Bourdain on Beruit

Not long after yours truly got the chance to help cook a 13-course feast for chef/author/tv star Anthony Bourdain during filming for an episode of his Travel Channel show No Reservations, we learned that the bad-boy chef was stuck in Beirut while filming an episode on Lebanon.

I don’t really have much comment on this, other than recommending reading his article about being stuck there for over a week, watching foreigners get evacuated, watching new Lebanese friends go home to flattened houses, and watching Beirutis recently returned to Lebanon to take part in the vibrant, cosmopolitan city that had emerged from near-destruction only too recently, living off of a mishmash of information sources of varying levels of reliability, knowing that, if they manage to not get blown up in the meantime, they’ll get to go home to perfectly in tact homes and lives, is heartbreaking.

The passage I focused most on:

The news clip of President Bush, chawing open-mouthed on a buttered roll, then grabbing at another while Tony Blair tries to get him to focus on Lebanon — plays over and over on the TV, crushing our spirits and dampening all hope with every glassy-eyed mouthful. He seems intent on enjoying his food; Lebanon a tiny, annoying blip on an otherwise blank screen. I can’t tell you how depressing that innocuous bit of footage is to watch. That one, innocent, momentary preoccupation with a roll has a devastating effect on us that is out of all proportion. We’re looking for signs. And this, sadly, is all we have.

I think that pretty much sums up a lot of how I see our president, though I’d not seen the clip described. Sitting in the middle of a literal war zone, Bourdain is watching the man charged with leading us all completely disengaged from the very real struggle going on on the ground.

I’m angry at Isreal, too, Pam. And mad at our president who can stand up in the middle of all this, while completely innocent people are killed and maimed and made homeless and hopeless and say that it would be a BAD IDEA(?) to focus on a cease-fire and negotiations because it wouldn’t be a permanent solution. Is he nuts? It’s a bad idea to stop beating the crap out of each other and try to work out a more rational solution, one that, perhaps doesn’t involve bombing towns and housing complexes and the roads that civilians are trying to flee on? Every time I hear him say that, I wonder how he can think that anyone would not listen to the logic and just shake their heads, muttering, “what a moron.”

I’m also angry that our president is probably also discouraging a cease-fire because he’s looking for the best way to tie Iran to the situation tightly enough to go start a war with them now too.

I’m really angry that so many people voted for this asshole in 2004. And I’m even more mad that he’s turned out to be much more of a threat to the world and our national security than I had realized.

And I’m angry because Beirut is someplace that I’ve often wanted to visit, had really hoped to, along with Shiraz and Qom and Isfahan, places that our president, by perpetuating a West vs. the Middle East dynamic, is pushing further and further out of our reach.

2 thoughts on “Bourdain on Beruit”

  1. Thanks for this, Paulette.

    As a fellow world traveller, it breaks my heart when these m#$%&#$ f*#[email protected]#s make the world smaller for us.

    Last year, a friend asked me if I’d be interested in coming along on a trip to Syria, and I had to think over if that was something that was physically possible for me to do, with my US passport and my Jewish background. Would the people of Syria be unkind to me? Probably not. Would their government permit me to enter? I don’t even know. I just know that Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and any other number of places I would love to travel in are becoming increasingly inaccessible while they become increasingly at risk.

    Now, we add Damascus and Beirut to the list of places we’re unlikely to visit in our lives. There’s this great sadness as I mentally tear up the maps. Nope. Not going there, thank you very much foreign policy makers. It’s heartbreaking. We’d better get to Petra and Cairo (again) while we still can.

  2. Exactly. Aside from all the political and power issues, I’d always looked at the world as a cook. Whether any given person was shiite or suuni or jewish or christian, in my world view, was irrelevant. what i always thought was interesting and valuable was how do they eat and what does that say about the culture. Ethiopians tear off communal pieces of bread and share their fod; Americans freak out that someone might be double dipping.

    I have, for a long time, viewed the food cultures of peoples as windows into how they view themselves and their communities. Americans view others as threats. Much of the rest of the world veiws others as an integral part of sharing a meal. all of which makes me sad, since i truly believe you can be a better person and appreciate the world around you more by sharing your dinner (and its cooties) than by fearing and demonizing the cooties others might bring to it.

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