The late Anthony Michael Bourdain needs no introduction. He single-handedly inspired a generation of travelers and foodies like me with his indelible charm, tenacious curiosity, and a raw authenticity that forever adjusted the lens through which we consume the world.
I’m paying homage to the New York-born legend by curating uniquely modified excerpts from the unedited transcripts, field notes, and other original content published by CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown in which Bourdain captivated a global audience with his fascinating perspective on life and his grand appreciation for all things travel, food, culture, and history.
This is Anthony Bourdain in his own words. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: Brazil (Source: CNN)
I try and go to Brazil whenever I can find an excuse. And the fact that I haven’t made a show in the city of Salvador since A Cook’s Tour, over 12 years ago, seemed like reason enough for another visit. Salvador is all the best things about the country boiled down into a thick, spicy African stew.
It’s mystical, magical, incredibly colorful, and has its own choreography that we worked hard to capture.
I asked the crew to shoot at hip level as much as possible, to move the cameras to convey the sense that, unique to Salvador, everybody is beautiful. Young, old, fat, thin, every hue and shade on an extraordinarily diverse color spectrum—absolutely everyone in Salvador is beautiful. Even ugly people are beautiful.
Everybody seems likely to start dancing at any moment, and they often do. There are drums and music everywhere. Large cold beers and powerful beverages of crushed limes and sugarcane liquor, along with spicy fried things, seem to appear from all directions. It seems, from a visitor’s point of view, utopian.
It’s not, of course, Utopia at all. Brazil in general—and Salvador in particular—face enormous problems. How they’re going to handle hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors attending the World Cup is going to be … interesting. There will be, for sure, many adventures, but most of them will surely be good.
I stopped trying to figure out Brazil years ago and after many visits just decided to go with the flow. The show we came back with, I hope, reflects that attitude. After nearly a year on the road and a solid block of shooting on five continents, this is the last new episode of the season.
Given the rigors of all those miles and all those airports, I felt a “low-impact” episode was appropriate. Someplace warm where the music is always good and the water’s fine. Someplace that definitely doesn’t suck.
Bourdain on Salvador de Bahia
In Bahia, you find yourself in the heart of the heart of Brazil, where the magic comes from. If you want to get there, just follow the sound of the drums.
This is Salvador de Bahia, city of three million people. First capital of Brazil. The wellspring for everything African and spicy, where things seem to just sway and move constantly. It’s a place where everybody is sexy, where even the ugly people are hot.
Unsurprisingly, this is where artists come from. African spiritualism, cult magic, Candomble, Capoeira. And caipirinhas, did I mention caipirinhas? They do those here, too. I like them. I like them a lot.
What’s magical about this cocktail is the first taste, it’s like I don’t know, man, it’s a little too something. Then like that second sip, it’s like oh, that’s kind of good. Then the third sip, it’s where are my pants. Fortunately, food in these parts tends to be, shall we say, hearty. For instance, a delightful meal of fried meat with plenty of absorbent starch product like baropha(ph), the perfect accompaniment to many, many caipirinhas.
Oh, excellent. Now we’re talking. It’s a tough town for vegetarians. Oh, good. I’ll have six more of these, please. People are staring at me, they looked at me. Even hump of American, how much he’s eating. Line them up, my friend. Oh, yeah. So, nice walking around here. The party and the components are really amazing. There’s always drums somewhere.
Bourdain on Pelourinho
Pelourinho became the locus of a vast infrastructure of plantations and the slave trade that powered them. Making this city in Northeastern Brazil the most opulent in the new world.
Pelourinho, it’s worth pointing out, gets its name from the whipping post. A hundred years after slavery was outlawed in Brazil, Pelourinho had been forgotten. But of course, the neighborhood had its charms.
If you were an artist, a musician, a writer, you could afford to live here. Cheap rent for long-time locals or shiny new art galleries at hipster cafes, we know which way the current of history runs.
Bourdain on Rio de Janeiro lifestyle
In Rio, if you’re anything less than perfectly cut, you feel terrible going to the beach. You never want to go to the beach. Here, you can frolic in a Speedo and feel pretty good about myself. Let it all hang out here.
Bourdain on Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail
Ah, the Caipirinha man. This indispensable icon of Brazilian beach culture is known to start with fresh lime, muddle and mash with more lime juice, sugar, ice, the magic ingredient, Cachaca. That’s basically the distilled liquor of the sugar cane. Shaken, not stirred, and you’ve got yourself one of the world’s truly great cocktails, the utility beverage good for any time of day or any social occasion.
Bourdain on Acaraje, a traditional Brazilian dish
What is Acaraje? Behold. A paste, a batter, a falafel like wad or smooched up black-eyed peas, seasoned with brown brine (ph) shrimp and onions, deep fried to crispy and golden with some chili spike in dende oil.
Already if you’re a rookie, you’re guaranteed some quality time on the porcelain bus real soon. On the top, you got you’re (inaudible) which is sort of a shrimp curry paste. And your tomato salad, your fried shrimp, Camarao frito, a must.
All right. Beautiful. Don’t forget the hot chili oil and prepare for liftoff. Really good.
