Showing posts with label travel videos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel videos. Show all posts

Monday, February 1, 2010

Who Will Be the Czech "Jamie Oliver?"

There are two spheres of life in the Czech Republic that are wide open for the right talent to walk into and call their own - giant gaping voids that just scream "opportunity!"  The first sphere would be politics which I've written about in other posts.  The second sphere of life in the Czech Republic that is in need of new voices, new talent, & new thought is cuisine.

British Chef
Jamie Oliver
Where is the Czech "Jamie Oliver?" He's the British chef who said "we could make our national food and cuisine and what we serve our kids healthier." The Czech Republic is in bad need of this kind of culinary cultural leadership.
Food author
Michael Pollan

It's interesting to compare what needs to be fixed in American diets and what needs to be fixed in Czech diets.  My hero, author Michael Pollan, writes extensively and entertainingly that Americans eat a lot of "edible food-like substances" rather than real, actual food. He has said Americans are unconscious when they eat processed food.  It's not really "real food." It's an "edible, highly-processed food-like substance" that has been created because processed food adds more profit to ag companies than commodities.

Americans are so guilty as charged! Pollan says it would be hard to create an eating culture that resulted in more heart disease, obesity, and chronic disease than our own, but we Americans have managed to do it.  Most likely, because each one of those health problems is a profit opportunity for someone. So ag companies can make profit on creating unhealthy food and drug companies can make profit on fixing all the health problems created.  You are not a person - you are a profit delivery system for large companies in the American food landscape!

So Michael Pollan asked all of his readers ("The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food" were each chosen as among the top ten titles in the year they were written - both of them are fantastic) to send him their family "food rules" so Americans could begin to develop an eating culture that would not poison them. It has resulted in his new book "Food Rules," a collection of the rules people sent in.

The most well-known food rule people sent is this: Don't eat any food your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize.
Pork knuckle.

What a conundrum. Everything Czech people eat is food their great-grandmother would recognize! If we were doing manual labor on a farm it would be the perfect cuisine: bread and potato dumplings, deep-fried cheese, piles and piles of potatoes, loads of beer (and not light beer either), and inexpensive cuts of beef and pork (did you know pork had knuckles? Pork knuckle is a famous Czech dish). So far, the Czech people look pretty skinny.  But I was seeing the pedestrian Czechs for the most part - not the driving Czechs.  Now that Czechs are beginning to buy cars, I wonder how long they'll stay skinny.

I say the opportunity is right for an inventive Czech chef to update Czechs to the beautiful, wondrous, variety of vegetables out there beyond cabbage and potatoes.  Communism is dead! Czech people, you don't have to eat like a communist or a member of the A/H Empire anymore.  You deserve vegetables in every possible color, not just white. You deserve high-quality meat! There are more exotic things for you to discover beyond bananas!

This mythical chef could possible update gender roles a bit too.  In America, every man I know proudly kicks ass in the kitchen.  Czech men have no idea how fun it is to cook!
Travel Channel host and chef
Anthony Bourdain

Tonight, Anthony Bourdain's American travel show "No Reservations" travels to Prague to see how cuisine has evolved post-communism.  I'm so excited to see what he has to say.

Related posts:
Armchair Traveling With Tony
What Flavor Do You Associate With the Czech Republic?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"The Flip Side of Fear is Understanding"

European travel entrepreneur, Rick Steves gave a powerful interview to asking his fellow Americans to get out and see the world so they can "get over themselves." I promise you there is something, probably many things, in this article that will make you think. It's worth your attention.

My favorite part of the whole article is when he talks about how Americans and Iranians are letting their fears trump their values.

He even might have taken a swipe at David Cerny's infamous Turkish toilets depicted in the sculpture Entropa. Here's a smidgen of what Rick had to say:

Interviewer: What's the most important thing people can learn from traveling?

Rick: A broader perspective. They can see themselves as part of a family of humankind. It's just quite an adjustment to find out that the people who sit on toilets on this planet are the odd ones. Most people squat. You're raised thinking this is the civilized way to go to the bathroom. But it's not. It's the Western way to go to the bathroom. But it's not more civilized than somebody who squats. A man in Afghanistan once told me that a third of this planet eats with spoons and forks, and a third of the planet eats with chopsticks, and a third eats with their fingers. And they're all just as civilized as one another.

