As Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods returns for its seventh season (ninth if you count two seasons of Bizarre Foods America), it could be easy to think of the show as simply a camera following a man who travels around eating crazy food. And while there’s certainly plenty of that, and it’s incredibly fun to watch, there’s always been a deeper layer, hiding just below the surface, one that sheds light on dying foodways, environmental issues, and fading cuisines. And in this season, according to Zimmern, there will be a pronounced emphasis on bringing these issues, and ways to solve them, to light.
Take snakehead, for example. In the season’s first episode, Zimmern travels to Washington, D.C. to go bowfishing for the invasive fish, which has been killing off bass in the area. "The fish is delicious, but you need to work hard to figure it out," Zimmern told The Daily Meal. "But thanks to a local wholesaler with an entrepreneurial spirit, creating sustainable pathways both economic and cultural, he’s working to solve this environmental problem. And in the hands of a masterful chef, it’s an incredible food."
Each episode will touch on the effort underway to educate folks about the amazing food that’s available to them if they know where to find it. "The fact that there are hungry people everywhere when there are delicious products available if you just know how to cook them properly, that’s hard for me to swallow," Zimmern said.
"We learn about culture through food," he added. "Whether it’s snakehead or a disappearing way of life in South Carolina — oystermen, shrimpers, and crabbers — both of these are being affected due to environmental issues. If these traditions die out, then not only will these people lose their way of life, we will lose that connection to our food. Awareness, education, and communication can solve most of these problems."
For example, Zimmern travels to the Ozarks and joins up with Arkansans who hunt for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, making delicious meals out of found foods because they’ve been taught how to cook with them.
For Zimmern, though, it’s not just about educating people on the food in their backyard. "It’s about bringing people up to speed on the changing nature of the world," he said. "We’ve become so insular, almost isolationist. We’re afraid of other people. But we need to define ourselves by what brings us together, not what separates us."