People is remembering Anthony Bourdain after he took his life. I owe him a lot. I never knew him as a chef, but I don’t care. With his books and his shows he was the One who brought us couch-foodies where our hearts were without us even knowing. Food as discovery, as memory, as language of care, as the act of love that can truly connect the rich and the poor, and ultimately we all.
Thanks to him I surrendered to offal, found my way towards authentic food, looked for places about to disappear into our rush to the future, dreamt about Vietnam and cheated with granular broth when I had to.
A few weekd before Nine Eleven, Bourdain wrote a book about his first experience on food shows and about the places he visited. There you’ll find inspiring pages, but the one I quote is still powerful. The moment he knew - a moment that sooner or later we all live - he didn’t want to be a chef anymore but do something else. Becoming in the food world what Indiana Jones is for archaeology. That jump into the void is the finest and the hardest recipe in the world, and the very flavor we all should aim for before we go.
Anthony, we’ll find that perfect meal. That day, I’ll order one for you, in your loving memory.
I wanted the perfect meal. I also wanted Col Walter E Kurtz, Lord Jim, Lawrence of Arabia, Kim Philby, the Consul, Fowler, Tony Po, Christopher Walken …I wanted to find - no, I wanted to be - one of those debauched heroes and villains out of Graham Greene, Joseph Conrad, Francis Coppola and Michael Cimino. I wanted to wander the world in a dirty seersucker suit, getting into trouble. I wanted to go up the Nung River to the heart of darkness in Cambodia. I wanted to ride out into a desert on camelback, eat whole roasted lamb with my fingers. I wanted to kick snow off my boots in a mafia nightclub in Russia. I wanted to play with automatic weapons in Phnom Penh, recapture the past in a small oyster village in France, step into a seedy, neon-lit pulquería in rural Mexico. I wanted to run roadblocks in the middle of the night, blowing past angry militia with a handful of hurled Marlboro packs, experience fear, excitement, wonder. I wanted kicks - the kind of melodramatic thrills and chills I’d yearned for since childhood, the kind of adventure I’d found as a little boy in the pages of my Tintin comic books. I wanted to see the world - and I wanted the world to be just like the movies. Unreasonable? Over-romantic? Uninformed? Foolhardy? Yes! But I didn’t care.