Click on my title to read the full article.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Armchair Traveling with Rick

Who is this Rick Steves guy? The guy who gets an entire bay at Barnes & Noble for his guidebooks? Doesn’t he know when he retires, if he’s ‘the brand’ he’ll get less money for his travel company when he sells it because there won’t be a Rick Steves there anymore?

I shouldn’t have worried on his behalf. I get the feeling Rick Steves is doing just fine. And having watched four or five of his travel videos I can see why. One should never underestimate the power of enthusiasm. Rick Steves is so ENTHUSIASTIC, it’s infectious.

Rick Steves looks like a guy right out of my childhood: a good, Scandinavian Lutheran small businessman who could be carrying his wife’s dish to the church basement potluck. He instantly inspires trust. His celebration of European small business people and his constant reminders that if you ‘corporatize’ your travel (with hotels, food, travel companies, etc.) you are missing out on the real Europe. It’s very rare to hear someone in America media urging viewers to spend less money!

Occasionally he’s likely to show something that is so culturally shocking to me, it makes my jaw drop. I haven’t been to Europe in thirty years so I soak up every bit of it. What I really appreciate about his videos is that 1) you can tell there are tons of political opinions that he’s trying hard to hold back while he focuses on teaching us about Europe, 2) you can see the educator and life-long learner in him. It’s not only with the content he shares in his shows, but in his appreciation of the retired educators leading small tours all around their own European neighborhoods.

Rick is forever pointing out the “fantastic new European infrastructure” that makes mass transit so easy. It’s true too! One of the most surprising things to me is that no matter what country I investigated for a possible move to teach English, a car appeared to be completely unnecessary. It’s incredibly easy to travel the length and breadth of these countries without one! I wish we had that. I am currently estimating my transportation costs in Prague to be 1/10 of what they are in America.

When he shows naked sculptures of humans in European museums, he makes it understood that it’s risky to show these things on American TV because so many people will object. Unbelievable.

He constantly urges his viewers to not have a “dumbed-down” travel experience. He alludes to, but doesn’t explain, about the forces dumbing down our culture. What forces??? Name them! I want to hear every single political thought gained from the constant comparison and contrast between both these two continents!!!!

Luckily, I can. Off camera, it turns out, Rick Steves is not shy in the slightest about sharing what he thinks when he compares American and European culture. To be honest, his politics are so thoroughly documented on his web site and blog, that I’m surprised he’s given access to Public Broadcasting for his shows during the current administration. We need more people like Rick Steves in American media challenging us to do better.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Armchair Traveling with Tony

I avoided travel videos like the plague during my parenting years. What would be the point? As Barbara Walters has pointed out, “a woman can have it all, she just can’t have it all at the same time.” Besides, moving five times to advance my career counts as travel. Now that my parenting years are coming to a close, I’ve become obsessed with borrowing travel videos from the library.

I don’t have cable (cable television will be for my years 80-95 when I have nothing else to do and have presumably used my years of mobility to the utmost) so I had never seen Anthony Bourdain on the Travel channel. Looking at the cover of his books “Kitchen Confidential” or “The Nasty Bits” I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. I’d always heard that his books were heavy on testosterone. Women gush over this guy and I never could see the attraction. Must be some sort of bad-boy fixation.

I get it now. I’ve borrowed every copy of his show “No Reservations” from the library that they own. These shows are a blast. Each show is literally so much fun to watch I would practically get giddy when I got a new one. I was immediately struck at how beautifully Tony uses language but it’s the self-deprecating charm that is the funniest. Sometimes it does feel like we’re listening in on a locker room conversation (Tony in Iceland) but when he went home and showed his native New Jersey (complete with endearingly-bad hair pictures from high school – anyone gets extra points for sharing those) it’s funny.

My very favorite show was one he did on Malaysia that featured two memorable locals: a tattoo artist who teased Tony unmercifully and this ancient, tough-as-nails old man who Tony showcased in a way that made you see the old guy’s magnificence. The old man was from an ethnic group I’m unfamiliar with that used tattoos to illustrate their life’s journey. I have never, ever understood the point of tattoos but when Tony Bourdain received a tattoo in the spirit of this ethnic group to commemorate his journey, it actually made sense. And given that his viewers were present at the creation of the tattoo, every time we see it on a subsequent show, it’s a reminder of all those shared travels (even if our travels were merely vicarious).

A guy I work with tells me that the Travel Channel has Anthony Bourdain marathons on the weekend. That would be like eating the entire box of chocolates in one sitting! It’s far better to dole each show out in dribs and drabs and just giggle for a couple days afterwards at all the fun in each one.
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