2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

R&K Insider: Bourdain and the Perils of Modern Travel Edition

Our collection of the most compelling happenings in food, politics, and travel from across the web.

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As some of you may know from our Instagram account, I recently returned from Iceland. What a strange and stunning trip it was. One moment, I was sitting in a restaurant eating Arctic char covered in fennel pollen, and the next, I was standing alone under a waterfall inside a mountain. Read this article on Iceland’s search-and-rescue crew and then book your trip.

Or don’t? A less enjoyable aspect of the trip was the overwhelming crush of buses loaded with tourists descending on some of the more popular attractions. And I was in Iceland in FEBRUARY. The mind reels at what it must look like in the months when there’s more than five hours of daylight. In 2017, tourists may outnumber the 330,000-strong local population by as much as seven to one. The number of foreign tourists has more than doubled since 2010. That’s a nearly unimaginable number of people alighting on a place that looked essentially uninhabited in many areas we passed through.

I was thinking of this while reading the new profile of R&K’s investor and best friend Anthony Bourdain in the New Yorker. At a few points, the author contemplates the conundrums of modern travel; on how the unprecedented ability to steer large numbers of people off the beaten path, away from the tourist traps and sanitized bullshit, also means directing mobs to woefully unprepared restaurants and attractions, which then become part of said beaten track, whether they like it or not. As Patrick Radden Keefe writes in the piece:

Anthropologists like to say that to observe a culture is usually, in some small way, to change it. A similar dictum holds true for Bourdain’s show. Whenever Bourdain discovers a hole-in-the-wall culinary gem, he places it on the tourist map, thereby leaching it of the authenticity that drew him to it in the first place. “It’s a gloriously doomed enterprise,” he acknowledged. “I’m in the business of finding great places, and then we fuck them up.”

In addition to melancholy ruminations, there’s soju and Obama and the unwashed rectum of a warthog tucked into the profile, so check it out.

On to the news: Romania certainly is exciting right now! Protesters are braving snow and exhaustion and the inevitable piling up of laundry at home to take a stand against corruption. I love Romania. I was in a rural part of the country in 2014 and met the best people and slaughtered a pig (ok, I didn’t do the slaughtering, but I was in the general slaughtering milieu) and ate lots of deep-fried lard and danced a lot because every time you walk into someone’s house, they hand you a shot. It’s a fantastic place. But I have to say, when Romania is tasked with “giving the gift of hope to the world” we are living in some topsy-turvy times.

A month after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a disastrous monetary policy, the death toll stood at 82. What the hell is going on in India? Somalia’s presidential election results are in, and while the process was by all accounts very corrupt and voting had to take place at the airport in order to maintain security, it actually seems to have gone quite well, as fraught elections go, at least. Plus, the new president is widely known by his nickname—Farmajo—which means cheese, so looking forward to some outstanding headlines about President Cheese and his initiatives. The DAPL pipeline looks to be moving forward again. From the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend department: a pretty scary look at how to build an autocracy by David Frum.

In food news, Jose Cuervo is going public, which sounds like a threatening text I might receive on a Saturday morning. Domino’s started a wedding registry, so for all those who have ignored my warnings that the end is nigh, look on and despair. A former Hardee’s employee on why the fast-food chain’s former CEO would make a terrible labor secretary. Why the $100,000 Harambe Cheeto is everything that sucks about the internet. If none of those words meant anything to you, then I applaud you, dear reader.

The magazine Oscars were announced, so if you’re stuck in the snow like I am, here are a few winners to check out: HuffPost Highline on who is getting rich off the refugee crisis. The Eater guide to Paris. Pacific Standard on being at sea with a search-and-rescue mission. And many more.

And some smaller bites: OMG, China’s magic rabbit is back. The backwoods Burmese of rural Georgia. (Money quote: “We’re more redneck than the rednecks.”) American food science is totally broken. SAD! Rarely seen photos of U.S. Japanese internment camps (World War II is really having a moment right now, amirite?) For something entirely different, here’s a picture of a fish frozen while eating another fish. It is absolutely as messed up as it sounds. Ugh, actually, don’t click on that.

That’s it for this week! See you again next week for the best of politics, food, and travel from around the web. Send me the stories you want to see @caraparks.

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