The Final Course: Thoughts on Bourdain, Food, and Travel

A void was left by the untimely death of Anthony Bourdain, a giant in seemingly whichever field he chose to work. I felt a connection to this man whom I never met. We shared physical stature, geography (I live not too far from where he got his culinary start in Provincetown, MA), and the love of both cooking and writing. Less superficially, we both became fathers to daughters later in life, fought battles with substance abuse, and as it is now painfully evident, struggled with mental health issues.

The outpouring of grief following his suicide suggested that I underestimated how many people also felt a connection. I shouldn’t have, as he was a supremely gifted raconteur. Bourdain began his professional career in the restaurant industry, one known for attracting outsiders, oddballs. And it was this fresh perspective that made his observations so captivating. Edgy, often sarcastic, always brilliant, he held up his own brand of binoculars to our eyes so that we could better see not just foreign lands, but parts of our own cities we often overlook. As a writer, his voice was strong and consistent throughout whatever he touched. As I read (and re-read) his breakthrough account of a working chef’s life, Kitchen Confidential, many years ago, I couldn’t help but hear his voice in my head as if it was an audio book.

It’s no wonder that food and drink were such potent vehicles for Bourdain’s storytelling. Wine can offer a window into a place – from the soil and geography (or terrior as it is known) to the climate. Food is the history of a region, amalgamations of the cultures who have came and went, served up on a plate. The other pillar of his works was travel, which is a bit of a different animal. Travel is about your story; it’s your experience and it can only be truly appreciated once you stop listening to tales of others and open yourself to the world. I feel that Mr. Bourdain’s legacy is best honored not by “likes” or retweets, but when you put down the phone, get off the couch, and go out there and live your own stories.

The Chef

chf

I’ve made sandwiches
So bad-ass
They’ll rob you at knifepoint
 
Vichyssoise so smooth
It could talk
A nun into the sack
 
I’ve served duck confit
Dripping with
The tears of an angel
 
Dover sole, nuanced
Delicate,
Viagra for the soul!
 
The two-faced Janus,
The critic
Smiles right to your face
 
But hurls invective
Like vomit,
Bilious opinions
 
At least I create,
Reviews are
Empty, ball-less, wordplay
 
And I’M the asshole?
Love my crew
Even my dishwasher
 
Carlos busts his ass,
No sick days
For the past seven years
 
Nothing but respect
For that guy,
For that fucking wetback
 
They sent a plate back?
Undercooked?
The fucking arrogance
 
of the uninformed,
Tin palates
With no sense to savor

Aisle 16: Chips, Snacks, Frustration

grocery_store

Alright, I just have a few things to get here at the food store before I go home. First up is yogurt but it seems to be that a portly fellow with a creepy mustache is blocking the ones I want. No matter, I can get – oh hello, cute girl in the yoga pants. Of course she’s here with some dude. He might be her bodyguard from the looks of him. Don’t get caught checkin’ out the merchandise if you know what I’m saying! Heh heh.

Jeez, I just want to get a few of those yogurts. What’s this guy’s deal? He smells like a box of old cheese that was in your attic for years. Come on buddy, it’s a nutrition label, not freakin’ Ulysses. And I’m pretty sure that one is going to be the same as the last one you put down.

Lord Jesus that girl is hot. Yup, just got caught looking by her boyfriend. Aaand he’s still staring at me. Backwards hat, tank top, pretty sure he just crushed a can of Red Bull against his forehead. Not good. Ok, let’s try the – damn, that guy is still picking out yogurts?

Fine, there’s plenty on the ole list here in the meantime. Now if I could just get past this old lady with her cart sideways.

”’Scuse me…uh, pardon me…(cough)…(AHEM)…”

Ok, scratch that. This aisle isn’t an option. Maybe I can finally get those yogurts. Seriously dude?! Those things are gonna be expired before he’s done with them.

I don’t even need anything in the laundry aisle but I’ll shoot down there to get away from the – oh that’s just great. Hot girl and meathead are here now. I guess you need to do a lot of laundry if you live in a weight room. Too bad yogurt guy isn’t familiar with this stuff. Ok here she comes, don’t look don’t look don’t FUCK! I looked. How can you not?? It’s like going to the Louvre and not looking at any of the paintings. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna get my ass kicked by the time we get to frozen foods if this keeps up.

Now the old lady is at the yogurts. Of course. Screw it, there’s nobody in produce. I can get by on salads and potatoes for the week.