Surprise: My column in the redesigned culture section of TIME this week is not about Charlie Sheen! The other day I posted briefly about the season-debut Haiti episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. For the column I screened more of the upcoming episodes and spoke to Bourdain about how his show uses food as a medium to explore a country’s culture, history and politics. The show is also a kind of essay on the moral dilemmas of tourism, and a metacommentary on doing a show about, as he says, “shoving food in my face,” often in countries where some people—if out of sight of tourists—have a hard time getting a meal.
The new season is especially timely: food is becoming increasingly politicized internationally (rising prices for staples have had destabilizing effects in places like Egypt) and domestically (witness Jamie Oliver calling Sarah Palin a “Froot Loop” for opposing Michelle Obama’s healthy-eating efforts).
Another issue Bourdain and I talked about is the perils of “misery tourism,” crossing the line between sympathy and gawking. That was an issue, some of you might remember, in season one of Treme, and coincidentally Bourdain joined the show’s writing staff this season, to write the restaurant-business storyline. We talked about it briefly, but you can read up on it at more length in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Treme returns next month; No Reservations episodes debut Mondays at 9 p.m. E.T. on the Travel Channel.