Synopsis: In South Africa, just ahead of Nelson Mandela’s passing, Bourdain discovers how the diverse young people of this relatively young nation grapple with a lasting legacy of apartheid. One finds that legacy rearing its head in the chronic poverty still experienced by many, in the changing demographics of certain neighborhoods, and in food. Bourdain sits down for a meat-rich lunch at a delicatessen where they have preserved memorabilia and recipes that harken back to the nation’s troubled past.

The newsletter you need Get more Bourdain in your inbox.

End of an Era

  • “In July 2013, when I went to South Africa, 95-year-old Nelson Mandela was critically ill. And the country he freed from white minority rule was already in mourning—and already fearful of what the future might be without him.”
  • “There have been very few figures in the entire history of the world as revered or as important as Nelson Mandela. But the question is, What happens next?”

“These days, the party that freed the country from white rule, the ANC, is not universally loved anymore. In recent years, they’ve been criticized for inaction, corruption and cronyism. And opposition parties are gaining strength.”

  • “Once, Hillbrow was an elite, whites-only center of town. But when things started to change, so did Hillbrow. Becoming one of the first gray areas where whites and blacks mixed, Hillbrow became aspirational. A symbol of everything black Africans had long been denied but was now accessible. People poured in in large numbers, many of them squatters from all over the continent.”
  • “What’s in a name? If the name is Soweto, you best believe it means plenty.”
  • “Now there is a definite cachet to living in Soweto. A very real pride back at having been at the very center of things back when it was hard and dangerous to have an opinion. Nelson Mandela lived here. Desmond Tutu. When you’re a certain age and you say you were born and bred in Soweto, it means something.”

Vestiges of apartheid

[At Mader’s Restaurant] “In the 20th century, racist Afrikaner ideology grew. Apartheid laws were enacted, and white domination became the rule for almost 100 years. But look, meat. You want to see an expat South African weep, wave some of this under their nose.”

  • “For the first part of my life, the South Africa I knew was not a happy place or a good place. It was a pariah state. Surrealistically, outrageously divided into black and white. A throwback to attitudes we thought we’d long learned to reject.”
  • [On statues in Pretoria] “Who’re those ugly white men? They don’t look friendly. Who are those assholes anyway? Some ugly Dutch guys, it looks like, with guns. I’m guessing not particularly friendly to the current power. They look like they’re going to or coming from oppressing a black man. First order of business, man: When I take my country back, first order of business is to take that shit down. Am I right or what? I’m kind of amazed. Tear that shit down.”
  • [At Maders] “It’s like a Mussolini-themed restaurant?”
  • [At Maders] “I just don’t know how I feel about this place. It doesn’t fit in with my white-liberal-guilt sensibility.”
  • [Over assorted meats at Maders] “Mmmmmm. Tastes like oppression.”

Oh that Affable Anthony

“No more hipster jokes. It’s low hanging fruit. And one can no longer argue against the steady creep of their foodie sensibilities. Artisanal cheeses, yes, right over there. Handmade charcuterie? Yes, there. Thin crust pizza, a very respectable paella, yes, yes, and yes. It’s official. They’re here and they aren’t going anywhere.”

  • “So a good friend of mine, a really great travel writer, said something. The more I travel, the less I know. I feel that particularly strongly here in South Africa, a place I came in a state of near total ignorance, loaded with preconceptions.”
  • “What did I know about South Africa before I came here? Exactly nothing, as it turns out. But I think, based on what I’ve seen, that if the world can get it right here, a country with a past like South Africa’s—if they can figure out how to make it work here for everybody, absorb all the people flooding in from all over Africa, continue to make Mandela’s dream a reality, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us.”
  • “I arrived in this country spectacularly ignorant. I will leave spectacularly ignorant.”
  • “I like the idea of a burger for breakfast. Or is there something perverse about that?”
  • “Throw in a crowd of much more racially diverse and hungry people and you might think you’re in Brooklyn.”
  • “We walk down the street, and one of the many enterprises doing business on corners and in doorways around us becomes alarmed at the sight of our cameras. Soon there’s a mob of very angry people coming our way. We do not turn around our cameras for obvious reasons.”