. re: Puffin3

                                                                        Parts Unknown was never conceived to be a cooking or a food show. It's a travel show with some focus on food and the local situation in general.

                                                                        Further, AB has *always* been political in his shows.

                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                          AB has always been 'snarky' and 'ironic'. The odd little political comment might have been snuck in years ago in the Cook's Tour series about how bad it must have been in Tokyo during the 'Meiji' period. But that was about it.
                                                                          The fact that there is even a discussion on CH about the course AB has embarked on in his latest shows proves the point that his viewers are noticing there is indeed a noticeable change.

                                                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                                                            Ahem. *You* are the poster who has started this discussion and you have shared your enlightening views of AB and how *you* think he could probably do his job/show better in a few other threads.

                                                                            The fact remains that PU ≠ Cook's Tour ≠ No Reservations.

                                                                        2. re: Puffin3

                                                                          Well let me ask this in response:

                                                                          When Rick Bayless or his analogue heads down to Mexico to learn how they cook, what is he in for? If he dashes in for a little quicky cilantro time and runs back north of the border, wouldn't he be kind of a dick?

                                                                          What AB is doing here is kind of a Fuck You to fusion. I'm personally looking for a tortilla press so I can learn to make them properly but watching someone grind the freaking corn, rather than buying a honking bag of masa, reminds me that I do not cook Mexican food, no matter how I might try.

                                                                          The food is personal, and the personal is political. AB gets that.

                                                                          1. re: ennuisans

                                                                            Yes Tony "gets that". That is not the point of this thread. The point is the way Tony has changed in his presenting style. Some like the 'old Tony' some like the 'new Tony'.
                                                                            There is no debate as to whether Tony's presenting style has changed however.
                                                                            Anyone think FN would have put on the Cook's Tour back in early 2000 with the 'Mexico' episode of today?

                                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                                              No, Tony is the same he ever was; he simply has more liberties where he is now.

                                                                              Obviously, FN isn't particularly interested in too much political content.

                                                                              Funny, as this seems to be the case with many viewers of his new show on CNN.....

                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                I agree that Tony is operating with more liberties - but I also think this is a case of an ego believing that he is the person with the vision and the perspective to tell these political stories.

                                                                                Earlier, I'm sure he had more heavy handed bosses saying "no, do it xyz way only". Now I imagine most of this is a case of "this is what viewers and market research want" - but my personal opinion is that there was also a case of "you're not really the person for this job". I'd love to be at a dinner party with Bourdain and discuss our takes and perspectives on various global politics based on our various experiences and newspaper reading. But when he steps up as a voice of authority on these issues, I feel he more often than not exposes himself as not being as educated as the story demands.

                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                  Let's face it. Tony and Jane's 'politics' mesh perfectly.
                                                                                  The typical CNN viewer is 'vanilla-Liberal'. Just like Ted and Jane. Sort of like those 'limousine Liberals' being chauffeured around Manhattan 'grazing' on the latest 'the chef has no clothes' restaurant fare.
                                                                                  I know some one who has been and is living in that culture for decades in NYC.
                                                                                  It's NEVER about the food. It's 100% about who is seen eating at some phoney-baloney latest restaurant.
                                                                                  It's all a pretty sad pathetic joke. And people like Tony have been 'washed in the blood' of such ludicrous restaurants. He speaks from experience. That's why Kitchen Confidential was such an enormous success.

                                                                                  1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                    I haven't a clue who "Jane" is, nor do I know where you get your presumptuous generalizations, but you are obviously highly convinced of your interesting opinions.

                                                                                    Let's just leave it at that, shall we ?

                                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                                      My guess is the reference is to Jane Fonda (surprised it wasn't "Hanoi Jane") who I think has been divorced from Ted Turner (who really doesn't program CNN) since 2000, maybe?

                                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                                          I'll have to see if I can find my legwarmers and Betamax workout tape ...

