One of my top 3 favorite TV shows is Anthony Bordain's No Reservations on the travel channel. This week's new episode featured San Francisco - a city I'll always love, not just because it is a beautiful place, but because it was the first stop on our honeymoon.
As I watch the show, I find myself always trying to see beyond the footage being presented and think about everything else Tony did with his time during the trip. For instance, often Tony appears to be drinking large amounts of liquor - sometimes nothing more than ahorrendous fermented concoction birthed in a plastic gasoline canister and filtered through a burlap sack - and on his way to breakfast the next morning, I ask myself "how hungover do you think he is right now?" Or when he's saying "oh this is delicious - yeah, i could eat a dozen of these" as he chomps down the eyeball from a whole cooked fish... does he really mean it?
He admits that NR is a pork-centric show, and I, too, love meat. But this guy can really pack it away, and no amount ever seems to be too much! The episode from Argentina, I believe, features he and his brother devouring not one, but two plates piled high with grilled pork products. And 'plates' isn't even the correct word. They were high-sided trays... pans, almost. You know what a deep dish pizza pan looks like? Yeah, that's it. Two of 'em with sausage links hanging off the sides, and a seeminly insurmountable heap of fatty, greasy meat mounded inside. Here's the thing, though: I can live with that. It's grilled pork, butchered close by. Purchased in a thriving marketplace. There's a freshness about it. Sure, it may triple your blood pressure in one sitting, but at least it's not heavily processed and pumped full of hormones and preservatives.
But throughout the San Francisco episode, the question on which I became fixated and only grew stronger after the show ended, was whether he truly enjoys injesting all the heavy, greasy, low quality, meat-centric and cheap foods we seem him devouring?
In this episode, he clearly wanted to convey the message that he likes San Francisco, but not for the reason that most people do. He apparently hates the yuppy, vegan/vegetarian, organic-obsessed, often hypocritical upper-crust granola population there, who are responsible for making San Fran one of the most progressive bastions of the local/organic movement (nay, revolution!) currently sweeping the nation. I don't think he has anything against good vegetables, organic, local farming methods or people of wealth. But what he wanted us to see as the best aspect of San Francisco was what still lies on the underbelly: the dive bars, the cheap classics, the avantgarde offal trend, etc.
To that end, we see Tony, after visiting the requisite historic seafood and street food landmarks, eat his way through a barrage of truly gross foods: prime rib (which he refers to as the American Dream) so rare it looked like it was clubbed to death by neanderthanls only moments before served, soft roe (basically fish spooge), a seven pound meat shrine of a sandwich (a torta made at a liquor store sandwich counter) featuring ground beef, chorizo, hot dogs, ham, eggs, lots of mayo and cheese, avacado and more. Then a night filled with nothing but offal: dehydrated ham fat crystals fried in duck fat, venison heart tartare, goose intestines, calf's brain and testicles. Finally, because apparently he hadn't yet had his fill of fatty meat, another pure junk food pigout session: a greasy double cheeseburer (for breakfast) which he applauds for tasting "like it died screaming."
Again, I'm a huge fan of the show most of the time. The episodes from Asia are always beautiful, and the recent Australia episode featured some really great looking food. But I'm getting tired of the borderline maniacal worship of low quality meat-centric foods. In the San Francisco episode, he just goes too far in trying to downplay the local/organic message they espouse there by trying to make us think the best things in the city are only found on the underbelly.
Regarding the double cheeseburger at the end of the show, he asks, "Is it organic? Who cares?!" Seems like a funny question for Tony to be asking, considering he's also a guy who kicked a hard-core smoking habit after the birth of his daughter. The answer is right there in front of you, Tony. Love the show, but maybe a higher level of scrutiny for the obesity-inducing gut bomb foods is in order. If I want to see gross people stuffing their gullet with cheap Americana sandwiches, I'll watch Man vs. Food.