Skift Take

Bourdain's insights on the relationship between food, culture, and politics hit close to home for many viewers Sunday. It's his ability to observe a destination with the same degree of truth and humor in Israel as in the U.S. that makes Parts Unknown such a rarity.

Sunday night was a big night for New Mexico.

We don’t know if it was clever planning or coincidence that Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown aired an episode on New Mexico at the same time Breaking Bad ended its series in Albuquerque.

Regardless, Bourdain gave viewers a very real look at what New Mexico is today, and why most Americans can probably relate to some parts of its culture. He also uses the episode to juxtapose the very distinct culture of New York City with the rest of America.

Red or Green?

That’s the state question in New Mexico where chilies are a staple food item mixed into just about every dish that locals, and Bourdain, eat.

Green chile puree is added to cubed local beef that Bourdain cooks in a cast iron pan over a fire pit. A bowl of “level 3” green chili causes Bourdain to break out into a sweat at the Horseman’s Haven Cafe outside of Santa Fe. And chilies are tossed into a series of dishes created from a single pig at an outdoor BBQ.

However, the real scene-stealing meal in this episode has no chilies. Frito pie is described as “canned Hormel Chili and day-glo yellow cheese-like substance dropped like a deuce, another roller in the night, right into a bag of Fritos.” It also feels like holding a “crap in a bag,” according to Bourdain.

The resulting stomach ache is described by scenes of explosives.

The Lone Cowboy

“Generally speaking, I think we should be able to buy all the guns we want. It’s the rest of you I’m not so sure about,” says Bourdain after taking his first of several shots throughout the show. Guns are part of the culture in a place like New Mexico and their appearance doesn’t incite anywhere close to the reaction they do in a coastal city like New York.

Bourdain tells fans his thoughts on gun rights, and the lack of progress that gets made by political shouting heads, on the Parts Unknown blog. But he tries to shows them the similarities that Americans share throughout the episode.

He uses New Mexico as a metaphor for America as a whole, where everyone’s attracted to the ideal and feeling of freedom.

The Big Empty

New Mexico’s vastness is a playground for the cinematographers at ZPZ Productions who capture gorgeous imagery of the endless skies and outdoor dinners.

The empty lands couldn’t be anymore different from Bourdain’s home city of New York or many of the metropolises that the show’s viewers live in. However, the people that Bourdain talks to say that they couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

“The big empty makes a real steep deep sense to a certain type of person,” concludes Bourdain.

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Tags: anthony bourdain, cnn, new mexico, parts unknown, tv, usa

Photo credit: Tony samples viciously hot chiles in New Mexico. Parts Unknown

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