Anthony Bourdain has proven that he is more than a chef. His books and his shows like No Reservations and Parts Unknown, illustrate an explorer that has gotten to know how food and war can be intimately related. Below are some interesting perspectives about places around the region. Read the whole interview at Blogs of War. You can follow Anthony Bourdain on Twitter @Bourdain and @PartsUnknownCNN.
Beirut is such a fantastic city–a place of such unbelievable possibilities. You can be sitting by the pool or listening to techno in a club one minute and having a wary conversation with Hezbollah ten minutes later. Its a very short ride. For all its problems ( all the problems and all the evils in the world in miniature, basically), it’s an absolutely magical, gorgeous city. Impossible to not fall in love with. It’s pheromonic. Some cities just smell good the second you land.
An interesting thing we noticed a while back was when we were shooting in pre-revolution Egypt. When we expressed a desire to shoot a segment at one of the ubiquitous street stands selling ful, our fixers and translators, who, no doubt also worked for some sinister department of the Interior Ministry, were absolutely adamant that we not do it. What was it about this simple, everyday, working class meal of beans and flatbread that just about everyone in Cairo was eating that was so threatening? Turns out, they knew better than us. The price of bread had been going up. The army controlled most of the bakeries and stocks of flour. There had been riots over bread elsewhere in the country. And the inescapable fact was that ful was ALL that much of the population was eating and the bastards knew it. That was an image they apparently considered sensitive , dangerous: their countrymen eating bread.
Gaza and West Bank
Its impossible to see Gaza, for instance, the camps, the West Bank and not find yourself reeling with the ugliness of it all. The absolute failure of smart, presumably good-hearted people on both sides to find something/anything better than what we’ve arrived at. And the willingness of people to not see what is plainly apparent, right there, enormous and frankly, hideous. Unfortunately, we live in a world where it’s nearly impossible to even describe reality much less deal with it. It’s utterly heartbreaking.
Iran was mind-blowing. My crew has NEVER been treated so well–by total strangers everywhere. We had heard that Persians are nice. But nicEST? Didn’t see that coming. Its very confusing. Total strangers thrilled to encounter Americans, just underneath the inevitable “Death To America” mural. The gulf between perception and reality, between government policy and what you see on the street and encounter in peoples homes, in restaurants–everywhere–it’s just incredible. There’s no way to be prepared for it.
Some environments,like Libya, its nice to know the history but events on the ground change so quickly it almost doesn’t matter. You have to develop a whole new style of moving and adapting. You learn as you go. And you learn fast.