Host Anthony Bourdain heads to the Eastern European city of Budapest for the latest episode of his CNN show, Parts Unknown. Bourdain is fascinated by Hungary's capital city, and quickly falls in love with the architecture ("If there was such a thing as building porn, it would be this"). Perhaps what captivates Bourdain most is the city's propensity for producing artists and the sheer amount of "heartbreak" it has endured with multiple world wars, communism, and a failed revolution. He spends the majority of the episode with one such artist — legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond — who was in the middle of film school in Budapest when WWII broke out. While enjoying thermal baths and dinner parties, the duo chat about what life was like during the bleakest moments in Hungary's history.
The episode isn't all about art and wars: Bourdain manages to eat plenty of things, too. The majority of it is laced with the "ubiquitous" spice, paprika. Most dishes he encounters are rich, hearty, and meaty, like a venison stew and giant pork schnitzel ("If a big wave came, I could surf this thing back to my hotel") he eats at a local working-class restaurant. While in Budapest, Bourdain also indulges in a plate of blood sausage at a butcher stop, home-cooked chicken paprikash, and plenty of foie gras. Here are the 21 best Bourdain quotes from Parts Unknown Budapest:
1. On the aesthetics of Budapest: "It's beautiful here. They said that of course, that Budapest is beautiful. But it is in fact almost ludicrously beautiful."
2. On the city's architecture: "If there was such a thing as building porn, it would be this. Just looking out the window as your drive or trolley by you think, 'I want that. Who lives there? Who lived there? What's it like inside? And where did they go?'"
3. On the New York Cafe: "The New York Cafe is one of the last remnants of a society where artists and writers were valued citizens, regardless of financial means."
4. On how the New York Cafe used to be: "Here like in most cafes at that time, a few cents or a few bucks could buy you space all day long sipping your coffee, thinking great thoughts."
5. On how the New York Cafe used to be, part two: "Nobody would hassle you. It was a petri dish of creativity. No hipster neck-beater barista would make you feel bad about not spending any dough."
6. On the availability of foie gras: "Foie gras is everywhere in Hungary. All over every menu, and it's good, real good."
7. On what he ordered for his meal: "I'm going for the pork throttle stew, mostly because I like the sound of throttle."
8. On what Budapest has to offer: "Of course it's not all foie gras and fine wines. There are other pleasures, just as awesome. Maybe, maybe even more awesome."
9. On why he no longer describes food: "Some of you have noticed — and complained — that I don't describe food any more on the show. That is a deliberate strategy on my part. It's really a lot like writing porn, after you have used the same adjectives over and over in like, you know, Penthouse letters. Look at it: It's chicken livers, it's bone marrow, it's paprika, it's a delicious pancake. Is it going to make your life better at all if I describe exactly how while smacking my lips annoyingly?"
10. On a giant pork schnitzel: "Behold, the massiveness, the surfboard sized, fried-to-order into a pan to only the highest standards, schnitzel of justice. Ride that baby all the way home."
11. On the giant pork schnitzel, part two: "I kid you not, this a is a testament to a great culture. Also gout, but who's counting?"
12. On the giant pork schnitzel, part three: "Do I get a t-shirt if I finish this? Or my picture on the wall?"
13. On why humans are born: "We are all of us perhaps, called to serve a higher purpose, put here on earth to do God's mysterious will."
14. On economist and meat enthusiast Daniel Peto: "Like St. Francis of Assisi, he wanders the Earth doing good works. In this case, highlighting the ancient arts of butchering, sausage making, and the preparation of many of the lord's creatures, as he himself would no doubt like to see them prepared."
15. On the sausage-making process at a butcher shop: "Dick jokes coming. Stand by for dick jokes."
16. On a plate of blood sausage: "And let there be blood. Delicious, delicious blood, in tube form. Served still steaming, nay heaving, engorged as you will with goodness, to squirt across your plate as you press against it with your fork."
17. On Hungarian bath houses: "One thing that hasn't changed through the years is the Hungarian affection for taking the waters — marinating in thermal baths. A tradition going back to the Romans, continued by the Ottomans, and something that survived through two wars and communism. And they do it in style."
18. On the old Hungarian secret police headquarters: "The building is abandoned. The door as it turns out, wide open... It still feels sad, a little haunted."
19. On life as as gypsy musician in Budapest: "It's hard life, that of a professional musician. As true a statement in Budapest, as anywhere."
20. On gypsy singer and cook Margrit Bango: "[She is] basically the Aretha Franklin of gypsy music — a household name."
21. On photography and film: "Do we emerge fully formed with a God-given eye for pictures, images that can move people? Or are we the end result of all the things we've seen, and all the things we've done, the places we've been? The places and people we've had to leave behind, all that has happened in your life."