Parts Unknown

I’m finally writing this. I hate that tragedy hit first. I dedicate this article to the late Anthony Bourdain, a man who inspired so many to seek and savor…

I joined my husband watching a random TV show on a Saturday morning. Hey, is that Anthony Bourdain? Hey, is that Charleston? What is this?

I didn’t know about the award-winning travelogue Parts Unknown until the explanation came. I knew the host, of course, from other work. I continued to watch and sip my coffee.

The episode was Charleston – instantly appealing, being South Carolina’s pride-n-joy. But soon I became fascinated. I grabbed a notebook from the kitchen to jot some thoughts down. Blog post in my future!

The big spark happened when Bourdain is talking with Glenn Roberts, visionary and founder of Anson Mills, who produce “handmade mill goods from organic heirloom grains.” Here’s my quick recap (as I found out, with even minimal research, that this could be enough material for a book)…

  • Roberts waxes poetically about the West African roots of southern food. Charleston is a pinpoint for this culinary heritage.
  • He states that the meaning of the phrase “soul food” really comes from a belief that food so good can awaken the soul.
  • He talks about the resurgence of nearly extinct varieties of grits, cornmeal, rice and flour, and how chefs in the lowcountry are now abundantly featuring these once-staples that lead to better tasting dishes and responsible, productive farming in the region.
  • He relates to the seed saving that slaves performed, a lost science and art today, but then a fundamental process for crop sustainability.
  • He ruminates about how much has changed in the food world in just the last 20 years – insight, interest and skill.
  • He names South Carolina as a pioneer, where the first nutrition laws in America were written. And he would have been remiss to not note the overwhelming health concerns in S.C. that led to such efforts.
  • He basically describes how processed foods were on the rise in the country but came late to the south. It seems like the era of mill villages and convenience was out of control. People went extremist with canned, packaged and frozen stuff. We took it too far.
  • He explores why southern food is the most “cartoonized.” Fried chicken and mashed potatoes. That anyone can close their eyes and picture some Looney Tunes version of what food represents us.

This was only a short segment of the show, mind you. But see how much I took away?! There’s power in understanding more about how we got here, and truly, how South Carolina is one of the poorest states on the health scale. Somewhere in that history has to be the answers for a better future. Perhaps all the “parts unknown” could help reveal a path.

 

“When you had your first forkful of proper rice, is there an instinct to go out and bludgeon the rest of the world into understanding what you had just come to understand?”  —  Bourdain questioning Roberts on what it feels like to discover Carolina Gold rice

 

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