Bourdain on Capoeira
When millions of Africans were taken by force to Brazil, the traditions, the musical roots they had, instruments they played, their gods and their food came with them. In the days of slavery, you would hide that stuff, whether it was your religion or your self-defense skills.
In a recent study observing the comparative destructive power between kicks from various martial arts, of karate, muay thai and taekwondo, it was Capoeira that packed the most ferocious impact. The colonial masters knew this and made it illegal for much of Brazil’s history.
Bourdain on Afro-Brazilian cuisine
Afro Brazilian cuisine is the result of many, many years of cooks experimenting with African and Portuguese dishes combined with local ingredients like seafood, chillies, coconut milk. This is Angelica’s house. Open one day a week as a restaurant serving her unique style of Bahian dishes. Beautiful. Wow. Look at that.
All the things that we look at as Brazilian from outside looking in, the cuisine, samba, all of these things are very African in origin.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: Brazil (Source: CNN)
Bourdain’s Brazilian “bacchanal”
“What’s magical about this cocktail is the first taste. It’s like, I don’t know, man. It’s a little too something. Then, like, that second sip, it’s like, Oh, that’s kinda good. Then the third sip, it’s like, Where are my pants?”
“This is Salvador da Bahia, city of 3 million people, first capital of Brazil. The wellspring for everything African and spicy, where things seem to just sway and move constantly. It’s a place where everybody is sexy, where even the ugly people are hot. Unsurprisingly, this is where artists come from. African spiritualism, occult magic, Candomblé, capoeira. And caipirinhas. Did I mention caipirinhas?”
“Fortunately, food in these parts tends to be, shall we say, hearty. For instance, a delightful meal of fried meat with plenty of absorbent starch product like farofa, the perfect accompaniment to many, many caipirinhas.”
“The caipirinha, man. This indispensable icon of Brazilian beach culture is known to start with fresh lime, muddle and mash with more lime juice, sugar, ice, the magic ingredient, cachaça—that’s basically the distilled liquor of the sugarcane—shaken, not stirred, and you’ve got yourself one of the world’s truly great cocktails. The utility beverage good for any time of day or any social occasion. Very satisfying.”
“If there’s anything better than cheese, it’s semi-melted cheese. And what’s the best part of French onion soup? It’s the little burned bits piece of cheese around the edge.”
“It’s a tough town for vegetarians.”
“No matter what, people should come. Even people who are afraid to travel, who say, Oh, well, but I hear… ”
“Here you can frolic in a Speedo and feel pretty good about myself. They let it all hang out here.”
“I love nature and caipirinha. Oh, what’s going on here? Caipirinha. Please. Sweet! This alone is an argument for the greatness of this country.”
[On crab] “You know, any time you get your Chinese, your Brazilians, and your Italians all agreeing on something, it’s pretty clear it’s a really good idea. Everybody agrees that this complicated-looking creature with all those troublesome shells is worth the work. So you tear off the little limbs. We’ll get to you a little later, my friends. Rip out the tail. These are the lungs—you don’t want them. Now, you’ve got all this nice fat in there. Oh, yeah. Now we’re getting to the claw. Look at that. Let’s poke him out of there. Oh, yeah. This should do—that little melon of goodness. Like a celestial nibble.”
[Still on crab] “When people started demanding boneless stuff, like chicken without a bone or crab meat without the actual crab or lazy lobster, that was the beginning of the erosion of our society as we know it. If you’re not willing to work for a payoff like this, how do you expect us to, like, fight Al-Qaida. If you can’t suck the meat out of a crab? A character builder and delicious.”
[On the poisonous blowfish at Ana Souza Marves] “Nice and spicy. I can’t feel my legs. Is that a bad thing?”
A culture built on a legacy of slavery
“All the things that we look at as Brazilian, from the outside looking in—the cuisine, samba—all of these things are very African in origin.”
“It is useful to know that of over 12 million Africans dragged, ripped, and kidnapped from their homelands, nearly 5 million ended up in Brazil, 1.5 million of them in Bahia alone. Pelourinho became the locus of a vast infrastructure of plantations and the slave trade that powered them, making this city in northeastern Brazil the most opulent in the new world. Pelourinho, it’s worth pointing out, gets its name from the whipping post.”
“When millions of Africans were taken by force to Brazil, the traditions, the musical roots they had, instruments they played, their gods and their food came with them. In the days of slavery, you would hide that stuff, whether it was your religion or your self- defense skills.”
“In Bahia you find yourself in the heart of the heart of Brazil, where the magic comes from. If you want to get there, just follow the sound of the drums.”
“I don’t like piña coladas, but I like walking in the rain. I like wandering through markets as much as the next guy, but what I really like are neurotoxins.”
“Salvador is one of the host cities for the 2014 World Cup. A huge stadium has recently been completed, but a lot of people are worried, concerned if Brazil is ready. I’ve been told thousands of prostitutes are studying tourist-appropriate languages in preparation, so probably a lot of people are going to get laid, a lot of people are going to get robbed, a lot of people are going to get laid and robbed.”