Anthony Bourdain has taken me on journeys involving everything from self-discovery to to nostalgia without ever leaving my house.
His Trinidad episode took me back to my first international trip when I was 9 to visit my dad and his family. As I passively planned out wedding details (this was months ago), I watched as Anthony described a part of me that I’ve never really known. I guess they hit it on the nail with the title.
I don’t have a relationship with my dad’s side of my family, making my relationship to Trinidad complex. I’ve always found myself drawn to the ocean with a love for the sound of steel drums and when Bourdain examined the country’s history, food and unique ethnic makeup I felt like he was answering questions that I’ve always had.
So, I’m finally realizing the beauty of this show. I’ve always loved it, but never really been able to formulate why. After Anthony’s passing, I wanted to write about it, but I didn’t have anything to say. Now, over a year later I’m ready to share my favorite episodes hoping that some of you will find a little part of yourself somewhere halfway around the world or on the other side of the equator like I did.
Singapore. This episode embodies everything this show is about. Authentic street food, gourmet dishes, locals whose families have lived in the country for more generations than they can count. It examines a culture and history that I admittedly, knew very little about prior to watching the episode. A quick Google search prompted me to learn that Singapore only gained independence in the 60’s and is thriving following a long political crisis that pretty much led the whole country to start from scratch. Now the country is working to marry old world traditions with new world society. Fun facts that, again, I never would have known.
Hanoi. First things first. This episode made the list because it features a cameo from PRE-SI-DENT Obama. So how could it not be a favorite? Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam which is obviously a country the U.S. has a tricky history with. The episode opens with Bourdain enjoying a morning bowl of Vietnamese soup, aka pho. Like many of the countries that the show visits, Vietnam is not a wealthy country but it is home to welcoming people who know how to take advantage of life. This is all illustrated throughout the episode as Bourdain meets with locals, rides around on motor bikes and enjoys 40 cent beers.
Trinidad & Tobago. Aside from my personal feelings towards this episode, I love how much history Bourdain gives us about not only Trinidad but also, Tobago – an island that often gets overshadowed or paired with the larger island without its own identify. The episode opens with Carnival, because duh, and goes on to explain the nation’s dance, music, food and people. I love that Parts Unknown does a great job at taking something a country is known for (in this case Carnival) and explaining the origins in depth.
Madagascar. Like most of the episodes, the Madagascar one is poetic. It’s dishearteningly painful but organically beautiful at the same time. When you watch Bourdain and his colleagues travel through the country by train with tons of hungry kids begging for change and food, it’s heartbreaking. However, like all of the other episodes (12 seasons’ worth to be exact) Madagascar leaves you in awe of the nature of humans despite their struggles, which is something I’ll forever be grateful to Anthony Bourdain for.
R.I.P to the G.O.A.T.