Bourdain’s Field Notes
PUNJAB, April, 2014—In India—Punjab in particular—the thing you notice first, the thing that stays with you, is the colors. They pop, they leap right out at you. It’s like somebody, just before you got off the plane, changed the lenses in your head, which turned up your color receptors from 7 to like 14. You completely understand why The Beatles would want to drop acid, come here, and stare at stuff. Because it’s beautiful and the colors. The colors, man, burn right through your eyeballs and into your brain. No Maharishi needed.
Recognizing this, we made sure, when setting the various color balances for this show, to jack things up, make sure that it will look for you like it looked for us. Electric. Trippy. And always beautiful.
We will be forgiven, I hope, for (yet again), ripping off a favorite director in an early sequence. Call it homage.
I generally don’t care much what people take away from my shows. Of course, I hope people like what they see. I hope they are entertained and interested, that they find the images beautiful, or striking. It’s nice—very nice—when people notice the good technical work of the directors of photography and the editors and producers. But, I’m not much for attempting to inspire or “enlighten” or educate. That’s far, far from what I’m thinking about when I make sure my carry-on is free of liquids or gels; that my laptop is out of my bag and in the plastic tray, shoes and belt off.
But with this episode, Punjab, it would make me very happy if a few more people out there got a clearer picture of the Sikh religion is. Who Sikhs are and who they are not; a little about the central concepts and intent and principles of their faith. The degree to which we in the West (myself included) are ignorant of such things is pretty spectacular.
I’ve made much fun of vegetarians over the years and am said, frequently, to “hate” them. This is not true. I am dismissive and (okay) contemptuous of food that is made with ideology or a narrow world view as its first priority. I am made unhappy and even angry when a restaurant that claims to celebrate the vegetable in fact, utterly ignores the seasons, the conditions of ripeness that make vegetables interesting and wonderful in the first place-when such places, with determination and malice, murder vegetable after vegetable, sacrificing carrot after carrot, soybean after soybean to a sludgy, monochromatic, mush.
Not so in India. In India, to eat vegetarian is usually a joyous and joyful thing. In India, expect to find bright colors, wildly varying textures, huge selections, and thrilling blends of spices and assertive, delicious flavors accompanied always by wonderful, freshly made breads. I could happily go veg for a week—or even weeks at a time. Hope you enjoy the show. And remember: Eat your vegetables!