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Anthony Bourdain ‘Parts Unknown’ in Minas Gerais: Just the One-Liners

Exploring Brazil’s culinary heartland

Courtesy of CNN

In this week’s episode of CNN travelogue Parts Unknown, globetrotting host Anthony Bourdain deplanes in Minas Gerais, Brazil, with one question in mind: “If you travel through Brazil and you talk about food, which I have and I do, you hear about this place. You hear about it seemingly a lot. I’ve been told time and again, this is where the best chefs come from… so why hasn’t the cuisine of Minas caught on worldwide?”

Bourdain attempts to root out that answer, investigating why even the most dedicated gourmand is likely unfamiliar with the vast Brazilian region (it’s roughly the size of France). To do so, he engages with a diverse cast of characters, each of whom reveals a piece of the puzzle. Bourdain speaks to a trio of male chefs who battle perceptions that European food is the epitome of cuisine; elsewhere, he enjoys a meal at Birosca, where the kitchen staff is all women. (Says its owner Bruna Martins: “Mineira cuisine has always been and will always be made by women.”) He shares a meal with entrepreneur Zora Santos, who helps him trace the cuisine’s history to Brazil’s gold rush, which brought half a million African slaves to Brazilian shores. “African culture saturates all corners of the society,” Bourdain marvels. “This is especially true of the food.”

It’s a complex patchwork accented by some heady moments, including an interview with native son/eccentric millionaire Bernardo Paz, and a legitimately frightening point when a man brandishing a gun is spotted outside a packed restaurant. Cameras jostle as everyone in the dining room hits the floor, but moments later, the tension passes and everything returns to normal. “Just like that, it’s back to the food, the conversation. Keep your glass full, and your friends around you, and you’ll make it through.”

Here now, the 18 best one-liners from Bourdain’s trip to Minas Gerais.

Courtesy of CNN

1. On Brazil’s most divisive fruit: “The infamous pequi: Loved and hated in equal measure, it’s described by both camps as tasting sweaty, or like a barnyard. And if you bite too deep, you get a mouthful of hundreds of nano spikes requiring professional extraction.“

2. On a signature dish of liver: “You want this, by the way.”

3. On the hidden dangers of Brazilian ingredients: “All the food here is like, if you bite too far into the pit, it stabs you. If you eat it at the wrong time, it poisons you.”

4. On the spirit of Brazil: “No beach? Hire a water truck. Economy in the shitter? Turn up the music and dance. It’s known here as the ‘little slippery way.’ You adapt, you survive, no matter what, you have a good time, and you don’t go it alone.”

5. On fighting local Miniera stereotypes that give primacy to Western cuisine: “You have a great culinary tradition here, of flavors. You have fantastic ingredients. But in upper class belle origin, people are insecure about their food.”

6. More on that idea: “This attachment to the idea that French food and Italian food will always be more valuable than your own thing, that’s a ridiculous concept.”

7. On influences, before trailing off: “Everything African is so fundamental to everything that makes Brazil awesome. I could say the same thing about the United States, but…”

8. On the idea of leaving behind a legacy: “I don’t believe [in] it at all.”

9. On seeing the root of otherwise worthless buzzwords: “You grow up on a farm like this and you grow up eating food that would be called, in more urban settings, artisanal.”

10. On the local bounty, and where it ends up: “Greens, chickens, pigs, fruit, everything is at hand — the food of the yard. And eventually, it all ends up here at the wood stove, the center of the Miniera kitchen.”

11. On diners reluctant to spend much money at a Minieran restaurant: “Give it a French name, and they’ll pay.”

12. On the moment when diners spot a man with a gun outside the restaurant: “My director and camera guy, by the way, immediately tackled me to the floor and shielded me from the direction of the gun with their bodies. To which I say, thanks guys, but dudes, your wives are gonna be pissed.”

13. To a member of his crew: “You know, you’re not the Secret Service. You’re young, you have your whole life ahead of you.”

14. To Bruna Martins, proprietor of the restaurant Birosca: “Cooking is about joy and comfort. Cooking in a restaurant is about business — so is it still a joy?”

Courtesy of CNN

15. On shared status with the world’s oldest profession: “Why is it that hookers and cooks are always welcome at the same place? Same social standing.”

16. On one of the world’s best drinking foods: “Mocotó is the ultimate in broke-ass, drunk-ass peasant food. Slow-cooked cow’s foot and/or other bits, tender and tasty, and believe me, one of my favorites — especially at this hour.”

17. On his proclivities for runny yolks: “We opt for the elite version with a raw quail egg, because need I remind you of my confirmed record of egg-sluttery?”

18. On diners who brought their own soup to a restaurant, thanks to a detox regimen: “Detoxing for what? Are you a fucking heroin addict? Go home and do some more heroin.”

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