The Only Foods Anthony Bourdain Refused To Eat

The unofficial theme of Anthony Bourdain's food television shows was rooted in the virtues of being a gracious and accommodating visitor. He said as much in a 2011 interview with the Harvard Business Review: "I put a real premium on being a good guest, meaning you accept what is offered in good faith and a smile, and do your best to just be grateful and a good guest and respect your host and their traditions, and try to play along, even if it's uncomfortable."

This, of course, included eating the food offered, even if you might find it unappetizing. For example, Bourdain described to NPR how rotten food and unclean water had proved a challenge in the past, but he persevered. About the Icelandic dish of rotten shark, he said he did it, but wouldn't again. However, the late chef did have his limits. One of them was airport food. In the same interview, Bourdain described how eating at the airport throws him into a spiral of existential questions in a way that an Icelandic shark wouldn't. Again, talking to Bon Appétit, he stated, "I don't eat on planes. I like to arrive hungry." That said, he admitted that on excessively long flights, he'll order cheese and port.

Airplane food doesn't really go against the general principle of being a good guest though. Delta, for example, doesn't consider their reheated packages as a tradition. There is one food, however, that really did force Bourdain to break his own rules.

No dog eat dog for Anthony Bourdain

The limit to what Bourdain would eat is easily relatable to most. He refused to eat cats and dogs. When The Points Guy asked the inevitable question of whether there was anything Bourdain would decline, he said that even though a third of countries he visited ate dogs, he could never do so himself. "I will not eat a dog... When I told a guy that I wasn't going to have the dog, he said, 'C'mon, it's not city dog, it's mountain dog.' I still passed," he told the outlet. The bad boy of the culinary celebrities retained the cultural sensibilities he had inherited.

Bourdain was well-aware that choosing to eat all animal meat except cats and dogs could come across as hypocritical. Though, at the same time, he entertained the hypothetical situation in which a poor household presents him with a dog-laden dish. In that case, as he told ABC News, "Being a good guest trumps objections I might have" (via Eater).

Although some cultures have traditionally considered dogs as suitable for food, such outlooks appear to be changing. According to the BBC, South Korean president Moon Jae-in recently raised the subject of banning dog meat and others are on board with the idea. "A growing number of South Koreans are considering the consumption of dog meat as a matter of animal abuse rather than tradition," Jeon Jin-kyung, head of the Korea Animal Rights Advocates, shared with the Korea Times (via BBC).

Anthony Bourdain's refusal to refuse was central to his work

While Bourdain did take a stand against the idea of eating cats and dogs, his need to create a hypothetical situation in which he would eat them speaks to how ingrained being a good guest was for him. It wasn't about shocking people. Rather, for Bourdain, meals were the basis of society. He literally said that in an interview with Bookpage: "Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself." Refusing food offered to him would have been a refusal of another's presence, even in cases of eating dog.

Bourdain elaborated on this point further while promoting his book "Medium Raw" to Mother Jones. In the book, he eviscerates both vegetarians and the industrial meat industry. In the interview, though, he modified his feelings about vegetarians, saying he appreciated the ones who served vegetarian foods themselves but accepted non-vegetarian dishes from well-meaning hosts. "Sure," he said, "it's possible to travel and to politely decline meat. But there are a lot of places where people are just not going to get that. It shuts you off from a human dimension." Unfortunately, we never got the chance to see Bourdain confront the problem of eating dog meat despite his cultural preferences. Knowing him, it would've been insightful.