Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gross Never Looked So Good

Category: Television Review

Andrew Zimmern, ready to dive in to a grub

The second season of Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern is in full swing on the Travel Channel. Zimmern is one of a number of food-based shows on the Travel Channel (joining Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, various "food factory" shows, Taste of America with Mark DeCarlo, and others). Lest one think that the Travel Channel is becoming Food Network 2, these shows do feature food in various locales.

Zimmern puts a twist in his show. He j
ourneys to countries to sample the nations' cultures through their food. And that can be rather disquieting, to say the least, to the average American eater. In short, don't look for Zimmern in a Barcelona McDonald's. However, are you looking for the Beijing restaurants that serve donkey or the male reproductive organ of various animals? Zimmern is so there.

And, while the food he eats is admittedly grotesque (such as this week's sampling of putrefied shark meat in Iceland), gross has never been so much fun. Part of it has to do with Zimmern's warm, funny personality. Unlike his fellow native New York chef/Travel Channel show host, Anthony Bourdain (who is positively annoying), Zimmern endears his audience to him as he explains the rituals of various food cultures, as well as the history behind them. He does not stop there, though: he also eats them. If that means pan-fried coconut grubs freshly harvested from the Amazon Rain Forest or a mad search for criadillas (please, look that up yourself if you're curious) in Spain, so be it. As Zimmern explains in the opening of the show, "I tend to stray far from the predictable culinary path." Boy, is that an understatement!
Best of all, Andrew does occasionally find something (e.g., stinky tofu from the "House of Unique Stink" or durian) that, as he puts it, "beats" him.

The commercials for the new season of Bizarre Foods are almost as fun as the actual show. One shows Zimmern in the workplace lunch room, offering co-workers worms that are "great with turkey." As he pulls out his lunch, the room quickly clears out. At the end, a man with his lunch cooler comes to the door, sees Zimmern in the lunch room, and quickly backs away. Another shows Zimmern breaking a snack machine that failed to dispense his selection. "What's a guy got to do to get some fish heads around here?" he mumbles as he walks away.

Bizarre Foods may not make you hungry for haggis or yearn for yak; however, the history of how people in other countries came to eat foods that we Americans would not touch with a ten-foot fork is entertaining, educational, and most of all, fun, thanks in no small part to its host.

Andrew Zimmern's web site
Bizarre Foods site at the Travel Channel

No comments: