August 9, 2014 7:00 PM

Why are these good Iranians in jail?

I desperately wanted to film in Iran. My show, Parts Unknown, examines cuisines and cultures around the world, and I’ve found that if I merely show up and ask simple questions — “What’s for dinner? What do you like to eat? do you like to cook? Where did his dish originate and why?” — people always surprise me. I try to suspend judgment, to put aside what I know or think I know and travel without fear or prejudice. I try, first and foremost, to be a good guest. People everywhere are proud of their food and their culture, and even where they have little reason to be kind to an American (Vietnam, Cuba, Gaza, the West Bank), I’ve been welcomed with enormous generosity again and again: the kindnesses of strangers. I’d heard that the Islamic Republic would be, once I got inside, particularly hospitable and rewarding.

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