In this special midweek episode, Plan A reflects on what made Anthony Bourdain such a beloved figure, especially among people of color. Asian Americans had a particular respect for the way he was able to appreciate Asian food and culture in a way that was free of condescension or white-saviorism. Teen, Chris, and guest podcaster Kasie pay their respects by talking about their favorite Bourdain moments and what his legacy is for American culture.
Twitter: Kasie (@kasefiles),
The following are edited excerpts from “Goodbye, Anthony Bourdain,” the 31st episode of Plan A’s podcast, Escape From Plan A.
I have to say, up until that time [when “No Reservations” went to Hong Kong], I was very skeptical of anybody on cable TV visiting an Asian country and airing their show. I won’t name names, but it was always a travel host that would go eat stinky tofu or something disgusting, or supposedly disgusting, and making a mockery of it and in the end, us feeling just a bit inferior, all over again. I kind of watched it skeptically, but in that episode, [Bourdain] ate from start to finish. He started with clay pot rice, and as soon as he started eating and commenting how much he loved it, I was captivated throughout the entire show. So that really did it for me.
What he did really well was… Because especially for younger people, there was this pervasive philosophy of being open-minded, embracing everything, and being diverse. But that easily went over the line. That’s where a lot of anger over cultural appropriation comes from: “They like it so much that they’re going to take it from you and put themselves in the center!” What Bourdain knew and was very good at was knowing how to be curious and be a respectful guest. And knowing when to put himself in the background and just appreciate things.
Let’s spice up Americans! To me, it’s not just that I want more recognition for Chinese street food and Chinese street food should be more respected. I just want Americans to be a bit less… boring. I think that’s something that really bothered him about American culture: how boring it is. So let’s get some spicy whites in here! We can’t just keep going to Italian restaurants.