Season seven, episode four of Parts Unknown marks Anthony Bourdain's return to the rugged and fiercely independent state of Montana. Fans of Bourdain's popular Travel Channel show No Reservations may fondly recall his season five excursion to Big Sky Country, which featured author and Livingston resident Jim Harrison. Sunday night's episode covers similar terrain and acts a as a sort of posthumous monument to the Legends of the Fall writer. Described by Bourdain as "a colossus, a legend, and the last of his kind," Harrison died in March at the age of 78. The episode is interlaced with the author's dark and beautiful spoken prose.
"This is the landscape that generations of dreamers, despots, adventurers, explorers, crackpots, and heroes fought and died for."
Montana, says Bourdain, "is the landscape that generations of dreamers, despots, adventurers, explorers, crackpots, and heroes fought and died for. It's one of the most beautiful places on Earth. There is no place like it." Throughout the episode Bourdain celebrates and explores that frontier heritage. He starts off with a day of Native American horse relay racing — a "collarbone smashing, skull cracking, bone snappingly dangerous sport" that involves leaping on and off of racing horses. The chef also spends time along the river fishing and pheasant hunting and takes a detour underground to learn more about Butte's mining history (and set off explosives).
If you're a member of the camp that's missed Bourdain's more food-focused approach to television, Montana also marks a return to the chef-driven side of Parts Unknown. The episode delivers hearty, rustic camp-style meat dishes as well as indigenous flavors like frybread and Indian pudding made with juneberry, flour, and sugar. At the close of show, Bourdain feasts with Harrison one last time. Here, now, are the 15 best quotes from Anthony Bourdain's Montana retreat:
1. On Montana: "Next time you turn off a news cycle filled with shouting bobble heads convinced that America is devolving into a demonic inferno, questioning the greatness of your nation, maybe you should come here."
2. On rancher Bill Galt and journalist David McCumber's friendly debate over Montana's 1985 Stream Access Law: "They disagree on land use — a major issue. Remember when you could do that and still be friends?"
3. On Galt's hybrid Wagyu-Angus steak: "It's pretty damn tasty I can tell you."
4. Describing Butte, Montana: "At first look, you'd think this is the worst place on Earth. A ravaged, toxic, godforsaken hill threatened from above, riddled with darkness from below. But you'd be wrong."
5. Regarding the sulfuric acid-filled Berkeley Pit: "A monument to greed and heedless exploitation of the earth and something eerily yet tragically beautiful."
6. About living near the polluted lake: "If you still living here, you've got to have some kind of weird perverse pride in the pit."
7. Questioning a labor advocate: "But isn't there something beautiful about unfettered capitalism?"
8. On jobs moving overseas: "As long as they're making that money in the goddamned United States of America first; I feel I'm a patriot, but [if] you're taking jobs away from America to export them overseas, you're not."
9. After setting off explosives in a mine: "That's deeply satisfying."
10. On eating meat: "I believe that if you choose to eat meat there should be a little guilt and shame involved. Something did die. There should be a sense of loss and understanding."
11. On the close relationship between conservation and hunting: "...It is an absolute fact but [also] a really painful admission that we are the masters of this environment whether we like it or not."
12. A little armchair philosophizing: "At the end of the day, I'm not that different than that pheasant I shot today."
13. Dan Lahren on respecting the animal you hunt: "Don't just rip my breasts out and throw my ass away." Bourdain, in response: "That's a country music song right there."
14. Said facetiously: "This is my problem with Montana — all this primitive country-ass cookin' that you local yokels do."
15. On being a writer: "I try to explain this to people. You either have to be a monster of self regard, delusional, or just so lucky that the forces of the universe are aligned against you."