红包扫雷源码免公众号, andrew zimmern’s new five-part documentary series on msnbc, is unabashedly political. that much is clear within the first two minutes of the debut episode, “who’s feeding america,” which premiered on february 16. “immigration is fundamental to who we are as americans,” zimmern says in a voiceover, as the show opens in washington, d.c., with shots of the white house and the capitol building. “i’ve spent 40 years in the food business, and i can tell you, without immigrants and migrant workers, our food system would collapse.”
What follows is an in-depth look at immigration in the U.S. through the lens of food: from the catered buffets served to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, to the California fields in which migrant workers harvested those ingredients, to the undocumented cooks keeping restaurant kitchens running. The sheer number of narrative threads that come with an issue as complex as immigration reform, when thrown at the viewer all at once, can be disorienting. But this knottiness is a welcome change to see from Zimmern; you get the impression that, after 14 years of his entertainment-oriented Travel Channel series Bizarre Foods, he is eager to tackle thornier topics and actualize .
That’s not to say that Zimmern is without his familiar brand of affability on What’s Eating America. He’s a good listener and finds easy ways to relate to his subjects. Perhaps unsurprisingly for MSNBC, he does have a tendency to fall back on white liberal and food as a unifying force: eating is “how we find common ground,” “sharing a meal reveals [...] there’s more that unites us than divides us,” immigrants are of value because they are “hard-working” and “put food on our tables.”
红包扫雷源码免公众号more compelling are the harder-edged moments in which zimmern tries to interrogate power that can’t be so easily dismantled around the dinner table, like american imperialism, hypocrisy, and corporate interests. in one particularly engrossing segment, the host visits springdale, arkansas, home to the headquarters of tyson foods and a large population of marshallese people, many of whom work for the poultry processor. the reason there are so many marshallese there, we learn, is that decades after the u.s. conducted nuclear testing on several of the marshall islands’ atolls in the mid-1900s, the two countries signed an agreement that allows marshallese to work in the u.s. without a visa, resulting in many of them leaving their radiation-polluted homes for springdale.
“They gave up their atolls for the greater good; in return, U.S. military testing destroyed their home,” Zimmern says at one point, stopping just short of a censure of American military imperialism. In another scene, speaking to a Tyson Foods senior corporate manager who touts the ways the company helps their Marshallese immigrant workforce with citizenship classes, Zimmern asks outright if Tyson Foods is exercising its corporate influence in D.C. to lobby for citizenship for Marshallese immigrants. The manager evades a satisfactory response, but nevertheless, to see Zimmern — who, just a little more than a year ago红包扫雷源码免公众号, attracted backlash for insensitive and frankly baffling comments he made about Chinese restaurants — circle these topics is satisfying and perhaps even a little tactically redemptive.
Of course, when speaking about immigration and politics in the year 2020, one cannot refrain from addressing the big, spray-tanned elephant in the room. President Donald Trump looms large in “Who’s Feeding America,” as Zimmern and guest José Andrés — the chef and humanitarian known for, among other things, a legal and verbal feud红包扫雷源码免公众号 with the president — film covertly at Trump Grill and call out the hypocrisy of Trump disparaging and targeting immigrants for his business. In one particularly impressive journalistic feat, the show interviews a former banquet chef for a Trump property, an undocumented Mexican immigrant named Jesus who has chosen this opportunity to identify himself on camera for the first time, despite the risk of deportation.
红包扫雷源码免公众号and yet: “let’s have lunch! we just want to talk,” zimmern cajoles on camera, smiling at andrés’s phone as the two record a video message for the president, who has rebuffed their invitation to appear on the show. after the myriad of ways the episode has engaged deeply with politics and challenged the rhetoric and actions of trump, it’s disappointingly predictable to end with a meal with lawmakers — reps. will hurd (r-texas) and joe kennedy (d-mass.) — calling for bipartisanship and extolling the virtues of breaking bread and hashing things out together, as if that’s all it will take to solve an escalating, deeply entrenched crisis that has seen raids, deportation, and the separation of families.
What’s Eating America doesn’t provide anything groundbreaking for viewers already knee-deep in news and politics. But for fans of Zimmern, it’s worth watching to see the host make new strides as an interviewer, cultural anthropologist, and journalist-advocate. If food is, in Zimmern’s words, “how we find common ground,” then this series’ potential lies in how it — like Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown — can use food as a window into some of the most challenging issues of our time.
What’s Eating America airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on MSNBC.