“Anthony Bourdain No Reservations” Nails it in Nicaragua

Popular Travel Channel host Anthony Bourdain (“TV personality, best-selling author, weary world traveler, and gourmand”) visited Nicaragua last fall to see what had become of the country that he only remembered from the headlines of the 1980s.

He came, he saw, he ate, he drank, he laughed, and he cried. This 45-minute show is no glowing tourist report, and it is devoid of many of the bright colors and cheer with which I associate Nicaragua, but it is honest, even if a little dark, and I respect that. Perhaps it has to do with the timing of Bourdain’s visit, when many Nicaraguans are upset at their country’s leadership and pessimistic about the near future.

“Anthony Bourdain No Reservations: Nicaragua” aired on Monday, March 14, 2011. A great deal of work went into this episode, lining up a mix of Nicas, young and old, for Tony to talk to, and also a number of interesting sites and eateries in both Managua and the campo around Estelí (my old stomping grounds).

Bourdain does not shield himself from Nicaragua’s poverty and in fact, asks to be taken to La Chureca, the infamous landfill outside Managua where several thousand people live off what they find in the garbage. It hits him hard, and even prompts him to comment that what he does for a living — “food television” — seems “obscene” after seeing it. He then drowns the bad feelings in shots of Caballito, the working man’s rum. (My favorite line comes the next morning, during his hangover: “The inside of my head feels like Andrew Zimmern’s toilet.”)

Nor does Tony shy away from politics and he lets President Ortega know that “I’m disappointed in you,” at the end of the show.  He also penned an anti-Ortega rant after his visit. The show is great for anyone who loves Nicaragua, Nica food, and Nica history. Download it on iTunes, or watch it on the Bacanal Nica blog, where you’ll also find an excellent, thorough, and funny Nica-based breakdown of the episode (in Spanish).

I found the most important take-away line on Bourdain’s blog:

“Nicaragua is,” writes Bourdain, “a spectacularly beautiful country. The food is great. The rum even better. The people are proud, generous, funny and sophisticated at every level of society. I hope the show makes people want to visit this poor but beautiful nation with so much to offer–to see not only what Nicaragua is, but what it can be.”

Related article: Traveling with Andrew Zimmern in Nicaragua

–Written by Joshua Berman

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