Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Baba Lu and Blue Suede Shoes: Cuban Food comes to Jackson!

Several years ago I had the opportunity to go to Miami. While there, a friend took me into a community known as 'Little Havana'. Little Havana is a neighborhood that is home to many Cuban Americans. The neighborhood is a bustling community filled with cigar shops, cultural centers and restaurants. As we began to walk through the streets of Little Havana, I would see images that reminded me of something I would see on a postcard. Little elderly men smoking cigars played checkers outside of cafes where chickens roasted on spits. The sound of Cuban Rumba music playing from windows of brightly colored houses played as soundtracks to accompany the smells of Cuban dishes being cooked in open kitchens.



My friend Rafael who was born in Cuba tells me " I am going to take you to eat the real deal". I tell him, " please no touristy food. I want to eat what you eat when you come here". He guides me down through rows of shops until we stop at a little cafe. We sit down at a wooden picnic table and he goes up to the window of the cafe and orders. He returns to the table with two heaping plates of food.

I look down to see a mouth watering plate of Cuban shredded beef called 'Ropa Vieja, fried plantains and black beans and rice. He also sat down a small carafe of strong scented Cuban coffee. The beef was unbelievable, filled with peppers, onions, garlic and sofrito. The fried plantains were a nice salty starch that were dipped into a mojo sauce. Lastly the beans and rice were mixed together with onion, garlic and bay leaf to form a dish known as 'Congri'. The food was so good and the ingredients so well put together that I have 'jonesed' for authentic Cuban food for years now.

Thankfully, my wait is over!





Cuban born Marachi Fraga and her daughter Alana Lagares and her husband Hector have enjoyed preserving and cooking family recipes for several years. In Spring of 2013, the family decided to bless West Tennessee by offering authentic Cuban cuisine to the Jackson Tennessee area. 'La Cubanita' is the family's food truck business thats creating a big stir among the West Tennessee foodie community.

La Cubanita offers classic Cuban dishes like homemade empanadas. Created originally in Spain, the empanada is a stuffed pastry filled with slow cooked chicken or seasoned beef. Picadillo empanadas are true Cuban comfort food. The pastry is filled with ground beef seasoned with onions, peppers, green olives and tomato sauce. La Cubanita also makes empanadas with chicken fricase, a mixture of chicken sauteed in Cuban sofrito, spices, green olives, tomato sauce and white wine. The mixture is placed in the pastry and fried. They are so good and usually sell within a few hours.



La Cubanita also makes fantastic Tostones. Tostones are twice fried plantains. Ripened plantains are cut up and fried.  The plantains are lightly salted and the traditional Cuban mojo (mo-ho) sauce is used as a dipping sauce. Mojo is made with orange juice, garlic, cumin and black pepper. It is used as a dipping sauce and to marinate pork and chicken in many Cuban recipes.





Ham croquettes are also served by La Cubanita. Known as 'Croquetas de Jamon', these tiny bites of heaven are made by taking smoked ham and combining it with nutmeg, milk and flour and rolling them in bread crumbs. The tiny snacks are then deep fried to a golden brown. Many Cuban families will cook these for children and serve them at birthday parties.

And just so Southerners don't feel left out, La Cubanita offers two items that include frying and pork. (Two staples of the Southern diet) They serve the classic Cuban dish 'Pan con Lechon' which is slow roasted pork marinated in garlic, orange juice, onions, oregano and black pepper. Typically served at Christmas in Cuban communities,  think of it as Cuban barbecue. Wonderful stuff!



Lastly, my favorite food item at La Cubanita is 'Chicharrones de pollo'. (I almost cannot write this without my mouth watering!) Imagine if you will, taking your grandmother's fried chicken and taking the skin off of it. Now deep fry that skin after marinating it in Cuban spices. HOLY SMOKE...They could be on the list of the best things I have ever eaten. Crunchy golden goodness that crunches in your mouth. OMG...what a flavor!


La Cubanita is set up at the West Tennessee Farmer's Market on Saturday's from 8:30 a.m. till they sell out. They are also set up at various locations in Jackson including Old Medina Market at 2800 Old Medina Rd in Jackson.

Check out their locations and stops at : www.facebook.com/LaCubanitaEmpanadas



And in honor of La Cubanita being the first Cuban restaurant in Jackson Tennessee, I'd like to offer up a little Buena Vista Social Club...