                                                                                      1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                        I am glad you can explain the world to us with generaliztions like "'vanilla-Liberal" and 'limousine Liberals'

                                                                                    2. re: Puffin3

                                                                                      "The point is the way Tony has changed in his presenting style" - I think this is where a number of people disagree with you. AB style of presenting his shows hasn;t changed (inlcuding political comments) but being now on CNN many people seem to forget that it was never meant to be a food show but a travel show with some food parts if approbiate. I would like to see him focusing more on the travel part including more politicial comments.

                                                                                      1. re: honkman

                                                                                        Baloney. Cooks Tour was 99.999% about food and the culture around food where ever he went. Go back and watch all of them again. IF there was the slightest mention of the local politics it was a barely perceptible 'dog-whistle'.

                                                                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                          Even at Cooks Tour but even more at No Reservation (and in addition in his multiple books) he always had the same stule of presentation including political/non-food related comments

                                                                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                            Cooks Tour was a relatively short lived series on FN (35 episodes). No Reservations was on TC. TC is now part of Scripps, but wasn't when he started there. When people talk about Tony always being political, they are more likely to be thinking about NR episodes (142).

                                                                                        2. re: Puffin3

                                                                                          Which is exactly why Bourdain left FN.

                                                                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                            It's been 14 years. I imagine his presenting style has changed a bit. There's nothing wrong with that.

                                                                                            Also, there's nothing said in your OP about his presenting differently, so it's hardly fair to say that's "the point of this thread".

                                                                                        3. re: Puffin3

                                                                                          Hi, Puffin: "[I]s the negative reaction, by some, to Tony's current food-travel-politics latest incarnation based on the fact that our 'comfort zone' is being invaded?"

                                                                                          I think that's a big part of it. Let's call it Reverse Schadenfreude. It's the biggest reason why most comfortable people and politicians ignore social problems.

                                                                                          IMO, many of the bellyachers about AB *want* sanitized versions of the world. And if they disagree with his politics, they often take it personally.

                                                                                          I thought the Mississippi Delta episode last night was a big improvement over Russia. You?


                                                                                          1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                            I've only seen these two shows and had no problem with either one. When I saw this one was Mississippi Delta I incorrectly assumed it would be about the geographical delta which is pretty much Louisiana. I learned something new living relatively close in SE Texas. By the way, my childhood neighbor was an FBI agent and he went there working on the civil rights workers' case.

                                                                                          2. re: Puffin3

                                                                                            "My question is is the negative reaction, by some, to Tony's current food-travel-politics latest incarnation based on the fact that our 'comfort zone' is being invaded?"

                                                                                            My reaction to ABs Mexico episode had absolutely nothing to do with being out of my comfort zone. I spend a lot of time in Mexico...more as a traveler as opposed to a tourist. I've seen the poverty, I've had friends threatened by cartels and the husband of my cousin had one of his own cousins assassinated by Los Zetas in Monterrey because he refused to be extorted, I've heard the gunshots in Morelia but thankfully, not experienced them.

                                                                                            I've been very nearly off the grid (in Eastern Oaxaca) and in the homes of people that had far less than I. And yes, there is fear, and yes, there is a sense that the endemic internal corruption can't be overcome. My travels in Mexico don't usually take me to the usual tourist destinations or zonas touristicas. But there is also a culturally rich and diverse side to Mexico along with a tremendous sense of resiliency that AB failed - whether deliberately or not - to even address. Mexico has a dark underbelly to be sure, there is no denying that. But it also has a vibrant/colorful counterpoint.

                                                                                            The blog piece AB wrote that was posted the day before the Mexico episode was brilliant...probably one of the best and most articulate and concise essays I've seen on Mexico in a while...and there was some balance to it. What that did, however, was set-up my expectations that PU-Mexico would be an extension of the blog entry. It wasn't. The show lacked that same articulate edge and certainly lacked balance. I'm not saying he needed to go all resort inclusive, but Mexico is also not all evil and darkness either. Certainly expectations are a very personal thing and each one of us is responsible for our own. ABs blog piece set my expectation bar pretty high and then failed to deliver. For me there was a huge disconnect between his blog essay, the TV show and my personal experiences in Mexico. That is hardly being out of my comfort zone.

