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Andrew Zimmern Only Wishes He Could be Anthony Bourdain
With one season now under its belt, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel has earned our title of being the most culturally insensitive show on TV. We caught a repeat episode on Sunday night when the Emmys got boring and realized that the show’s host is the type of traveler that helps other countries put “ugly” in front of “American.”
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, Zimmern travels to “exotic” locations (Taiwan, the Philippines, the American South) and tries the funkiest, bizarrest foods the region has to offer. (Think ones that are on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Big Mac.)
Here’s how the Bizarre Foods' website described an episode on Taiwan:
Andrew is off to the tropical island of Taiwan--a culture that loves to eat flavorful food that stinks! Join Andrew as he tries to find the source of these smells trying native dishes like thousand year old eggs, fermented meat and rooster's testicles.
Gee, how do you say “condescending” in Asian?
The Sunday night highlight show followed Zimmern's culinary travels through Asia, where he tried foods like bird's nest soup, bats, spirulina and the distinctive-smelling durian fruit -- to most Western noses anyway.
But here's where our problem with Zimmern begins. Unlike his Travel Channel counterpart Anthony Bourdain - who immerses himself in a particular culture, soaks up its history and relishes any new adventure in taste - Zimmern remains decidedly an outsider. (His midwestern sensibilities show through and through.)
Every time he tries a food that looks or smells weird, he looks as meek as a mouse - like a contestant on Fear Factor about to eat bull's testicles. During this particular episode, we watched him take small sips of spirulina for a camera shot, but then he backwashed the drink back into his glass. We've tried spirulina, and it's not that bad.
He also insults the culture that's feeding him. Later in the same episode, he's offered the durian fruit by a local farmer and ends up gagging and spitting it back out in front of the guy.
Some of the foods featured in the Asian show are available right in LA's own Chinatown. What's so exotic about that?
If the Travel Channel is going to pay someone to go and try foods from across the world, can't they find someone who's an actual foodie? Who finds joy in trying new foods to wake the taste buds? Who really appreciates differences in cuisines and cultures?
But if Andrew can't man up, then just leave the job to Bourdain. Zimmern can stick to the Big Macs. We know that figure of his wasn't acquired by eating mounds of bull testicles and bird's nest soup.
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