Friday, October 4, 2013

Feasting on Good Karma




It's not every day that I get the opportunity to chow down at a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple. However last weekend I had the pleasure of joining the members of Tu Vien Quan Am Buddhist Temple in Memphis for a food sale and dinner to raise money for the temple. The temple was started in 2002 by the venerable monk Thich Nguyen Tanh. The temple grounds maintain housing for monks, a meeting hall and several gardens where fruit and vegetables are grown. The  temple serves members of the East Memphis Buddhist community and conducts services every Sunday. 










The sale was held inside a meeting hall directly behind the temple. Outside of the hall, an elderly lady was selling bags of fresh vegetables grown on the temple grounds. Visitors pick up large handfuls of green leafy Chinese cabbage, bok choy and assorted vegetables. Once inside the hall, the smell of wok oil fills the air. The smell of onions sizzling begins to pierce my nose. The sound of English and Vietnamese filled my ears as crowds of men, women and children surrounded vendors tables. 


It is then I see her. Sitting barefoot on a wooden stool and surrounded by cooking tools, a short Vietnamese lady begins to pour coconut milk into a heated wok. She then begins to add spoonfuls of bean sprouts, onions, tofu and various vegetables into the mix. Right at this moment, it's just me and her in this room. And I'm captivated by her wok.




As I peruse the various vendors I recognize numerous dishes and then run across some that I cannot identify. Hot pots of steaming soups, rice noodles and mystery vegetables, all for at very affordable prices. I walk up to one vendor who is serving a refreshing looking iced beverage in tall plastic cups. A sweet looking white liquid over cascades of ice cubes. My mind wanders to drinks like a sweet bubble tea or even a Thai style iced tea filled with cream and sugary goodness. I ask the lady behind the counter what is in the drinks. She smiles and tells me that is is made from beans. Suddenly I feel obliged to decline. Not so much a fan of beans, yet alone beans on the rocks.

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As I watched two ladies stirring a large pot of a spicy soup broth, my eye would keep being drawn to a box of green colored pyramids called 'Banh Gio'. When I asked one of the vendors what it was, she explained to me that it was filled with bananas. I decided to try one of the interesting looking treats. Wrapped in banana leaf, banh gio is a Vietnamese snack food that is typically made of steamed rice dumpling and minced pork. Some cooks add additional ingredients such as onions, mushrooms, fish sauce and oyster sauce. These particular rice dumplings were slow steamed and filled with a creamy ball of banana which produced a sweet and starchy taste.



My next stop was a table filled with mysterious looking dishes in bright red and orange colors. I inquired with the lady behind the table as to what these mystery dishes were. " It's shrimp, shrimp and chicken dishes." I heard shrimp and that's all I needed to hear. I grabbed up one of the red colored dishes of shrimp. I glanced down at the plate and had to do a double take. Was there really a shrimp the size of a lobster on my plate? I plopped down my meager four dollars for the plate and ran to the closest table to indulge my senses.



I settled on a plate of my favorite Vietnamese dish besides Pho (and I did ask if anyone had any!) known as Ban Xeo. Ban Xeo is a French inspired crepe made from rice flour, coconut milk and green onions. It is typically filled with pork, shrimp and bean sprouts. It is then served with fresh lettuce, fresh mint and fresh cilantro. The finished product is then dipped into fish sauce. Big, messy and delicious. I also grabbed up one of the banh gio rice dumplings and my shrimp. The ban xeo was delicious while the rice dumpling was good but the banana inside was mediocre. The shrimp was this beautiful juicy behemoth of a dish. As I began to cut into the shrimp I noticed that it was actually stuffed. The inside of the shrimp was filled with a cornbread type stuffing. The marinade was a sweet and spicy sauce that tasted of hints of lemongrass, vinegar and tomato. I polished one of the four ginormous shrimp off and was getting full. I would later discover that the inside of the shrimp was filled with seasoned fried tofu. It was great and I am so not a tofu kind of guy!

The temple is beginning to offer the food sales very weekend after their Sunday morning service. Do yourself a favor and drop by for an authentic taste and experience of Vietnamese and Buddhist culture. Tu Vien Quan Am Buddhist Temple is located at 3500 Goodlet, Memphis Tennessee.






Friday, September 20, 2013

Rollin Thai in the Dirty South...

The appearance of food trucks throughout the Bible Belt is certainly a welcome sight to southern foodies. For too long this ingenious idea to bring affordable food that was typically only accessible in sometimes 'high end' restaurants was paraded in front of us on food channels and out of state websites. The food truck craze has caught on in the south and has brought some very tasty dishes to the streets of rednecks, metropolitan folk and plain ole country people.

