An American friend recently introduced me to the television work of New York chef and writer Anthony Bourdain. I wouldn’t say Bourdain is the most entertaining TV chef I’ve ever watched – he’s not in the same league as the mighty Keith Floyd, though who is? – but I certainly prefer him to the slew of British tele-cooks who followed in Floyd’s wake, such as Anthony Worrel-Thompson, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver. (Such people, Floyd once said in his inimitable fashion, deserved to be ‘napalmed’.)
Bourdain makes a laudable effort to hang out with ordinary folk in his shows, which usually have him travelling to an exotic or off-the-beaten-track place and sampling the local cuisine. For example, during his visits to Scotland, he hasn’t spent all his time loitering on Highland estates owned by the landed gentry and foreign billionaires, dining on freshly slaughtered venison, pheasant and salmon – the rich-people’s delicacies that the taste-buds of 99.9% of the Scottish population only rarely encounter.
No, Bourdain hasn’t flinched from trying the more extreme examples of the common Scottish diet. He’s eaten things that you’d find lurking on the fringes of a menu in a housing-scheme chippie and you’d only consider eating late on a Saturday night when you’re really pished.
To his credit too, he hasn’t sermonised about how horribly unhealthy it is to eat a dollop of dead animal’s offal that’s just spent 10 minutes gestating in a deep-fat fryer. In fact, Bourdain has the honesty to admit that something that’s been fried to buggery can occasionally taste brilliant.
Here is a clip of Bourdain checking out the best that the Mermaid Fish Bar in Leith has to offer, with crime novelist Iain Rankin in tow:
And here is some footage of Bourdain in Glasgow, getting his chomps around the legendary and fearsome deep-fried Mars bar:
In fact, after watching the above, I felt an urge to search my neighbourhood shops here in Tunis and find something approximating a haggis, or a black pudding, or a white pudding, and deep-fry it to hell and devour it.
Finally, when I was looking over the wares in the meats section of my local branch of Carrefour, I saw at the end of the refrigerator a display of large, fat, offally-looking sausages. I lifted one out and was about to take it to the checkout when I noticed the following words on its wrapping:
“Pour chiens.” In English, that means: “for dogs.”
So there you are. Something that in Scotland keeps a good part of the human population alive is, in Tunisia, fed to the dogs.