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Mississippi

Bourdain’s Field Notes

What could I ever understand about growing up in the Delta, that peculiar and heavy mix of guilt, rough pride, obstinacy, sentimentality, and cynicism?

(Answer: Next to nothing)

Let me be honest about this right up front: Before I started traveling the world extensively, seeing many foreign countries and cultures very different than my own, I would never even have considered visiting Mississippi.

As a New Yorker with a drearily predictable worldview of my tribe, I took a dim view of Mississippi. Mississippi was the Deep South. It was where they shot Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in “Easy Rider,” wasn’t it? The history was not pretty—a fact reinforced by just about every film ever set in the state. And it’s nearly the poorest performer on every metric of a state’s health: income, education, and healthcare.

But I have long since learned to find myself comfortable in as “foreign” an environment as Saudi Arabia, Liberia, or Cambodia. Why can’t I get to know and love this part of my own country?

Particularly when what we love about our country—what is undeniably great about America, its most powerful and persuasive export and gift to the world—comes from the state of Mississippi.

It changed the world like nothing else American.

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