On a recent trip to Nashville we stumbled an amazing restaurant on wheels known as 'Deg Thai'. Deg Thai is a Thai-fusion food truck that rolls through the Music City pumping good smells and amazing Thai cuisine. The truck was named Best of Nashville's '2012 Best Food Truck' in a reader's survey.



The color truck features a number of Thai favorites like 'Classic Pad Thai' which features rice noodles, green onions, tamarind, bean sprouts chilies and chicken or tofu.  They also feature traditional red curry made with red chilli pepper, galangal, lemongrass and shallots in coconut milk. A fragrant green curry is also served which features green chili pepper, ginger, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves in coconut milk. The curry is cooled down with a side of fresh steamed jasmine rice.



The classic 'Masaman curry' is served in a very unique way. Grilled chicken is cooked in a spicy coconut gravy with romaine lettuce, onions and cucumbers on flat bread to make the very popular 'Masaman Wrap'. The wrap is so delicious that it was named the 'Best Sandwich' at the 2012 Nashville Street Awards. 

Other dishes include a spicy salad known as the 'Tiger Tear Salad' which combines thinly sliced steak, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onion and cucumbers. The combination results in a spicy and fresh tasting salad.


One of the star player at Deg Thai are the homemade Thai spring rolls. For a few bucks you get a big tray of golden, flaky tasty treats. All served with a light sweet sauce for dipping.



Last but not least, patrons can indulge themselves in a cool, rich Thai tea or a dark, caffeine potent Thai coffee.




You can follow the Deg Thai truck on twitter at:
https://twitter.com/DegThaiTruck





Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mama's Don't Let your Babies Grow Up to Eat Fast Food

After a long departure from the blog, I am glad to announce that we are back in the saddle. So put on your bibs, loosen your belts and let's talk food!





Recently I drove through the drive thru of a local fast food spot (I won't identify it but it there was a creepy clown peering through a window at me and I wasn't at the John Wayne Gacy Cafe). The establishment featured advertisements for new 'real angus beef' burgers that were priced higher than their regular faire. (Because you must pay more for the real cows). This seems to be a growing trend. More and more fast food places are advertising 'We have real ingredients' as opposed to the 'mystery' ingredients that many of these places carry. Burger joints are advertising 'real beef' while Taco joints advertise 'real shredded chicken' as opposed to 'chicken-like' mystery bits.





I have friends that read this blog that are somewhat 'monogastric' in their food choices. If it's not meat and potatoes or doesn't come dropped in a hot fryer and ladled in cheese with ranch dressing on the side it's not consider edible. So when they see that I've been eating street food from Chinatown or menudo from a back alley taqueria somewhere, they typically will turn their nose up and say " Saw you eatin some of that weird stuff on your webpage". However many of the same folks think nothing of loadin up the kids into the vehicle and pumpin full of mystery meat and deep fried heart stoppers. Unseasoned fatty beef served beside a potato filled with fake chives and bacon bits is truly acceptable but put that same beef on a stick and marinade it in chiles and seasonings and let a person of a different ethnicity serve it up and there's trouble....but I digress...






So I'm reading from Anthony Bourdain's 'The Nasty Bits' and Father Tony has some words of wisdom to say about just this very thing:

" But is fast food inherently evil? Is the convenient nature of the beast bad, in and of itself? Decidedly no. Fast food which traditionally solves very real problems of working families, families with kids, business people and the casually hungry can be good food. If you walk down the streets of Saigon or visit an open air market in Mexico, you'll see that a quick easy meal does not have to be part of that hideous generic sprawl of soul destroying sameness that stretches from strip malls across the USA, looking the same, tasting the same. The paper wrapped morsels of grey 'beef' patties with all-purpose sauce. The unbelievably high caloric horrors of beef flavored sprayed chicken nuggets or milkshakes that contain milk and have never been shaken or barbecue that has never seen a grill, cheese with no cheese , and theme monstrosities for whom food is only a lure to buy a t-shirt is not the way it has to be. There is delicious and even nutritious fast food to be had in the world, often faster and cheaper than the clown and the colonel and the king and their ilk produce." 



Bourdain goes on to point out the great street food found in Mexico, Japan and Vietnam, just to name a few. He also goes on to offer solutions to us:

" Next time you find yourself standing slack jawed and hungry in front of a fast food counter and a clown in anywhere nearby, just head for the lone-wolf, independent operator down the street, a pie shop, a kebab joint or anywhere that the proprietor has a name. When possible, try to eat food that comes from somewhere and somebody.!"


