Andrew Zimmern on Making ‘Bizarre Foods’ at an ‘Amazing Time’ in American History

Andrew Zimmern is back with an all-new season of Bizarre Foods that mixes weird culinary delights with a little bit of history.

The 56-year-old’s Travel Channel show has taken him to just about every corner of the world, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more left to explore, learn, and of course, eat.

In the new season Zimmern chows down on squirrel and pond frogs along the escape route of the Underground Railroad in northern Kentucky, dines on authentic World War II rations at the Battle of the Bulge site in Belgium and heads to Hawaii to learn about the native culture.

Andrew Zimmern watches Donna Cossette skin a wild jackrabbit in preparation for a native Paiute meal near the Pony Express Trail in western Nevada.
Andrew Zimmern watches Donna Cossette skin a wild jackrabbit in preparation for a native Paiute meal near the Pony Express Trail in western Nevada. Travel Channel

In fact, in an exclusive clip from the season premiere, which you can see above, Zimmern rides the last 200 miles of the Pony Express Trail to its terminus at Sacramento, California, and explores the thrilling mail delivery service that had a short but profound impact on America. In the video, Zimmern examines the fun link between the Pony Express riders and doughnuts.

Us Weekly also spoke exclusively with Zimmern about the upcoming season, and he talked at length about what surprised him the most about the latest episodes, filming the show in the midst of political and global turmoil and what he was able to learn from his travels.

“[What surprised me was] how important the stories from the past affect our future and are staggeringly prescient,” he told Us. “The Underground Railroad show revealed a lot of divisiveness from the past that is still not healed today, some 50 years after the passing of the Civil Rights Act.”

Andrew Zimmern listens to Stan Van Vleck discuss his family's history at Van Vleck Ranch in northern California.
Andrew Zimmern listens to Stan Van Vleck discuss his family’s history at Van Vleck Ranch in northern California. Travel Channel

Another episode with both roots in the past and increasing importance today was the show shot in Belgium about World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. “[It] is all about exploring the food of this country and experiencing the insane love affair that the Belgians have with America. And yet we’re shooting the show when our standing in the world and our respect from the countries that were our allies are now the people we’re disenfranchising ourselves from and [we’re] aligning ourselves with the most evil of dictators in the world in Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin,” Zimmern explained. “I’m not trying to be political, it’s just stunning to be in Belgium shooting a show about the greatest generation, about the foods of the wartime, and the history of Bastogne and those battles and to meet some people who were alive back then and hear their stories, and listen to Belgian grandmothers crying because we’re pulling out of environmental treaties with our European allies and our president is meeting with dictators.”

“It’s an amazing time in our country’s history, especially to be making television,” he continued.

And even though Zimmern has been hosting Bizarre Foods for nearly 12 years, he still learns new things about the world with each season. “I was really amazed this year, and maybe it was the Battle of the Bulge show and the Hawaii show, [they] just really reminded me that we don’t need to make the same mistakes twice if we just look at what’s happened in the most recent past,” he said. “It’s mind-boggling to me how many similarities there are to the tragedy of the bulldozing of Hawaii. And thank god native culture survived, just a whisper of it, so that it could flourish again.”

Zimmern told Us the show has made him acutely aware of all the change occurring in our world, and he’s not exactly thrilled with what he’s seeing. “I really thought for a long time we were headed in a much, much better place — we may still be, final chapter not written yet — but it still seems like we’re in a really contentious place in the world where people are defining themselves by the things that separate us instead of the things we have in common,” explained the four-time James Beard Award-winning TV personality.

However, he does have hope that Bizarre Foods can help unite people instead of dividing them. “That was my pitch to the network,” he concluded. “I wanted to make a show about patience, tolerance and understanding in a world that was seemingly only defining itself by the things we didn’t have in common.”

Tune in to the season premiere of Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel on Tuesday, July 3, at 9 p.m. ET.

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