Wednesday, February 06, 2008

New Orleans: No Reservation Necessary

One of my doormen managed to win a huge sum of money in his Super Bowl pool, and one of the endeavors he's exploring in whittling down his winnings -- which are five-figure significant -- is upgrading his television setup to include HD and digital cable. Another resident of my building and I spent some time talking to him about the various formats -- 1080i, HDMI, Dolby TrueHD, et al -- he'd need to explore. Lastly, I made sure he invested in a DVR-equipped cable box.

DVR is the modern equivalent of a VCR on steroids, in that DVR -- a Digital Video Recorder -- can record 40 or more hours of television without the need for tapes or other media. The method by which a DVR box does this is it records the signal as an mpeg file onto a hard drive built into the box.

After I had a discussion with him and basically explained to him the key to what DVR is and how it works, I fired up my DVR "saved" list and came across an episode of Tony Bourdain's No Reservations in New Orleans.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with my admiration for Anthony Bourdain -- or, worse, don't know who Anthony Bourdain is -- click here and be ordained. Or go to the Travel Channel on your TV or to their website (google it, you lazy bastard) or go to or just do a search for Anthony Bourdain online.

Back to the digression...

One of the new episodes of No Reservations focused on New Orleans, which increasingly seems to be a typical destination for a show that rolled film/tape/disc during last year's Israeli-Lebanon conflict. Essentially, if you are familiar with Mr. Bourdain's "A Cook's Tour" (it's re-running on The Food Network as of late), you'd presume Mr. Bourdain is a snarky, sarcastic, bombastic wanna-be-punk-rocker former Chef. And you'd be right -- until recently. I'm sure he's still a huge Ramones fan, but he's traded in his Fuck The World mentality for something far more akin to a social conscience. He's not just consumed by cuisine; his shows in Lebanon and, recently, New Orleans, show his interest in food is merely a way to measure the breadth and scope of a culture and of its people. And as I'm sure he'd concur, there are far too many people who regard Denny's, Red Lobster and TGI Friday's as "cuisine."

The hour-long New Orleans episode was largely dominated by how Katrina has damaged more than just the geographic and financial landscape of New Orleans. It focused on how the "little" people -- specifically, the restaurant workers, the laborers, the fishermen, et al therein -- responded to a crisis of fairly epic proportion. And largely speaking, by showing most, if not all, residents of the city returned en masse to the City, it demonstrated a City that has far more to offer than merely blues and jazz and Gumbo.

I won't disclose more because to do so would and will give too much away; but suffice to say, I was really impressed at how well Mr. Bourdain told the story of the surviving City of New Orleans, and his show impressed upon me how massive in scope Katrina was. More importantly, it presented the case that the government turned its back on an entire city -- convinSocingly -- and showed, despite all the people of New Orleans have endured, they are still quick to smile despite the weariness they carry as a result of the flooding.

So while I typically avoid endorsing a celebrity or a show, I would highly recommend finding a rebroadcast of No Reservations: New Orleans and recording it and watching it cover to cover. There are, for sure, more entertaining and more light-hearted hours to spend in front of the television; however, whether it's my respect for Mr. Bourdain or simply the fact that he -- wisely or accidentally -- was able to show how food can help define a culture and a people no matter how much they've had to deal with or how much self-pity they could otherwise claim, it really was a memorable and significant depiction of something that we all knew existed but, perhaps, never experienced first-hand from a truly human, compassionate perspective.

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