There was a week where I ate nothing but various ethnic dishes for lunch and supper every day. One day it was Indian, the next day it was Thai. The next day it was Mexican and the next it was Caribbean inspired food. All foods that could potentially cause the 'perfect storm' amidst my stomach if ya know what I mean...

All was fine with no issues until Friday came and I decided to grab something quick for supper and went through a Taco Bell . Just two small items of mystery meat from the Bell and I was running for the border. I mean after eating dishes that contained spices from India, peppers from Mexico and seasoning from the islands, what ripped up my insides was a '$1.29' taco from a national chain. I thought to myself " I thought this was 'safe' food. I thought this is what thousands of moms and dads picked up on the way to soccer practice just in time to get little Johnny off  to the field so his parents could live vicariously through him...." (Wait...that's another blog) Anyway, it was this Americanized, commercialized , generic food that left me in El Bano....






As I depart from the soapbox, remember that things will never change until we begin to seek more. Many of us have tasted real food, and it is GOOD!


The next time your family is looking to go out for a meal, try to find a locally owned establishment. Boycott fake Mcfood by eating real food while putting money into the local economy. Open your culinary mind and step out of your comfort zone.

And as we have said many times in this blog, EAT LOCAL!



Thursday, May 2, 2013

Southern Arabian Nights





            The soft white clouds of smoke smelled of a scent of rose and jasmine rise from an Arabic pipe. The smell of cardamom spices and roasted Turkish coffee arouses the senses. A man places a large plate of well seasoned lamb, stuffed fig leaves and slightly toasted pita bread on the table. It might seem like a scene from Arabian Nights but it all take places in West Tennessee. I am at the Palace Café in Jackson Tennessee.

            















The Palace Café is owned by Alex Hanson and family. Alex also owns ‘Al Houda International Food Market’, the only Middle Eastern Market in Jackson Tennessee. ( See our post ‘Middle Eastern Treats’ for information on Al Houda)









  Alex and his family began serving authentic Middle Eastern cuisine at the market as well as offered customers the unique experience of trying coffees, teas and various spices. Many West Tennesseans visit the market for Alex’s selection of hard to find import items. One of the most popular items that he sells is the Arabic waterpipe known as the ‘Hookah’.


            The hookah is a waterpipe that is quite popular throughout many world cultures and is used to vaporize smoking tobacco known as ‘shisha’. Shisha tobacco known as ‘Mu’assel’ is a combination of tobacco, molasses and in many cases dried fruits. Popular flavors include apple, lemon, grape and mint. The tobacco is vaporized and passed through water before it is inhaled. The name ‘hookah’ comes from the Arabic word for ‘jar’ and is a part of the rich culture and tradition of the Middle East.  










            The hookah is tremendously popular in cafes and homes in the Middle East and Indian and has spread throughout Asia and South Africa. The hookah is not just a pipe but is a focal point of fellowship. In the words of my friend from Syria “Men in the U.S. go to bars and drink when they get off of work, in my country we go to café and smoke the hookah and drink tea.” The hookah is tremendously relaxing and can be shared among friends.



















         
         Let’s talk about the food. The food at the Palace Café is amazing. Traditional Middle Eastern dishes like lamb gyros and shwarma can be found. Shwarma is an Arabic meat that is prepared on a spit and grilled for several hours. Meat is shaved from the spit and placed in warm pita bread with onions, tomatoes and Greek yogurt. 

Fresh tilapia and shish kabobs are on the menu as well as traditional fresh Greek salads and tabbouleh, a salad made from bulgur wheat, mint, cucumbers, onion and garlic. Baba ghanoush which is a Arabic dish made from eggplant, lemon juice, olive oil and spices is a fantastic dish eaten with pit bread.  Assorted Middle Eastern favorites also available include stuffed grape leaves, falafel and hummus.





For those with a sweet tooth, the Palace offers a fascinating array of desserts starting with homemade baklava coated in honey. Namoura is a Lebanese dessert cake made from coconut, rose water, sweet butter, flour and almonds. Mamoul is a shortbread cookie that is found throughout Syria and Lebanon. Mamoul cookies are made with sweet orange flower water, flour, sugar, butter and filled with honey dates.  All of these desserts can be enjoyed with Turkish coffee, one of my favorite coffees in the world.









For those just wanting a snack, the Palace offers Egyptian and Pumpkin seeds alongside fresh fruit juices including guava and fresh mango.






