Bidding adieu to a show on food

In November, the series “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” came to a close, wrapping up after seven years of exploring the global sphere of food and culture. After 142 episodes, host Anthony Bourdain decided to call it a day, moving to pursue his series “The Layover” as well as his upcoming shows “The Taste” and “Parts Unknown.” With the change of the year, and inspecting the cliched reviews of the “important” events of the epoch passed, I noticed that the close of the series, unlike Whitney Houston’s death and the “Star Wars” shift to Disney, was largely unmentioned, though much more significant. Quietly and unknowingly, America was losing a cornerstone of culture. “Outrage!” I cried.

It was a sad day in the McMillan household when I watched the final episode of the series. I’m pretty sure I may have just feigned off the tears when my little sister, sitting next to me as the credits rolled, asked if I was “seriously that upset.” Despite the shame of admittance, my answer was yes. Allow me to explain.

As the host of “No Reservations,” Bourdain has become an important and unique guiding cultural icon. He provides concise and occasionally humorous introspection on food and culture, speaking bluntly and, at times, colorfully of his experiences. Plus, no matter where he may be, he treats, talks to and observes everyone and everything around him with the same, indifferently gruff yet respectful, manner. He’s the ideal ambassador, especially when compared to other celebrity chefs.

Along with Bourdain, the show didn’t bend backwards to kiss the hypothetical feet of famous places and people, nor did it urge viewers to go to the touristy hellholes that bribed their way into publications. It instead explored the unspoken dives, the “peasant fare” and the local-loved places to discover the essence behind each place’s food and culture and explaining to us that these humble hangouts are keys to cultural enlightenment.

“No Reservations’” indifference to popular spots put the show in a unique position, as it shed a light on subjects most travel shows and guides often shirk. It gave us true and valuable knowledge of places foreign to us.

This unadulterated viewpoint was enhanced by the show’s adventures in everything from the food it explored, which included, in one extreme, pig rectum, to the daring places where it was shot. In one Emmy-nominated episode, the crew even had to be rescued from an outbreak of warfare in Beirut. It was a powerful and poignant setting, giving us a glimpse into actual battle: a moving scene, to say the least.

The unapologetic, non-conforming and unrelenting drive that the show employed, along with Bourdain’s charismatic guy-at-the-bar personality, combined to give the show the significance it holds. “No Reservations” made us aware of things foreign to us, and because of Bourdain, we felt related enough to explore them. With its unique educational perspective, approachability and scale of influence, the show came to be the cornerstone of culture that I found fit to miss dearly.

Hopefully, with some understanding, you can excuse the waterworks now.

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