Then I happened to read the comments, and I started to remember certain "facts" Mr Bourdain made in passing. For instance, the assumption that all elections in Kerala are rigged,. 1957 's was not a rigged election. Mr B! In fact, it was some of the enlightened "upper" caste leaders who lead that revolution.
Along with that it dawned on me that some people only see what is shown here. They will never see the rest of Kerala or India, or wouldn't want to, if they had the chance. So this is the only lesson they get! And that set me thinking again. Again conveniently reinforcing their exalted ideas about themselves and the opposite about others.
Someone said India should be a parking lot for Asia and other derogatory stuff, I have to remind them that not all nations get to throw up their superfluous onto other nations, and not all superfluous get to kill off the natives and grab all their land, and start a new nation from scratch. Nor do they get to start up wars anywhere they like so that they can fill up their dwindling coffers, at the same time make their citizens' jingoist hearts swell with pride and patriotism.
And the caste system -- as if they are new to that! the slavery and the aftermath has been swept under the rug? of course, most people are drugged senseless here, by TV and shopping.
India is an ancient country, and it has an ancient culture, (not to speak of a different climate!) its landmass has been reduced by hook or by crook, and its people are just waking up from centuries of colonial abuse.
Anyway I guess it is much better than eating almost-touched -by fire raw meat, and fish. Or drinking milk from cows that aren't cows anymore. I mean a herbivorous animal fed on meat! or the sausages, and the chickens and the eggs and so on and so on.
Or the mush that they serve here in the name of "curry" or the "curry powder" that they sell as spice!!!
and they add that thing to everything, and call it Indian!!
I know it is a natural tendency of many of the so called First World to assume that they are the superior ones in everything, and smugly watch the misery of others, pretending all is cool with them and their lot. I would be ideal if people knew that every culture is different, and that India has a huge population, in which each state, each district, each community, and each family is different. There is no standardized, assembly line home style food making here, for good or bad. For a westerner, it is an almost incomprehensible unique individualistic but collective identity that is India. Also, talking about differences in culture, and a foreigner's perception and expectations when they visit India, in this case, Kerala, let me give an example, esp. since Bourdain is taking us not to high end restaurants but to the low end eateries. Well, there lies the rub. For instance take the beach culture that you can experience almost anywhere in the world. But come to Kerala with its beautiful beaches -- there is no such culture here. Not many outdoor eateries where the whole family or women can go. Yes, the class structure even thoug hit is slowly dissolving is still very much there. Does that mean people do not eat good food? They do, but mostly at home. If Bourdain wanted to see low-end eateries serving tasty Kerala food, he should have gone to college or university students, youngsters at workplaces. But even then, he may not srike luck, because again, these will be mostly the male sex, thereby missing a whole chunk of ideas from the majority of the population.( The reason for a lack of a beach and outdoor and a commercialized foodie culture in Kerala can be traced to the traditional ways of controlling women. Sadly. That needless to say has many other consequences, least of all being that the people there seem to be idiots, again, sadly. Add to that the idea that has been ingrained in the patriarchal minds about cooking as a whole -- it is a woman's job. And a woman's place is in the kitchen of her own home. And the work she does there is not appreciated or valued or considered important. So there is no real incentive to take that cooking out to the public. Granted, there is an instance of untapped potential resourcewise and marketwise, with regards to local food taken to the public stage. As it is, it is mostly a man's world. Things are changing, of course, but slowly. But I still have hopes for my state -- not to blindly ape western habits, for example, please stick to drinking water! not Coke and Pepsi, and keep using those spices, and not cheese and salt and sugar -- but treat the women as human beings.)
But I don't think Mr Bourdain meant that to happen. I hope not! Because I always admired his lack of condescension and ability to get along with everyone. Accepting them for what they are, even respecting them, without that sense of superiority that plagues others. Which makes one distrustful... .He never seemed to be one of those show persons who show only the Magnificent Miles of their own country, and went a-scavenging in others.(anyway, it is taken for granted that the white world is rich and happy, they needn't be afraid that people will misunderstand!) Showing just this bit of Kerala cuisine makes it rather representative of the whole state's cuisine, which is far from reality. Almost like me assuming that eating opossums and innards is representative of white American cuisine, thinking those are the the only things that the whites eat. Or that everything is porridgy or "custardly" and are in a rather dastardly manner pushed through various implements to form curls or swirls and slivers. Bourdain's disdain for simple food is unhealthy -- the less processed and breaded, the more nutritious. Anyway, reduction should stay as a culinary technique, not as a method to reduce the cuisine of a whole civilization. Like they did with the branding, 'curry".For the colonial powers it was a systematic reduction of everything that was Indian, of course, their history, philosophy, religion etc -- part of their exploitation agenda, and placing imperialist machinery of law, politics, and education in their place. for instance, see Macaulay's educational ''reforms' tailored for Indians, which we sadly follow even now.
But getting back to the Bourdain matter, the boorish comments from the viewers color the whole thing for me -- negatively. makes me wonder if here is just another white guy pretending.....another phony.... or just human? after all, not everyone can be a Henning Mankell. could it be another instance of "all are equal, some are more..."? I want to be proved wrong.
Still, all this, including my reaction, ( because I know that I can't blame Mr B for the comments from a few of his fans, but that is what triggered these thoughts) leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and I will stay clear off Bourdain's show at least for a while.
Aah! that feels better -- end of rant.
And something else -- Mallu TV channels broadcast the "fact" that Mr B came all the way from America in order to discover the favorite foods of Mammootty, Kerala's beloved actor. :D
I realize I have to work on this piece some more. later, when I have the time and patience. for instance why do I have pictures of our food here? Do I need to prove that our food is better and tastier than any other? but it is inevitable that the second rate world citizen gets angry, because in his mind, he is not second rate, but he knows that in their eyes he is, or they prefer to think he is so.
someone once told me that the proletarian and the feminist have one thing in common -- they whine.
I should also add, they become defensive too. and not just them -- well -- I guess it is a part of the subaltern effect.
(UPDATE: $20 billion - Temple's secret vaults yield treasure - World news - South and Central Asia - msnbc.com