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Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations: Mozambique Is a Downer

Tony Bourdain feasts on goat (but no rat) at a village celebration.
Tony Bourdain feasts on goat (but no rat) at a village celebration.
Travel Channel

If you recall, I groused through Tony's fluffier show, The Layover (which, by the way, was picked up for one more season), opting to reserve my critical eye for the more serious, eyeglass-wearing cousin, No Reservations. The season eight opener, which featured the African country of Mozambique, went beyond serious -- straight to depressing.

Some people may say it's pretty darn impossible to not make a depressing show in Mozambique. After all, this country's history includes centuries of slavery, followed by decades of colonialism under the thumb of Portugal. There was a period of communism, followed by a civil war, before the young country could begin to heal. But what we learn by travel is that there is beauty in every culture, despite (or maybe because of) the incredible hardships its people might have endured.

Not that there weren't moments of hope and enlightenment in the one-hour season opener that aired last evening. There was the requisite goat slaughter for a child's birthday celebration (which was tempered by a shot of their daily dinner menu -- rats on a skewer), as well an interesting moment when an older white couple mused about how they used to take family vacations in Mozambique before the country was ravaged by decades of war.


For every time Tony eats a beachside meal of peri peri chicken or

marvels at a giant prawn the size of a toddler, we also get a scene in which locals, clearly still scarred, relive the moments when local military or rebel

forces came to massacre their townsfolk. The former Grand Hotel in the

capital city of Maputo is now a skeleton filled with almost 3,000

homeless people seeking shelter in its ruins, without electricity,

sanitary facilities, or water. This scene is too much for even our

intrepid explorer. Tony rips the mike pack off his body, calling it a

day.

True, showing the grittier side of travel to other countries is what

makes No Reservations compelling television. But the beauty of

Bourdain's narrative is that he can find the irony in a situation. He knows the difference between mocking and holding a mirror on a subject.

In fact, Bourdain's wit and snarkiness

came out in a scene that was left on the cutting-room floor (which can

be found on the No Reservations site).

 

While filming the segment in which Tony eats chicken at a beachside

shack, he rips into his camera crew for scarfing down a hotel cheeseburger

instead of waiting for a local meal. As he licks the sauce

from his fingers and sucks on a bone, Tony tells the crew members that they're idiots for ordering the hotel sandwich -- "two ground patties, a

slice of what appears to be turkey loaf, a slice of unmelted processed

cheese food."

Bourdain then adds that the crew would eat "f**king Twizzlers out of

their dead grandmothers' assholes if that were a guaranteed meal." And

that, my friends, is the Bourdain I love. My advice for No Reservations: When you edit the show -- throw out everything you think middle America

or the network would like, take the crude outtakes that are left, and

you have television gold. I'll be watching and waiting.

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