Bourdain’s Field Notes
I’ve lived in New York City since the mid ’70s. I was, for all of that time, aware of the Bronx. It was up there and over there—a vast, unexplored land you drove through to get to Yankee Stadium. I had been to Arthur Avenue. Visited friends from time to time. I’d driven the Cross Bronx Expressway, whose very name tells you its purpose: to cross you through the Bronx without actually visiting it. Once upon a time, it was considered funny if you were a Manhattanite to claim you never crossed the bridges, never left the borough—that you didn’t “have a passport.” A famous New Yorker cover reflects this attitude, one that has changed enormously since. Now you feel like a boob if you haven’t explored Queens, if you are unaware of the many and fast-growing delights of Brooklyn. But the Bronx? It hasn’t been receiving a lot of love. While it’s known very well and appreciated by its fiercely proud residents, many of us who live elsewhere still, unforgivably, see it as a relatively unknown territory.
At the risk of inspiring a trickle and then a gush of annoying foodies to invade pristine neighborhoods as yet untouched by hipster baristas, I thought I’d do my tiny part to correct this glaring omission.
The Bronx, as it turns out, is a paradise of delicious food. It’s a sprawl—like L.A. in the best possible sense—where lots and lots of people from somewhere else arrived, either recently or a long time ago, and brought their food and their culture with them. We visited enclaves Honduran, old-school Puerto Rican, Bangladeshi, Jamaican, Eastern European Jewish … and explored the shameful delights of White Castle.
It’s a show about where we are, where we were, and where many of the things we love and take for granted come from.