Viewers are able to see a destination through Parts Unknown's honest and cadid lens, which means that amazing meals are grounded in conversation about locals' everyday reality and the most beautiful vistas are given context through history. Any other travel show would highlight the food without any talk of politics, pig blood, or scheming tour operators.
The trip begins with a rocky start and a situation that throws Bourdain into a serious funk.
Bourdain heads out on a boat with a local fisherman and chef for what is advertised as a “three-hour cruise” to catch sea creatures for dinner. Bourdain remains optimistic despite the adventure’s questionable location near boats and sunbathing tourists.
However, he quickly turns sour when he realizes he is “complicit in a shameful deception” in which a second boat throws dead sea creatures into the water for Bourdain, or any unsuspecting tourist, to catch.
And if you’ve always wanted to watch dead sea creatures thrown at my head, Sunday’s #PartsUnknown is what you’ve been waiting for.
— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) October 11, 2013
It was insightful for the show to capture the tourist trap and the reality of tourism in so many destinations today.
“You Think of Sicily, You Think of Food”
Bourdain’s mood improves throughout the show as he devours plate after plate of pasta, seafood, and cheese.
After an uncomfortable dinner of the seafood that Bourdain had planned to catch, he meets an American woman who has lived in Sicily for more than 50 years.
She describes their meal at Piccolo Napoli as “straightforward Sicilian cooking at its best.” The restaurant opened in 1951 and has been run by one family ever since. The pair eats fritters made from chickpeas, olives, white wine, and spaghetti in cuttlefish ink as Bourdain’s heart begins to thaw.
Not all is warm and fuzzy in Sicily’s capital, Palermo, where 80 percent of the businesses were once forced to pay the mafia. Fortunately, the situation has improved in recent years as businesses join a group called Addiozzid to combat the mafia’s extortion.
Bourdain’s next companions, Anthony and Marco, also describe the city’s changing landscape and explain that many Sicilians are now selling meat instead of drugs. They take Bourdain to taste horse meat and meatballs cooked over an open grill.
“You Think of Sicily, You Think of Family”
What makes Parts Unknown such a special show to watch is the trips inside local families’ homes.
Bourdain first takes viewers step by step through a pig slaughtering complete with blood buckets and cultural references.
“Even with the brain dead, the heart still goes on beat. Sort of like…pick a Kardashian.”
He is then guest to a lunch that includes a huge array of meats and cheese including capicola, prosciutto, salami, sausages, and canastrato cheese.
Next, he accompanies Tomaso and his mother to an early morning market. All of their purchases are used to make a tempting meal of bread and tomato salad, shrimp sautéed in butter, salt, and herbs, sardines sautéed in garlic and oil, and a friend potato.
A Better Type of Tourism
The episode ends at an agriturismo – a hotel that is linked to a local farm or garden. Tourists are treated to local meals and the farms are provided a second source of income. Bourdain bemoans the absence of such a concept in the U.S. noting the many benefits of such a system.
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Photo credit: Anthony Bourdain eats salami at a family lunch. Parts Unknown CNN