A fan's tribute to Anthony Bourdain

The late Anthony Bourdain's television show on CNN wasn't really about food. It was about travel, exploration and a ...

Posted: Jun 11, 2018 11:36 PM
Updated: Jun 11, 2018 11:36 PM

The late Anthony Bourdain's television show on CNN wasn't really about food. It was about travel, exploration and a sort of restless, joyful hedonism in culinary conquest and conversation.

In his work, like in Hunter S. Thompson's journalism, he created a genre or art form that blended accepted concepts -- the travel show, the cooking show, the documentary -- into something wholly new, unnamed and unique to Bourdain.

I had no personal connection to Anthony Bourdain. He never bummed a smoke from me in a dark alley behind a restaurant or bought me a shot of local liquor in an exotic city. Yet, I feel his death keenly, for the loss of talent and what he represented at his best.

I read his book "Kitchen Confidential" shortly after college, after working as a grill man in a Mississippi kitchen with enough drama and substance abuse to feel like a pre-K version of a Bourdainian milieu. Because of that, I felt a special kinship with the author. But it was in his second career, on television, that Bourdain came to be more than a foul-mouthed raconteur with a string of unhygienic anecdotes about the food service industry.

He became a guide and champion of travel and experiencing the wider world, with shows that combined cuisine, history, culture, politics and everyday life around the world.

A Northeast native, he often visited places in America like a tourist, particularly when he ventured south to Houston, Charleston or Nashville, but he was truly in his element when he was abroad, and in areas that were obscure even to seasoned travelers.

Bourdain often injected his own opinions. His piece about London was really about his view of Brexit's utter folly, explored amid his consumption of fish 'n' chips. His more recent show in Istanbul was about the rise of repression and intolerance, discussed over a pide, or Turkish flatbread. In the pastas of a modern working-class Italian suburb, there was talk of the lingering echoes of the fascist past.

Bourdain seemed at his best when served a production curve ball. Take when monsoons trapped his crew in Manila during a visit to the Philippines. Instead of lamenting his inability to travel to nearby islands, he crashed the most bourgeois function imaginable -- a boozy office Christmas party -- and made it an entertaining window into Filipino culture.

He enjoyed playfully tormenting his longtime friend Eric Ripert (who, sadly, was the first to discover his death) with fiery-hot peppercorns in Sichuan and excessive liquor elsewhere.

My favorite episode is probably his visit to an estate built in the 19th century in the hill station of Shimla, in northern India, by a doctor who worked for the British East India Company. Over rich curries and in tattered elegance, they explored the legacy of colonialism and the current divide between India and Pakistan.

I view Bourdain, in some ways, as a throwback to that era -- a swashbuckling Victorian adventurer, like Sir Richard Burton or 'Chinese' Gordon, armed with a fork or chopsticks rather than a pistol or cutlass (and without the racism that those explorers fell prey to). I always pictured him steaming in a rickety boat up a river that no white man had ever seen.

It was a 2016 episode about a river that, since his death, I keep thinking about.

His narration began: "I was brokenhearted and at a crossroads in my life when I first went up the Skrang River in Sarawak, Borneo. The people who I met there, 10 years ago, hosted me and my crew in their longhouse, fed us, looked after us and treated me with great kindness. When the chiefs invited me back for their yearly harvest festival, Gawai Dayak, I said I would come. It took me a while, but in the end I did return. I have to admit, I was wondering if all the bad s-t running through my head the first time I went up that river was still lurking there -- if I'd managed to entirely put it away."

At the time, I assumed the, "bad s-t running through" Bourdain's head related to his well-documented struggles with substance abuse and addiction. Sadly, it seems he may have been talking about the silent, awful epidemic of mental illness, which it turns out he had not, and perhaps could not simply, "put away."

Up the Skrang River, Bourdain saluted a departed friend with a cigarette and liquor at his grave. We, instead, should honor his life and legacy in three ways: go somewhere you've never been, eat something you've never eaten and tell everyone you love that you love them, even if they don't seem to need it.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1011197

Reported Deaths: 16524
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1359292129
Lake666181167
Allen58254802
Hamilton46498467
St. Joseph44559617
Elkhart36044510
Vanderburgh32333481
Tippecanoe28037260
Johnson25196446
Hendricks23960360
Porter22985367
Madison18820410
Clark18609253
Vigo17530303
Monroe15319200
LaPorte15230252
Delaware15127264
Howard14801290
Kosciusko12410149
Hancock11773176
Bartholomew11695180
Warrick11305189
Floyd11138215
Wayne11023253
Grant10131220
Morgan9506177
Boone8965116
Dubois8281131
Henry8252153
Dearborn823493
Noble8064106
Marshall7981135
Cass7556123
Lawrence7479172
Shelby7216119
Jackson700990
Gibson6614115
Harrison651892
Huntington6447100
Knox6427106
DeKalb6363100
Montgomery6293112
Miami595298
Putnam584179
Clinton579271
Whitley568455
Steuben566876
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Jasper536180
Jefferson513297
Ripley501987
Adams483777
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Scott439875
Greene427296
Clay426960
Wells426088
White420964
Decatur4177104
Fayette407387
Jennings390262
Posey377544
LaGrange361778
Washington360451
Randolph3476100
Spencer340743
Fountain336160
Sullivan330852
Starke319171
Owen315571
Fulton313468
Orange295064
Jay285546
Franklin266443
Perry265752
Rush263832
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Newton159848
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Brown147047
Martin139319
Switzerland135311
Warren121416
Union107216
Ohio84613
Unassigned0544

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1524169

Reported Deaths: 23955
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1646591696
Cuyahoga1468932459
Hamilton1056051431
Montgomery742551279
Summit620221111
Lucas56539917
Butler51696718
Stark468601064
Lorain35783585
Warren32903377
Mahoning30927693
Clermont28271330
Lake27179448
Delaware24263164
Licking24027294
Trumbull22993561
Fairfield22438247
Greene22414326
Medina22149313
Clark19920354
Richland18643292
Portage18073252
Wood17505224
Allen16054279
Miami15627306
Muskingum14890185
Columbiana14153274
Wayne13852271
Tuscarawas12777311
Marion12016180
Scioto11497162
Pickaway11386142
Erie10951184
Ross10614203
Ashtabula9809204
Lawrence9783153
Hancock9741155
Belmont9333209
Geauga9008157
Jefferson8600199
Huron8427143
Union822259
Washington8114144
Sandusky7875151
Athens779579
Knox7766144
Darke7695158
Seneca7405145
Ashland6993130
Auglaize681799
Shelby6540115
Brown640091
Crawford6292130
Defiance6241105
Mercer617893
Fulton605196
Highland602899
Guernsey596371
Madison595678
Logan594596
Clinton585193
Preble5730125
Putnam5354110
Williams530888
Perry519863
Champaign514273
Jackson512473
Ottawa490586
Coshocton488383
Morrow460558
Pike435067
Fayette430363
Hardin420780
Gallia419367
Adams417995
Van Wert374082
Henry366972
Holmes3653125
Hocking357582
Wyandot325262
Carroll304365
Paulding280747
Meigs267251
Monroe216254
Noble201247
Morgan194333
Harrison182646
Vinton167225
Unassigned05
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