Benjamin Batley on Anthony Bourdain: The Punk Rocker of Food, Culture, and Travel Blogging

The reason I use punk rock as a comparison to this blog is because it is unconventional and doesn’t follow the typical norms of travel and food writing. Anthony Bourdain has a very unique non-fiction writing style that is both credible and personal. Much like punk rock’s genre, the genre of blogging is fast-paced and informal, yet very significant and widespread. Like punk rock’s short songs, Bourdain’s blogging is concise and “to the point.” He is able to convey a lot of information about the true meaning behind many of his experiences in very few words. His writing, like punk rock, is “raw,” goes “against the grain,” and is political, yet remains aesthetically entertaining as well as alternatively fashionable to a wide array of readers. His blog provides a great way to gather insight into different cuisines, cultures, and travel destinations, but also provides the path to a plethora of resources that can enhance and satisfy the anthropological enthusiast’s knowledge and desire to learn through both the author and his subjects.

220px-kitchen_confidentialRenowned chef Anthony Bourdain is very well-known for his television shows, books, and speeches that discuss subjects such as travel, food, and culture based on his experiences as someone who has set foot on all seven continents. But, he also has a blog on Tumblr that provides even further insight into these experiences that weren’t necessarily covered in the final cuts of his more widely known publications. His writing is simple, edgy, and colorfully uncensored but has the ability to spark a significant emotional reaction within readers that could potentially educate and change readers’ perceptions about various different cultures both inside and outside of the United States. His blog writing, like most of his work, has the ability to touch on the deepest aspects of humanity in every culture, no matter what one’s inherent political beliefs may be.

In his blog post from May 12, 2016 entitled “Brown Dog,” he says, “You may be the most cynical, born and bred, citified lefty like me — instinctively skeptical of big concepts like ‘patriotism’, relatively foreign to hunting culture, unused to wide open spaces, but spend any length of time traveling around Montana and you will understand what all that ‘purple mountains majesty’ is all about, you’ll soon be wrapping yourself in the flag and yelling, ‘America, fuck yeah!’ with an absolute and non-ironic sincerity that will take you by surprise.”

This charismatic quote conveys a lot about Bourdain’s personality in a very brief snapshot of his blog work, which functions to show his talent as a very effective author. As a New Yorker that is far from home in the rugged terrain of Montana, he is honest, straightforward, and doesn’t mind publicly being able to identify and sympathize with other peoples’ viewpoints, even if they may contradict his own. One of his hallmarks as a writer is the conveyance of his unabashed and often hilarious opinions, but even more noteworthy is his ability to admit that maybe the other side has a point too. By being capable of this, he displays a very likeable persona that is highly opinionated, but still humble, writing in a way that is magnetizing to many people who enjoy learning about different cultures.

In a piece about Filipino culture in one of his episodes from the show Parts Unknown entitled “Unfinished Business,” posted on April 22, 2016, he discusses this particular episode’s focus on the humanity of Filipino people, not just the Philippines in a broad sense. He begins the post with an anecdote about Vangie, the Filipino baby nurse who helped raise his daughter and the close friendship that developed between both of their families. He writes, “This episode is an attempt to address the question of why so many Filipinos are so damn caring. Why they care so much — for each other — for strangers. Because my experience is far from unusual.”

This behind the scenes look is a strong example of what to expect when reading about the background of what went into the filming of many episodes of this show. He goes out of his way in this blog to give his fans an insight into how Filipino culture has personally affected him, and no doubt will be capable of appealing to many others’ experiences with Filipino culture as well, which is inevitably quite prevalent in the United States with such a large influx of Filipino workers, who often go unnoticed, but really have a significant impact in our society. Again, although his shows typically have the outer appearance of a focus of food, travel, and general culture, he really intends to, and succeeds, in appealing to the distinct human qualities of these cultures, which he expands on in this blog.

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batley-biopicBen Batley is an English teacher, graduate student, and local musician in Omaha, Nebraska. He received his BA in English at Loyola University Chicago and is completing his MA in English and the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Topic/Form: Brief Essays on Food

I’m teaching the Proust “Madeline” moment as a way into the essay. Anybody have good lyric celebrations of a specific food in Brevity-like very short essays they’d like to recommend?

Thanks to Sonya Huber for this list! Add your suggestions of brief, lyric essays on food in the comments!


  • Gates, Jr., Henry Louis. “Sunday.” In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction.
  • Gruchow, Paul. “The Transfiguration of Bread,” Grass Roots: The Universe of Home.
  • Gruchow, Paul. “Putting Tomatoes By,” Grass Roots: The Universe of Home.
  • Hampl, Patricia. “Come Eat.” In Brief: Short Takes on the Personal.
  • Kumin, Maxine, “Enough Jam for a Lifetime.” In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction.
  • Milne, A.A. “A Word for Autumn.”
  • Orwell, George. “A Nice Cup of Tea.”
  • Roberts, Matt. “Recipe: Marshmallow Rice Krispy Treats.” Sweet: A Literary Confection.
  • Simic, Charles. “Dinner at Uncle Boris’s.” In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction.
  • Walker, Nicole, “Fish,” Brevity. (See also Heidi Czerwiec, on Walker’s “Fish”)