The Palace also offers a full service oxygen bar, pool tables and live belly dancers every first Saturday of the month. The Palace is BYOB and is open 10:00 a.m. to midnight weekdays and noon to 5:00 a.m on Saturdays. The Palace Café is located next to Hollywood Cinema in Jackson at 603b Vann Drive , Jackson Tennessee. For more information find them on Facebook at The Palace Café.

Print this blog page and carry it in for a 10% discount on Jackson’s only Middle Eastern cuisine.



            

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Culinary Kindness

It happened so quickly I almost didn't know how to react. This evening I was enjoying a meal with some friends at a local Thai restaurant when this guy and his kid come in. They sit down at their table and are quickly greeted by the wait staff. The waitress is a friendly, sweet spirited young Thai lady. After retrieving drinks from the kitchen for the two, she quietly asks them if they are ready to order. After about 5 seconds of uncomfortable silence the man barks " Yes I want the fragrant chicken with the onions, peppers and yeah, I want to show you how I want it prepared..." I turn to see mister white hair flip open his 'not so trendy' flip phone and begin to sort through pictures. " I want it made like this, I want it made like I make it at home!" He barks...

Did I hear that right? Not only did Powder bark at this kind waitress like she was mowing his lawn, but he wants her to quote " make it like he makes it at home"? Are you for real? Did he really just say that? To add insult to injury we then get to hear this curmudgeon complain to his 14 yr old daughter about how her friends have no respect for his home when they come over. Really? Respect?



This brings me to the topic of this week's rant...something I like to call 'Culinary Kindness'.

Imagine you are a waitress or waiter. You've just clocked in on the clock and are set to start work. You greet customers as they walk in the door. Short ones, tall ones, skinny ones...you get the picture. And for the most, most of the customers are smiling and at a minimal...courteous to you.

As the evening progresses, the crowd begins to build. You are handing out menus, taking up empty plates and pouring tea. While to the untrained eye it seems very chaotic. But you've got this. You are able to be courteous, welcoming and prompt in being a server. All is going well till you hear the sound of what might as well be fingers on a chalkboard. 'Klink, klink, klink...' Above the sound of table side chatter and forks against plates can be heard the sound of rudeness..'Kilnk, klink...klink'

Out of your peripheral vision you notice a man raising his arm above his head. Say he isn't...Yes, he has raised his glass of ice and is shaking it at you. Like a baby rattling their sippy cup, this 50 year old man is rattling his glass.



What in God's green earth would posses a grown person to act like this? Here's one better...A dear friend of mine was responsible for catering a wedding and provided the meal and desserts. As the caterer and her staff dipped into the kitchen to bring more food out for the guests, a woman appeared in the kitchen. My friend asked "Hi, can we help you?" The woman responded " Yes, I need to get some A1 steak sauce." My friend who had provided a delicious meal consisting of roasted pork and assorted vegetables responded " I'm sorry, we don't have any A1.." (obviously curious as to why anyone would want steak sauce on barbecued pork but I digress) The woman placed her hand on her hips and exclaimed " Daddy has to have his A1. He won't eat meat without it!" My friend, rather puzzled again repeated "sorry we don't have any" The woman began to wrinkle her nose as she snipped " We'll somebody has got to find us some!"

And to that I say..no my friend, no they don't. Now I'm not saying that if you order a steak medium rare and it comes out charred black that you don't inquire with your waitress about perhaps something that went wrong with the order. But this growing issue of being such rude and entitled babies in restaurant and the food scene has got to stop! Do we even realize how hard it is to work in the food industry? From the chef behind the scenes to the waitress pouring your coffee, it is hard work.



"But when I pay for a meal, I expect service!" some will cry. Your absolutely right. But that service is not a license to be a jerk. For some reason we put on our best manners when we meet complete strangers at social events but find it quite easy to be rude to strangers who are our wait staff at restaurants. I recall an occasion in which I was eating with friends and one of the friends's spouses had gotten a steak that wasn't so enjoyable to her. As the perky little twenty something waitress dropped by our table and asked "How is everything?" My friend's spouse replied "This steak sucks!" The color in the waitresses face drained right before us. "Um...I'm sorry. Would you like me to take it back?" the waitress asked. " No, I just wanted you to know it sucks...." she replied.

How many of us know incidents like this where we 'just wanted them to know'? Here's a novel idea, when someone is trying to provide a solution, accept it. That waitress didn't cook your steak. Furthermore, insulting or being rude will not bring about a happy server. (I always have to warn folks, be kind to your wait staff...they can touch your food!)