                                                                                            Frankly, I'm tired of all the travel/cooking shows. They rarely do justice to either the location or the food. Throwing politics into the mix just muddies the genre.

                                                                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                              Hey DiningDiva

                                                                                              i saw a post you made about having like 200 mexican cookbooks.
                                                                                              I was hoping you could recommend one to me.
                                                                                              I live in South Africa, and have seen Rick Bayless on TV. He seems to be an amazing chef.
                                                                                              I want to buy one of his books but don't know which one to buy.
                                                                                              Which would you recommend buy?
                                                                                              Bare in mind that i don't always have access to rare ingredients in South Africa, and may need to sometimes substitute ingredients.

                                                                                              Thanks for the help


                                                                                              1. re: jaredwatson

                                                                                                I've had the opportunity to cook with Rick Bayless several times. What you see on TV is pretty much what you get in real life.

                                                                                                I have all his books except the last one and the recipes are solid. If you want an RB cookbook, I can recommend 2 that are good for cooks just getting into Mexican cuisine.

                                                                                                "Salsas That Cook" is a small little book but really good. The first chapter has 8 essential salsas that are scaled for 3 different yields. He also provides suggestions for chile substitutions for each salsa. The remainder of the book is 50 recipes that all use at least one of the salsas as an ingredient.

                                                                                                The other book I can recommend, especially since sourcing ingredients could be a problem for you, is "Everyday Mexican". Mexican cooking tends to be a laborious and sometimes lengthy endeavor. In this book, RB has streamlined much of the preparation process while retaining the integrity of the flavor profiles. The recipes use everyday ingredients and most recipes also have suggestions for changing them up using different chiles, proteins and even cooking methods. The slow cooker recipes are surprisingly good, the only caveat there, is to watch the cooking times. The crockpot cooking times in the book were too long for my crockpot. This book also contains a section on salads, which aren't traditionally part of the Mexican kitchen. These are non-traditional recipes with really good flavor profiles.

                                                                                                Two other cookbooks I can recommend for novice Mexican cooks are

                                                                                                Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibañez and Pati's Mexican table by Pati Kinich.

                                                                                                The trick to mastering Mexican cooking isn't so much to master the ingredients as much as it is to learn the techniques which are not based in, or on, the European cooking styles or methods. They are based more on pre-Colombian techniques that have been filtered through the collision with the Conquest.

                                                                                    3. re: Veggo

                                                                                      the drive from Matamoros to Veracruz only carries about 15,000 cars a day. That is pretty scary. You taking notes from AB?

                                                                                      1. re: genoO

                                                                                        Watched the Layover Taipei episode last night. I listened and watched carefully for Tony's comments on the 'politics' of Taipei. He made a very brief, one sentence comment about China and Japan visa vi Taipei and said something like "and that's all I'm going to say about that".
                                                                                        He did not seem on his game. He did however outdo himself with the 'potty-talk'. It seems that the more he's 'not happy' the more potty-talk he uses.

                                                                                          1. re: honkman

                                                                                            Yeah, maybe he has a "gal-pal", too. it's a mode of linguistic denigration found mostly in the tabloids, e.g. the New York Post and Drudge.

                                                                                            1. re: honkman

                                                                                              "Potty-talk" is a phrase used for decades to describe language referring to anything 'below the belt'.
                                                                                              Tony offered in the Taipei episode that if "your first date didn't enjoy eating this there is no way she was going to suck your .....".
                                                                                              That is referred to as 'potty-talk'.
                                                                                              As I pointed out when Tony is not a happy Tony Tony 'acts out' so to speak.

