Over the past few months, I’ve found a real love for Travel Channel’s No Reservations, a show featuring renowned chef Anthony Bourdain traveling around the world, sampling local food and waxing poetic about his encounters. I don’t want to paint the wrong kind of picture here. Bourdain’s no hippie beatnik, but instead a man who looks past the glossy images we’re presented of most foreign countries and instead experiences them himself through the most communal of endeavors: sharing a meal. The best episodes happen to be the ones where things don’t quite go as expected. There was one where the production crew found themselves in a country ripped apart by civil unrest or revolution (I can’t quite remember which or what country at the moment). Instead of eating his way through the area, Bourdain got to really experience what it was like to be in that kind of situation and he has such a way with words that those emotions are well conveyed to the audience.
Tonight’s season premiere found Bourdain traveling through Haiti, a country that has been devastated by both earthquakes and corrupt government. But even with all the death and hunger and poverty, as Bourdain points out, the people still seem to be in somewhat good spirits, create new art and music and do their best to keep their clothes fresh and clean. He and his fellow travelers like Sean Penn and native hosts point out that the media has a tendency to show only the awful things that have happened without 1) showing the full story and 2) doing any real good. It’s gotten so bad that the people of Haiti don’t want to be photographed, something that I haven’t seen on any of the previous episodes I’ve had the pleasure of watching. It’s a lot to take in, which is why I like the show so much. It teaches you without being too heavy handed and shows off the world in a different light than I’m used to seeing.
So good is that show, in fact, that you almost forget it’s about food, which makes it an apt choice for the Travel Channel over, say, The Food Network. Yes the food is important, but it’s more of a way to get into the lives of people instead of the main focus. But man, sometimes, No Reservations makes me HUNGRY. I mentioned that my favorite episodes tend to be the ones where things don’t go quite as planned, but that’s not entirely true. I also adore the ones where Tony, a generally cantankerous man, finds himself completely absorbed in the pleasure of enjoying food and drink with others. There was one where he was in I believe Brazil, and the episode ended with him just hanging out and enjoying some cocktails and kind of zoning out. It looked pretty fun.