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

The CNN host on how the West African nation turned his assumptions and prejudices upside-down

Courtesy of CNN

Seafood meals, dune racing, and conversation mark this season's sixth episode of CNN's award-winning travelogue Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Bourdain is captivated by Senegal, a West African country that he argues upends preconceived Western notions of Africa. Dining with NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, the host learns more about what makes Senegal so different from some of its neighbors. The country had a relatively easy transition from colonial rule under France (Senegalese were considered full French citizens) and has never experienced a post-colonial coup. While it's more than 90 percent Muslim, the country also takes a moderate view of freedom of religion and is mostly politically stable. "A rebuke to those who paint a whole continent as a monolith of despair or Islam as something to be feared, Senegal turns simpleminded assumptions and prejudice on their heads at every turn," Bourdain says.

"Senegal turns simpleminded assumptions and prejudice on their heads at every turn."

Traveling around the country from Dakar to Saint-Louis, Bourdain's itinerary is packed. He enjoys rich fish dishes with chef and cookbook author Pierre Thiam at a clandestine waterfront restaurant. He tries the country's popular street food bean sandwiches. He dines with Senegalese music icon Youssou N'Dour, and tries his hand at driving on Senegal's dunes in a special race car from the several-years-defunct Dakar Rally. Finally, Bourdain is invited to Thiam's relative's home for a taste of the country's signature dish and a lesson in the rules of Senegalese communal dining. Here now are the 14 best lines from Sunday's episode.

1. On his experience in Senegal: "Even if you've been traveling nonstop for 15 years like me, there are places that snap you out of your comfortable worldview, take your assumptions and your prejudices, and turn them upside down."

2. On Senegalese food, featuring "...flavors and often ingredients that should be eerily familiar to any fan of Southern cooking."

3. On his clandestine beach meal with Pierre Thiam, "...serving food just the way I like it, a shack on the water, catch of the day, cooked up out back."

4. To Thiam, on his experience in the U.S.: "How did you feel when you first turned on TV and you see some rich white lady, and she [says], 'Well, we're about to do, this is an old family recipe, an American classic, a traditional favorite'?"

5. On the charms of getting to eat mafé with famed musician Youssou N'Dour: "Sometimes we get lucky. We get to do things on this show because... just because it's a show, that are frankly awesome."

6. On bean sandwiches: "You buy your baguette at the bakery, bring it over to the nice lady, she slathers on the good stuff, and there you go. And it is indeed addictively delicious."

7. On working-class dive bars becoming respectable: "The Brooklynization of Africa begins."

8. On driving race cars used in the now-defunct Dakar Rally: "I, of course, had to try out one of these beasts, and it's about as much fun as you could have while wearing pants."

9. On breaking only for food: "After tear-assing around for a few hours, it's traditionally chicken and beer on the beach."

10. On making the national dish Ceebu Jën: "Today it's Senegalese grouper scored and stuffed with a mixture of garlic, parsley, and peppers, then slow simmered in a hearty tomato broth, infused with a funkatizing goodness brought by fermented conch and salt fish, served over rice and vegetables."

11. To Pierre Thiam: "I'm going to watch you and I'm going to do what you do."

12. On how procedure and tradition rules the dinner table: "The meal is eaten from one communal platter, an experience both fun and instructive. Sustenance and life lesson."

13. On the Senegalese method of communal eating: "So if I were looking for a metaphor for Senegalese society, this would be it?"

14. In summary: "A few years back, I got the words 'I am certain of nothing' tattooed on my arm. It's what make travel what it is: an endless learning curve. The joy of being wrong, off being confused. Africa more than any other continent needs to be seen by the world as both the place we all came from and where we are going."

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