Following Anthony Bourdain’s death, I – like a lot of other people – started binge watching his show ‘Parts Unknown’ via Netflix. It’s a great show, full of humor and drama and some amazing food. Netflix extended it’s run of the show, so I’m not sure how much longer it’ll be on and I suggest you catch it while you can.
Some thoughts. You have to be absolutely fearless about food in order to do a show like this one. There isn’t anything Bourdain doesn’t eat or drink on his travels. He seeks out the local delicacies with an abandonment of caution. Watching him do it is infectious and entertaining.
I’m reminded that people from different cultures look at food in different ways, something I think Americans tend to forget. Parts Unknown slaps you in the face with this repeatedly. You see animals being hunted for food, you watch as they are slaughtered and prepared and eventually cooked. Bourdain is fond of necks and heads, and will often ask for meat from them. If you’re not ready for these moments, they can shock you. They shocked me. Watching people kill and slaughter a camel, for example, blew my mind.
The foundation of the show is to illustrate other cultures through their food, and in that way, it’s absolutely brilliant. Bourdain’s commentary via voice over is often poignant and compelling. He doesn’t hold back, and that’s powerful. I love it, and the show.
I also love the various comments he makes about CNN and the various personalities on that channel. They crop up at the oddest moments and are almost always hilarious. Done in a genuinely irreverant way, they remind me of David Letterman talking about General Electric back in the days of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC.
A caveat – you will most likely get hungry watching this show. Unless you’re a vegan or vegetarian, because while there are moments where some truly breathtaking vegetarian cuisine are shown and featured, Bourdain is an unabashed carnivore and much of the tone of the show emphasizes that.
As of this writing, Parts Unknown is available to stream via Netflix.