travel channel Archive

Bourdain On Vegetarians

I went back and forth about whether or not to write this post. I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain, and as such I have heard him say many disparaging things about vegetarians. Usually it’s for entertainment value, or because he knows he will get a rise out of people by saying it, and it’s usually amusing enough for me not to care. But in Monday’s “No Reservations: Mozambique” he said something so monumentally inane that I was shocked. In describing a village feast that involved killing a goat, he mentioned that they get very little meat, and subsist mainly on yucca.

What promoters of vegetarianism maybe don’t realize is that much of the world already is living a vegetarian lifestyle, and they ain’t too fucking happy about it.

(quoted from Eater)

What he seems to be implying is that vegetarians would rather poor people starve than eat meat. Is he joking? I can’t imagine anyone in the world thinks that, let alone vegetarians. I would wager that any society that can only afford to slaughter an animal every few months takes better care of that animal than any farmer in the United States.

When I think of vegetarianism, I think of vegetarianism by choice. It’s only in a society that can afford to give up meat that being a vegetarian has any meaning. What Mr. Bourdain is talking about in this village isn’t vegetarianism — it’s a subsistence diet.

So what about those of us who can afford to give it up? What it comes down to is an individual’s choice. Is eating well worth killing an animal? I have decided that I am not okay with that, but that’s my decision and I can’t force it on anyone else. When I really think about it, veganism is the logical end point of that line of reasoning, but I have decided that I like pizza too much. In other words, I am willing to let animals in dairy farms be treated poorly for my own personal enjoyment. Other people have to pick their own battles. What I do believe is that people should think about these things.

Like Mr. Bourdain, I have eaten at some of Manhattan’s most prestigious restaurants, and like Mr. Bourdain I have eaten in roadside stands in Vietnam. Does the fact that I have done so without eating meat make me in any way superior to him? Absolutely not. It simply means that we all have options.

Imagine if everyone in the United States ate a quarter less meat annually. I don’t know exactly how much that would be, but I’m sure it’s a lot of meat. Now imagine that meat surplus, which would normally go to Americans who don’t really need it, went instead to those poor villagers in Mozambique. Would that make Mr. Bourdain be in favor of cutting back on meat eating?

I am not going to do anything so dramatic as stop watching “No Reservations”. As I mentioned, I am a fan, not only of the show but of Mr. Bourdain himself, and his voice. I think the food world is a better place with him in it. Pity he doesn’t feel the same way about me.

TV Dinner: 3/2-3/8/2008

Here’s a new feature for Eat to Blog — we’ll be recapping the best of the food programming on television each week.

Iron Chef America 3/2 — Cat Cora took on Arizona’s own Lee Hillson in Battle Ham. Cora emerged victorious by a margin of one point, despite the fact that Hillson won more points on the taste of his food — she was just too original for him. (Food Network, Sunday at 11pm)

No Reservations 3/3 — Tony visited Hawaii and bought a $3000 shirt. He also ate a lot of ethnically diverse food, declaring Hawaii “an American Singapore.” He also softened a bit when confronted with the overtly tourist-friendly luau, keeping his snarky comments to himself. (Travel Channel, Monday at 10pm)

Bizarre Foods 3/4 — In this second season debut, Andrew Zimmern crunched on a seahorse on a stick and got the Chinese medicine treatment in Beijing. He also visited a restaurant which specializes in penis dishes, and debated the merits of snake penis versus yak penis, much to the horror of his Chinese guide. (Travel Channel, Tuesday at 10pm)

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares 3/6 — Gordon re-visited La Parra de Burriana on the Spanish coast. They were still open (surprising) and still producing terrible food (not so surprising). Gordon attempted to convince them to serve Spanish-influenced food by challenging them to a cook-off. Gordon won with what he (and the other Brits) kept referring to as “pie-ella.” (BBC America, Thursday at 8pm)

Posted by Howard