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Anthony bourdain explores Punjab, India-

our take on the trip (by sonal kulshrestha)

On Apr 13th, The Emmy® award-winning CNN Original Series 'Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown' premiered Season 3 with a trip to our Punjab in India.

Before we dive into his exploration, a little bit about the host, Anthony Bourdain. Apart from being a popular television personality, he is also a renowned chef and author of his 2000 New York Times bestselling book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, an outgrowth of his article in The New Yorker called "Don't Eat Before Reading This." He went on to write two more New York Times bestselling nonfiction books: A Cook's Tour (2001), an account of his food and travel exploits across the world, written in conjunction with his first television series of the same title, and The Nasty Bits (2006), another collection of essays mainly centered on food.

In 2005 Bourdain began hosting the Travel Channel's culinary and cultural adventure programs Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and The Layover. In 2013, he joined CNN to host Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. 'Parts Unknown' which launched on CNN April 14, 2013, ranks as the network’s top rated regularly scheduled program and averages approximately 818,000 total viewers per premiere episode.

With that information in mind, lets' see what over 800,000 people saw in Punjab, India, as Anthony's camera rolled and he explored 'sada Punjab'.

  1. First of all, we have got to know how snake-charmers and elephants magically appear every time there are foreign cameras on the streets. Now, we visit India often, and although stray dogs and cows are easy enough to spot, our kids seldom have the good fortune of spotting an elephant, camel or a snake charmer- and thanks to such shows, the kids do expect to spot all sorts of exotic animals right there on the streets. So, yes, the Unknown Parts started with clichéd scenes of elephants, snakes, snake charmer, cows, etc., on the streets of Punjab.
  2. Moving on to the crux of the show. Up north, we love our dhabas. In Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, the small roadside restaurants, called dhabas, are an integral part of the eating out experience, both for the well-off and the not so well-off. Bourdain does complete justice to what dhabas are all about. We see him eat fresh mouth-watering, albeit very oily (yes, dhabha food is known for that too) chole- bhatures, chole- kulches, chicken curry, chicken leg, saag and various kinds of bread like naan, keema stuffed kulcha, tandoori roti, etc. Oh yes, our now-world famous (we hope!) 'jalebis' featured in the show as well.

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3. Bourdain's coverage of the Golden Temple of Amritsar is simple and majestic. The temple stands in all its elegance as the followers performed prayers on the occasion of Gurpurb festival, a Sikh celebration. He gives good information about the 'kar seva' and 'lungur' (although he doesn't mention the terms)- cooking and serving food to thousands of people on a daily basis for 16 hours each day for the past 800 years. Seeing the process, the innumerable steel 'thalis' (plates), the huge cooking pot and the supremely glowing temple made my kids want to visit the place.

4. You can't be in Punjab and not talk about the India-Pakistan border and the highly melodramatic show put up each evening, called Beating Retreat, at the border by the army on both sides (yes, we covered it in 'desideewar border se'). He even gave a background of the very bloody partition that accompanied India's Independence from the British rule. My kids laugh, as Uday, in conversation with Bourdain, explains infiltration of people and terrorists from across the border into India, and adds, "No one in their right mind would want to go to Pakistan", to explain why the other way round is not a concern.

5. Bourdain also covers Shimla, although Shimla is in the state of Himachal Pradesh. He informs the viewers of how Shimla came into being. The England-like climate attracted the British to this city on mountain top. Before long, it became the 'summer capital' of the British. He shows glimpses of the dance balls and parties organized by the British during their stay at this hill-station. The colonial-era architecture, the royal-family run guest-houses and the exquisite cuisine served to him there look impressive.

6. Bourdain covers the very colorful, extremely crowded trains of India in a rather good light. We all know, the experience can certainly get over-whelming, to put it mildly. We definitely avoid train rides while travelling to India- in part due to the fear of theft and burglary, but also because of the toilets that are often dirty and seem to move at double the speed of the train itself. Thankfully, Anthony's camera crew steered clear of all that we dread in India's railways. The laughing and singing school students on the train, the chai-walla, station food, the tunnels, 100 years old bridges, deep green trees, serene water bodies- all that he points out stir up happy memories in us.

Overall, 'Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown' is worth a watch, whether you live in India or out of India, or for that matter, whether you're an Indian, NRI (Non-resident Indian) or just someone who loves to explore new places and try new cuisines. My personal favorite in the show was when Bourdain, who is known to be a meat lover, says that India is the best place to be a vegetarian. That coming from someone who is known to have said, "When Tony gets hungry, things die", is something for sure. He's also known to have said, "Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living". But, yes, he did eat his veggies in India and loved every bit of it. In fact, about our vegetarian dishes, Bourdain says, "Bright colors, wildly varying textures, huge selections and thrilling blends of spices and assertive, delicious flavors accompanied always by wonderful, freshly made breads. I could happily go veg for a week -- or even weeks at a time. "

 (Video Credit: CNN)

Anthony Bourdain on his show on Punjab
"I'm not much for attempting to inspire or 'enlighten' or educate. That's far, far from what I'm thinking about when I make sure my carry-on is free of liquids or gels; that my laptop is out of my bag and in the plastic tray, shoes and belt off.

But with this episode, Punjab, it would make me very happy if a few more people out there got a clearer picture of the Sikh religion is. Who Sikhs are and who they are not; a little about the central concepts and intent and principles of their faith. The degree to which we in the West (myself included) are ignorant of such things is pretty spectacular. " (Quoted from- cnn)


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