It is true, going out to eat is not just about the food. It is also about the experience. The wait staff, the cook, the management...they are all inviting you in to eat in their kitchen. Whether it is a conscious effort, the true goal is to be hospitable and to provided an enjoyable dining experience. When a customer or one of the staff of the restaurant is a jerk, it hinders the flow of enjoyment. The customer that makes it hard on the wait staff will also make it hard on the next customer that comes in. The stress that is carried over from an incident of rudeness will affect the emotional atmosphere.

Why am I saying this? Because your waitress can't. The manager..can't. But it needs to be said. There is no law on the books that says just because you paid $9.95 for that plate of chicken fingers that you can be rude and it be acceptable. Show some culinary kindness. Be nice to your servers. Oh yeah..Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and Happy Kwanza! Eat Local!
















Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lessons learned from Anthony Bourdain


As a fan of writer and chef Anthony Bourdain , this past week was very bittersweet. On one end I was privileged to see him live in Memphis as he shared stories and anecdotes from his travels at the Orpheum Theater. One a sad note though, last night was the final broadcast of his show No Reservations.




I have been a follower of Tony since I first read his book A Cook's Tour back in 2001. The book chronicled his travels around the world to find various cuisines. As his popularity has grown, Bourdain developed quite a reputation for being cynical and arrogant. Bourdain's first book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly gave insight into the mind of a stressed out and jaded chef. Bourdain made several people mad as he penned several 'secrets' of the culinary industry. His words also spoke volumes to cooks, chefs and kitchen workers as he spilled the truth of what it is like to work in the food industry. Tony soon garnered a reputation as the 'bad boy' of chefs.



As I followed Tony's writings, it became apparent that he was changing into someone different. He stopped using drugs. He began to try to live a healthier lifestyle. He began to travel around the world to capture the culture of cuisine from various people. His experiences and his encounters with world cultures slowly began to erode away at the prideful shell he had once wore.  His experiences with other cultures took him from being a selfish addict that lived to spit venom and criticism to a witness of the world around him. He soon began to see that there are truly, other ways of being.

So if I may, let me wax philosophically for a few. While Tony still thinks a lot of himself and is not the icon of humility, he has experienced some life lessons that I think we can all learn from :


We should see members of other cultures as 'people' not simply as 'exotic'.



One of the real temptations in interacting with members of other cultures is to get caught up in the aesthetics of the unfamiliar. Someone wearing colorful beads, a veiled burka or ornamental tattoos can appear to be 'exotic' if we are not used to seeing them. However at the end of the day, they are not simply symbols of a people group. They are people. They are mothers and fathers. They are daughters and sons.


We should avoid being 'ethnocentric' 



Being ethnocentric is simply thinking that one way is the only way of being. While it may be tempting to think that we in the West have it all together as we watch the 'poor ways' of living of the world's other cultures, it is an error to think that we have the monopoly on living correctly. After all, we are the culture that pays sports figures millions of dollars while teachers and police officers have to take second jobs to make ends meet. We don't exactly have our priorities straight.

We should learn to appreciate diversity




It is easy to become jaded at the word 'diversity' as many of us equate it with stifling mandatory training classes for employees at most major work companies. Critics declare that 'cultural diversity' is a buzzword for being force fed other ways of living. Truly appreciating cultural diversity is accepting that the world is an amazing place of different 'tribes' with our own customs, rituals and worldviews.

When members of a culture share, show respect 



Unfamiliar foods from unfamiliar cultures may seem 'scary' or 'intimidating'. And while it may be tempting to turn up your nose or show disgust, remember someone is giving of themselves when they share their food with you. Foods, practices and customs may appear 'strange' when we are not familiar with them but if you are being offered to take part in any of them, remember you are being trusted. Show respect. Eat the chicken head.


Understand that you represent your culture



One of Bourdain's best stories he told in Memphis centers around how other cultures view our culture in the West. He explained how a goat herder in the Middle East who works very hard to feed his family happens to see something from American television like Adam Richmond's 'Man vs. Food'. He watches as this big guy funnels chicken wings while a host of frat boys cheer him on. He sees him eat all of this food and notices that not only is he eating enough to feed a village but that he's not even enjoying it. He's sweating and wincing in pain. He thinks about the hard work that he has to do to simply feed his family a little as he watches the uber-indulgence of the West on his television. He thinks to himself " I'm going to join Al-Qaeda!"

Humorous yet poignant. How we choose to interact with other cultures affects how are perceived.


Yes, even from the life of a cynical, self indulgent chef we can learn how to be better foodies, better citizens and better humans. Well done Mister Bourdain. Well done.