Where in the world is Anthony Bourdain?Bourdain's journey to Puerto Rico took him all over the island, meeting with environmental activists in Valle Costero, journalists in San Juan, and chefs in Vieques. The overarching story is one in the same: Puerto Rico, though owned by one of the most powerful nations in the world and populated by American citizens, has suffered greatly as a colonized territory. At Campamento Rescate Playuela, a camp in Valle Costero where protestors are practicing civil disobedience to stop resort construction on the beach, one of the activists told Bourdain: "We don't produce 90 percent of what we consume. That makes us a third world country. A third world country owned by the most powerful nation." Puerto Rico's already crippled economy almost entirely depends on tourism, and now, in the wake of Maria, that desperately needed income has ceased. Though Puerto Ricans are extremely frustrated with their situation (one journalist in San Juan described it as "half-assed citizenship, no voice in your own destiny"), they remain in Puerto Rico because they don't want to give up on the country they love so dearly.
What did he eat?This episode featured pork, plantains, and seafood—a holy trinity in Puerto Rican cuisine. At Casa Vieja restaurant in Ciales, an hour's drive from San Juan, Bourdain devoured pastel al caldero (pork marinated in bitter orange, taro root, green plantain, squash, garbanzo beans) with a side of blood sausage and corn fritters. A trip to a sustainable farm on the island of Vieques treated Bourdain to a veritable feast—mesquite-grilled grouper stuffed with lobster and white eggplant, mashed plantains with sofrito, and a strong shot of pitorro, or lágrima de monte (mountain liquor). And with other traditional dishes like coconut arepas, avocado salad, and slow-roasted pork on the menu, Bourdain got a taste of the wonderfully diverse food culture Puerto Rico has to offer. Slow-roasted pork seemed to be a particular favorite of his; he watched the pig cook over the fire with almost giddy anticipation. "A great idea that will never be anything less than great," he lauded. "Put a pig on a stick and turn him slowly, slowly over a low fire." Bourdain's journey ended with the ultimate be-all end-all of the cuisine—the staple mofongo, or mashed plantains, fried and mixed with pork rinds.
Quote of the weekAs always, Bourdain had a lot of quotable moments this week. But it was only fitting to pick one that showed support for Puerto Rico. "Puerto Rico is, of course, easy to love. I sure do," said Bourdain. "Firstly, because Puerto Rican culture, as a New Yorker since age 17, was part of the cell tissue of the city I've lived in so long."
After MariaAfter his visit, Bourdain circled back with singer-songwriter Alfonso "Tito" Auger, who closed out the Parts Unknown episode by singing "Salimos de Aquí" (We Come From Here) with his band, Fiel a la Vega. Post-Maria, Auger considers himself fortunate. His family is safe and his house is still intact. But the magnitude of the disaster—and the painfully slow path to recovery—has now sunk in. "We don't know for real what's going on. We've been told six months, nine months, a year to get electricity back, which is the most basic, fundamental thing that we need right now to get everything else going and running," he told Bourdain. "We don't understand why during the first two weeks, things didn't move faster. We feel like there's a lot of bureaucracy going on behind the scenes."
In the meantime, Auger is working to get Puerto Rico back on its feet. Fiel a la Vega has been playing concerts at refugee centers across Puerto Rico, and also booked relief benefit shows in the U.S. mainland for later this month. Still, the singer is worried for the future of his home. "We need a leadership that defends this country, that defends our people," Auger told Bourdain. "The people feel defenseless right now, you know? I stay in Puerto Rico because I love this country and I'll die for it … but the scenario is not looking good."
How to HelpBig names such as JetBlue and chef José Andrés are both running donations. You can also give aid through the main Global Giving fundraiser here.
Come back November 19 as we continue our regular recaps of Parts Unknown, when Bourdain heads to Seattle.
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