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: Spain — Last shot of the show with The Alhambra in the distance. (Source: CNN)
Any reasonable, sentient person who looks at Spain, comes to Spain, eats in Spain, drinks in Spain, they’re going to fall in love. Otherwise, there’s something deeply wrong with you.
Spain is the sort of place that never really made any sense anyway. But in the very best possible way. This is the country that gave us the Spanish Inquisition. Also anarchy. This is where devout Catholicism mixes with surrealism, modernist cuisine with traditional tapas. Christianity and Islam traded places, shared space. And the effects and influences of all those things are right here to see.
Granada is one of the oldest, most complex, magically surreal places in Spain, and one of the most beautiful.
Wherever you are on the ideological spectrum, however, some things are constant, it seems. There are some stereotypical expectations. It’s true, there are free tapas everywhere. Yes, they do actually take siestas, which is a civilized damn thing to do as far as I can see. Flamenco, yes. They do that also. But in Granada, they do it old school.
The city is tucked against the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Andalusia in southern Spain. It’s not like Barcelona. It’s not like San Sebastián. It ain’t Madrid. Any reasonable, sentient person who looks at Spain, comes to Spain, eats in Spain, drinks in Spain, they’re going to fall in love. Otherwise, there’s something deeply wrong with you.
This is the dream of all the world. The dream is to live in Granada. Work in the morning, have a one-hour nap in the afternoon and go out at night. Go out and see your friends, eat tapas, drink red wine, and be in a beautiful place.
Bourdain on Granada
You can almost look back through time and through the mists of history see the Phoenicians marching up across the Vega, or are those feral hippies? An influx of international hippies, many of whom appeared to have set up squats in the caves up the mountain and made things interesting.
They asked me if we’re doing this they would stage in a moon landing.
Flamenco, yes. They do that also. But in Granada, they do it old school. And oh yes, bullfighting. They do that here, too.
Bourdain on bullfighting
No one likes to look like a pussy on TV, so when El Fandi jokingly suggests I join him in the ring to wave a pink cape at an aggressive young bull, who just moments ago charged my cameraman, I said what an idiot would say — si.
It all starts well enough. Hey, this is fun. This is easy. Until I get a horn hooked right up next to my nutsack. Then it’s not so fun.
This youngster shall live, perhaps to gore a future TV host with his mighty horns.
Now this, this is what a real bull looks like. This is a whole different thing. Five hundred freaking kilos of aggressive charging four-legged killdozer aiming at your meat and two legs.
It’s a lot of muscle.
Bourdain on bull stew
Hey, it’s time for stew. Bull stew. Our friend went to a better place after all. Like a big pot where he’s simmering slowly for hours with local herbs, onions and potatoes. Nothing like a roaring fire in a spread of Garico ham, homemade chorizo, Spanish cheeses, bread, and good olive oil to take the sting out of a near genital mutilation.
Bourdain on “Semana Santa”
Holy Week or Semana Santa as it’s called. Observed all over southern Spain with a seriousness and a fervor you might not see elsewhere. For seven days leading up to Easter, nearly every city in Andalucia gets taken over by ancient processions. To an outsider, it’s an impenetrable montage of confusing, yet deeply evocative images.
Figures in dark hoods loom up from every direction. Smoke pots of incense, candles, religious imagery, and the crowds.
Bourdain on the culture of Sacramonte
Overlooking Granada is Sacramonte, a hillside town riddled with caves, many of them older than anyone even remembers. Spanish gypsies or Gitanos have lived here in caves turned homes like this for hundreds of years.
They call this a juerga, an informal, intimate and spontaneous performance. What jazz musicians might recognize as a jam session.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is it. Granada. The only place in the world where you get to see real flamenco in a cave. We have our own gypsies. We can tell you three things that we do here. We do flamenco. We do tapas. And we do siestas.
BOURDAIN: You do them well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We know how to live, don’t we?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am going to have a drink. Because we have 100 years to live. To sleep, to dream, to do everything. Pure emotions. The blood of gypsies boils. You have seen how it is. We make music that comes from our roots. It was created for big spectacles. It’s music that comes from within. When there is pain or joyful laughter, we sing.
Bourdain on tapas
Nighttime in Granada. And it’s time to pursue that greatest of Spanish traditions, tapas. You may think you know what a tapa is. Like you did have small bites at some fusion hipster bar where they did a whole lot of little plates. Yes, that ain’t a tapa.
Tapas are free. It shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. Another drink, another tapa. Tomatoes, olive oil, bread.
Ah, tapas. What a novel concept. There’s even a verb for it. Tapayar. Meaning to take tapas. As in if we’re going to tapayar some more, we’re going to have to elbow past this crowd of Catholics here.
Bourdain on The Alhambra castle
Every storybook kingdom needs a castle. Granada, it’s got a good one. The Alhambra. One of the most enchanted, inscrutable, maddeningly beautiful structures ever created by man. Built on top of ninth century fortifications by the Nasrid Dynasty, then added to and added to as history unfolded through wars and tragedy and invasion and conquest.
When the Nasrid Dynasty lived here, it was a harmonious space where light, shade, water, the transit of the moon and the stars were harnessed and glorified. In the builders’ time, engineers, astronomies, mathematicians were like priests, magicians, possessors of divine knowledge of how the universe worked.
Bourdain on Spanish family recipes
First off, this. Bakalou salad. Salt cod, egg, black olives, oranges, tomatoes dressed in olive oil. Remember, this is Holy Week. Maria Jose is preparing recipes that go back through the family so far that nobody knows exactly where they even came from.
Migas, another iconic dish of Analucia. Informally referred to as the shepherd’s lunch as the story goes. Born as a way to use old, hard bread and combine all the week’s leftovers. I’m told that every household in Spain has a variation. What changes is what you put on it. Today it’s sardines, cod, chorizo, melon, and peppers.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: Spain — Cerveza and morcilla break. (Source: CNN )
On the beauty of Spain
“Any reasonable sentient person who looks at Spain, comes to Spain, eats in Spain, drinks in Spain—they’re going to fall in love. Otherwise there’s something deeply wrong with you.”
On Holy Week in Granada
“To an outsider it’s an impenetrable montage of confusing yet deeply evocative images.”
“The matadors were the original rock stars—the very ideal of masculinity, male beauty, and grace. That runs deep. Like it or not, you should probably know this before dating a Spanish guy.”
Bourdain: “Are there any, like, really ugly-a** bullfighters? Like really out of shape or with a muffin top? How do you call a muffin top?”
Alejandro (friend): “I think there’s a little— yes, there’s a little bit of everything.”
On drinking under the watchful eyes of Christ at El Tabernáculo:
Bourdain: “How drunk can you get here? Don’t you feel a little guilty for getting really drunk here?”
Pedro (friend): “Yes, of course.”
Bourdain: “Gaze away disapprovingly all you like, Jesus. I am happy now.”