The foodie is an imperiled class. Its members could be given to ingredient dogma and a rather sanctimonious snobbery, all the while ignoring some of the messy origins of global cuisines. It’s enough to know that agriculture is failing the palate. For instance, the rude conditions of certain subcontracted chicken farms, the violence of foie gras production, and other newfangled methods of improving crop yields, for instance, do not show up as much on Instagram, but these realities should simmer in a food rebel’s consciousness.
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The prime example of this rebel is Anthony Bourdain, whose drug-fueled early days in chaotic kitchens are petering into a more pleasant denouement. He now has a life of authorship, travelogue, and near-royal food tasting everywhere he goes for his travel show, CNN’s “Parts Unknown.” Bourdain himself is a graduate of insalubrious culinary backstages, hence an authority in the trickeries of food production. His bestselling book, “Kitchen Confidential,” outed to diners kitchen practices that should not have cut it. The kitchens he’s been might have allowed Friday fish to spoil into Monday, chefs to gain weight out of laziness, and steaks to be cosmetically done up into passable portions, but multitudes of unknowing foodies the world over might still be lapping up the mystique.
It seems travel could balance out the blissful ignorance. Bourdain has been to the most unlikely places for food enjoyment, and is known to slum it in the most unaffected food havens, such as the streets of Shanghai or the watercress mud mussel ponds of Kerala (which he scoped in his previous show, “No Reservations.”) Such is food that might as well be openly partaken on a spitfire, fresh game away from the veneer of tidiness of starred restaurants and the hype of food criticism. To read (and watch) Bourdain is to return to the vestigial knowledge of food and chuck Michelin-preached canon. Only travel, it seems, can instruct the real foodies where it’s at. A restaurant gassing up on truffle oil has nothing on the white truffle forest hunts of Croatia.
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