                                                                                              1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                There is a very good talk from Lewis Black about people who are offended about stuff like this and why they should grow up (It's highly recommended) - In addition, some people (who are nearly always wrong) seem to think they "know" somebody they see on TV like a real person and what character he/she has.

                                                                                                1. re: honkman

                                                                                                  "I just got fired. Aw, pussy feathers :-)"

                                                                                                  1. re: honkman

                                                                                                    Oh, you mean like how Black, who has never met Cruz, and only seen him on TV "know's" Cruz "like a real person and what character he/she has"?
                                                                                                    Got it. LOL

                                                                                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                      Cruz? Who's Cruz? Is this another 80s reference I'm not getting?

                                                                                                      Gosh darnit, it's complicated to keep up with this #2.

                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                        honkman post> Lewis Black> Ted Cruz comment visa vi making comments about people we only see on TV yet decide we know all about them.

                                                                                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                          Oh, *that* Cruz. Lewis Black mentions him in his routine about saying fuck? Huh. I thought that asshole Cruz hadn't crawled out from under his slimy rock when Black was doing this.

                                                                                                          But I think I know enough about that guy "from TV" to think he's a raging lunatic, but that's just me. Which is why I'd rather not know any more about him than I already do :-)

                                                                                                  2. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                    Hi, Puffin: "As I pointed out when Tony is not a happy Tony Tony 'acts out' so to speak."

                                                                                                    Yes, better point it out again. I'm not sure everyone got it the first 5x.

                                                                                                    Quite an epiphany to learn what 'potty-talk' means, and that someone sometimes swears on cable TV.

                                                                                                    I wonder if you'd be hammering on this if it weren't for all the Limousine Liberals, bush-haters, Jane Fonda, "vanilla libs", ingrates-for-WW2, producers, etc., etc. you seem to think are propping up AB and his ilk. I worry for you if/when AB ever mentions climate change...


                                                                                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                                      "ever mentions climate change... " - What climate change ? And the earth is only 8000 years old.

                                                                                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                                        You drink your 'Kool Aid' and I'll drink mine pal.
                                                                                                        I don't think any one is "propping up" Tony.
                                                                                                        It was a natural perfect fit for Tony to end up at 'Ted and Jane's' network.
                                                                                                        What good old Tony does not yet realize is good old Ted and Jane will dump Tony in a heart-beat the first time he goes off the CNN/Liberal 'reservation'. They have done it to hundreds of employees over the years. Tony is currently their 'darling baby-boy' Liberal.
                                                                                                        The trouble with Ted and Jane is they have a notoriously short attention span.
                                                                                                        I give Tony two more years and he'll be on his own cable network. Maybe he can pick up some cheap 'techno-shit' from Al Gore's garbage bin. Maybe AA has some dusty mixing boards they want to sell off to pay for the over due storage locker fees?

                                                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                            Not sure if it is cute but since you are living in Berlin (if I remember correctly) you might agree that Puffin3 pretty much resembles the image of Americans most Germans (and other Europeans) have when I fly back home and talk with them.

                                                                                                            1. re: honkman

                                                                                                              Only during the summer months, sadly -- I spend 3/4 of the year in the US of A.

                                                                                                              I also recently became one of youz guyz, so I'll hafta park my status as Superior European Onlooker tsk-ing 'murrcans in one of those storage lockers Puffin3 mentioned. Sad, really '-)

                                                                                                              1. re: honkman

                                                                                                                Maybe that's one of many many reasons most of Europe is in the crapper socially/financially.
                                                                                                                They can't tell the difference between a 'Canuck', that being me and a 'murrican'. And they call 'murricans' "stupid" LOL!

