Back to India

By Karen

In tonight’s new episode of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain visits Kerala, India. I’ve seen it. (Thanks, Brandon at Room 214!), It’s all about the food, and I must confess to feeling déjà vu at watching Tony dabble in mounds of mush. In this clip, he’s served fish head curry:

Producer Chris Collins blogged about how the trip didn’t go off as he expected. Tony blogged about it poignantly back in May while he was there.

Last week’s episode in Liberia, on the other hand, is destined to be a classic. Bourdain spent a few days off-camera, deathly ill from the food. I hate to say it, but suffering seems to inspire him to great things. He did the country a great service by raising awareness of its dire straits and how the people seem willing and eager to work hard and prosper — if only they could get some aid. A fraction of what we throw down that rat hole called Afghanistan could do wonders in Liberia.

Tony did a 6-minute phone interview with Mara Davis on 92.9 Atlanta, where he’ll be appearing on November 20. Davis fell back on the old “worst food you’ve ever eaten” question, but Tony reveals he’s a fan of journalist Christiane Amanpour.

It was another slow week for Bourdain news, although Medium Raw remains on bestseller lists, so I’m going to do a brief segue to Padma Lakshmi.

I recently saw her on Melting Pot on the Cooking Channel (8 a.m., EST). I think it’s 2001 vintage recycling from a Food Network show called Padma’s Passport.

Anyway, the episode featured Padma in a white lace dress and no apron, gingerly concocting Indian dishes from her childhood. She had me holding my breath, waiting for her to slice off a finger, get splashed with hot grease, or let the top fly off the blender.

All I can say about Padma’s cooking technique is that if she and Sandra Lee were ever in a cook-off, Lee would stick a fork in Padma and declare her “done.”

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5 Responses to Back to India

  1. Adele says:

    I happened to catch about 10 minutes of the show with Padma in the white dress. The woman does not look at home in the kitchen, although I’ll bet her stuff (whomever prepares it) tastes better than Sandra Lee’s.

    I didn’t have very high expectations for last night’s NR, but as sometimes happens, I enjoyed it more than I expected. Kerala looks beautiful, although I couldn’t stand the heat, and my interests were piqued when I realized that over 30 years ago, I worked with a family from Kerala. I knew that the family was from south India, and I knew they spoke Malayalim, because it was very hard to find an interpreter, but until last night, I had no idea of what their home province was like. Due to this family, I’ve even tasted Keralese curries (although I didn’t know it at the time). It was probably the spiciest food I’ve ever tasted.

  2. Terry says:

    I’m not terribly familiar with many of the places No Reservations visits but I spent a number of years in Kerala and I was taken aback by how many mistakes were in the narration: saying Kerala has had a communist government since 1957(wrong); way underestimating the amount of income brought in from emigrants (it’s close to 50% of Kerala’s revenues, not 20%), focusing on so-called unchanging caste practices (very Orientalist perspective!)when in fact many specialized livelihoods are dying out due to better education and the need to go abroad (Gulf, UK US) for employment, not even mentioning that Kerala has approx 25% Christians and 20% Muslims, which is very unusual in India…and Tony mangled some words-how hard is it to say “Malayalam”? Even the segment with Mammootty made him seem like a run-of-the-mill action star when he is actually a very fine actor and is often criticized for taking on these “hero” roles. Doesn’t the show have some basic reserach-type people on staff? Plus, why go in May when April and May are the absolute hottest months? It makes me wonder how off the mark the other shows have been in providing information.
    Still, Kerala did look beautiful and I grew nostalgic watching the rice boat scenes….

  3. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Terry! Thanks for sharing your very interesting perspective on Kerala. I, and most Americans, have no idea most of the time if Bourdain’s voiceovers are accurate of not, so he has loads of latitude. When he catches heat, it’s usually from the inhabitants of the place he visited who know the facts and cry “Foul!”

    I’ve never watched those tiny credits in the lower left corner of the screen closely enough to see if any research assistant gets a mention, but it would seem highly probable that he’s got one to help with the statistical stuff.

    If he reads this (and I have no idea if he ever does), your post may be a wake-up call to do some double-checking in the future.

    Tony’s response in other instances where he’s been accused of inaccuracy has been to say he’s providing a personal perspective only, and makes no pretense of being “fair and balanced” or complete in how he portrays a place. But I think even he’d agree that the things you’ve pointed out should have been correctly stated.

    And now you’ve got me wondering why he went to India when the heat was most miserable, except that maybe he was already over there, visiting Liberia, and could knock out 2 shows with one trip.

  4. Adele says:

    Terry, if you’re still out there, how does one pronounce “Malayalam?” I’d been pronouncing it with the accent on the last syllable, but Tony pronounced it with the accent on the 2nd syllable; since he was there, I assumed he was pronouncing it the correct way.

  5. Terry says:

    Hey Adele,
    The accent is on the third syllable (AL)but it’s not a highly stressed accent. But definitely not the way Tony said it…if you see the episode again you can hear one of the Malayalee guys say it. (Malayalee is the term many people use for the people of Kerala but since it comes from the word for a particular caste (Nayer) some people will use the term Keralite -but not the term Keralan which Tony was using in the episode.

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