I like a bitter, smart-mouthed man -- or a smart man with a bitter tongue. And, that's Anthony Bourdain.
Watching No Reservations is more than indulging in a show about good, or interesting, regional food and travel. It's a meditative log of a memoir, a voiced-over reflection on a journey made, one that is planned but unpredictable, the kind that has the potential to change the travelogger. The pleasure is Bourdain is sensitive to the effects of the journey, and both honest and self-conscious enough to record them for us.
He's got a wicked sense of humor, too. It's self-deprecating at times (he often comments on his inability to climb every mountain due to smoking, mocks the poor circumstances he encounters due to production decisions, and suggests market research finds viewers offended by his drinking). While, at other times, it's ironic and pointedly arrogant. It's when Bourdain rips the local cuisine or culture that he's at his funniest.
And yet, there's a humility about Bourdain, too, and a humanity. He's not ashamed to taste test for the best french fry. He's genuinely grateful to meet good people, to just hang out, to go with what the locals do.
He's a man of pleasurable contractions. Physically, he's afraid of getting hurt, and he complains about discomforts, but he's a sucker for goofball adventures, such as when he took a death-defying tumble off a dune on an ATV or got an authentic native tattoo.
What's more, he'll eat anything. ANYTHING. Even that fermented shark stuff the Vikings used to choke down to prove their manhood. Okay, I added that last. They probably had enough rocks to feed it to their infants. Bordain's a grown man with finely refined taste buds, but he'll eat it because -- well -- what else is life about, but living it?
I can't think of another food writer I'd rather travel with than Anthony Bourdain.