                                                                                                                Note to Tony: Less Queen-bashing OK pal?
                                                                                                                Make some more excellent episodes like Lyon and write some more excellent novels.
                                                                                                                Last post on this thread. "Miss me". XXXOOO

                                                                                                                1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                  Puffin has a point: the more Canada and Europe emulate the austerity/US model, the more everyone suffers, and the more everyone homogenizes. Everyone who was once in a higher point suffers the same, and looks to the lower classes equally for answers.

                                                                                                            2. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                              Hi, Puffin:

                                                                                                              I think you've had enough of whatever has inspired such vitriol.

                                                                                                              For the record, I'm a lifelong registered Republican. It's this kind of sloganeering, demonizing and deprecation (and the pandering that goes with it to win primaries) that keep losing elections and membership. Go ahead, prove my point, call me a RINO.

                                                                                                              All over a travel/cooking show? We're doomed.


                                                                                                              1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                So, how come they didn't fire him after he showed how much he loves guns on the New Mexico episode?

                                                                                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                          I watched an episode of Layover after watching the Parts Unknown Mexico episode. In the style of Monty Python's Miss Anne Elk, "My theory, which belongs to me, is mine."... In the Layover episode he was in Paris. Tony loves France. Tony loves Paris. This episode (ok, all Layover episodes) came off as if he were some tortured artist forced to fulfill contractual obligations. It was all forced. Like most people going through a divorce, he put his best face on, didn't badmouth the other party too much, and performed his duties. It did seem pretty clear toward the end of his time on Travel Channel he was a trained monkey who should just show us the good stuff, the pretty pictures and nothing more, please.

                                                                                                          With Parts Unknown he's been given freer reign. Though we are in season two, I think he is still feeling his way around this show. Striking a balance between the food travelogues of his past endeavors and trying to synthesize and share his thoughts on what's going on in the bigger picture. I'll give him time to figure it out. I like hearing his thoughts, especially when I don't agree with him. I also think he's a little bored with presenting the food. Look! Street food! Noodles! Offal! He's done it all hundreds of times.

                                                                                                          I liked this episode in Mexico. I've been to Mexico a few times including Cuernavaca. Finding out more about how the drug trade is ever shifting is part of being a citizen of the planet. How trade of goods affects those in the trade and everyone else affects policies here and everywhere. Trying to convey these things within the context of a travel show is a balancing act. And I get that some people would rather he stick to the cool food and pretty pictures. I find it interesting, even with or perhaps because of his spin.

                                                                                                          Again, "My theory, which belongs to me, is mine."


                                                                                                          1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                                            I appreciate Tony for wanting/needing to move away from your basic 'foodie'/travelogue show.
                                                                                                            He's done that already all over the world.
                                                                                                            He seems like he is growing tired of the gig and why not.
                                                                                                            I just don't kie it when he sneaks in under his breath those little 'ironic' snarky NYC-style comments about people and their governments in countries where Tony will always be looking in from outside.
                                                                                                            Last comment on this thread: (I'm sure you'll be happy to know)
                                                                                                            I particularly did not like his little dig at the Queen and how useless the Monarchy is.
                                                                                                            He apparently does not understand simple math. The Queen/Monarchy brings to Britain a LOT of tourist dollars. The Queen doesn't take a penny from the British taxpayer. The Monarchy has supported itself for decades through investment income.
                                                                                                            When part of the Queens residence burned down the Queen herself paid every penny to rebuild it.

                                                                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                              I've just reread this entire thread and I understand why you've had enough of it.

                                                                                                              Best to let Mr. Bourdain speak for himself. Here's his blurb about the episode, complete with typo: http://www.cnn.com/video/shows/anthon...

                                                                                                              As for the snark, I think that was factory installed. Without snark would Kitchen Confidential or Anthony Bourdain have made it onto anyone's radar?

                                                                                                              I've appreciated reading your thoughts (and everyone else's too) on this. Though we disagree, you made me think about the micro and macro ideas in this and other episodes.

                                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                                      The better question is: Why isn't Alton Brown in Mexico 24/7/365?