But I’ll remember a different common theme running through his shows, which was the search for local tubed meat, especially after a long evening of mirth and merrymaking, when the nightlife is wrapping up. Bourdain showed us that sausages, frankfurters, and hot dogs were globally ubiquitous. If Seinfeld encouraged us to look to the cookie to understand each other, Bourdain encouraged us to look to the wiener.
Another thing folks are remembering is that he “he didn’t suffer fools,” but there were lot of others types that Bourdain couldn’t suffer, as well. He couldn’t suffer the humorless (Alice Waters). He couldn’t suffer the greedy (Sandra Lee), and he couldn’t suffer the predator whether they were preying upon women or entire countries (Harvey Weinstein, Mario Batali, Henry Kissinger). Bourdain was cool without trying. Did he buy grey jeans or did he wash his black ones so much they faded? For some reason, I prefer the latter.
The restaurant and food industry in this country could not exist without immigrants. I like eating, and I have the pleasure thanks to people who don’t look like me or speak like me. Bourdain respected and cherished the people who worked in food service. He respected our Nanas and Abuelas, encouraging us to find cultural commonalty in food, and he told us—showed us—that the best place to find it was to dine with someone in their own home. I had the pleasure of that while I was last in Tel Aviv, and it was the best meal of my life. I still dream of the halvah we has for dessert. Lesson? Always listen to Anthony Bourdain.
When someone passes away, we remember how they made us feel. Tony—and I feel like he would insist a call him Tony—made me feel adventurous, and he made me feel seen. Bourdain made me want to visit places, especially Vietnam, and I felt a kinship with this cool guy when I, too, had been to places he visited. Bourdain made me laugh, and Bourdain entertained me. Bourdain made me feel like he would punch a guy out for me, if I needed him to. Bourdain made me feel…safe. He hated smarm and anyone who punched down. He wasn’t perfect, but he was trustworthy in his integrity as well as in his own self reflection.
My Favorite Tony Moments
I burst into tears when Simona Halep won the French Open on Saturday, her following several years of being the dissatisfied bridesmaid to the winning bride holding the bigger trophy. I was happy and relieved for Simona. I was mad at that Orange Thing parading around like an idiot in Singapore while babies are snatched from their mothers at the Mexican border, and I was sad for the families of Kate [Spade] and Tony, especially their children. And I was anxious hearing the stories everyone was sharing about their own bouts of depression, because it reminded me so much of my own. I needed release.
Then Simon lifted her arms in victory, quickly covering her face to weep, the floodgates opened. I got my catharsis.
The bad news is Anthony Bourdain is dead; the good-ish news is that he left us a wonderful legacy in video and in print, and because this is an on demand world, I can check in with him anytime. Thank you, Tony. God speed. Enjoy a weiner in heaven.
Yo Gabba Gabba
Several years ago, I got to see Bourdain give a talk, on tour promoting his book Medium Raw. On stage, he was wearing boots, faded black jeans, and a Yo Gabba Gabba t-shirt. He told us that he had just filmed a cameo for the kid’s show, much to the delight of his daughter. As the mother of a then-pre-schooler, I couldn’t think of anything cooler. Forget eating warthog ass in Namibia; I want to see you chilling with a three monsters, a robot, and a red alien dildo.
Parts Unknown – Charleston
Born and raised in South Carolina, I know a lot about Waffle House and Waffle House culture. Tony’s joy while eating a Waffle House patty melt with Chef Sean Brock (Husk), is a delight, reminding us Tony loves food made with love in all its forms. “An irony free zone, where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. Where everybody, regardless race, creed color, or degree of inebriation is welcome…a place of safety and nourishment.”
Then, Tony visits Hemingway, South Carolina, and Scott’s BBQ. My dad grew up in Hemingway, and most of his family still lives there.
Parts Unknown – Sichuan
Tony’s bromance with Chef Eric Ripert (Le Bernadin) is relationship goals. Watching Tony get Eric to eat the spiciest food that ever did spicy (hallucinations, you say?!), lying to Eric that beer takes the pain away might get added to my list of videos I watch when my mood needs a lift.
“Parts Unknown” is streaming on Netflix. If you can find “No Reservations”, my favorite episodes include Beirut, Iceland, Vietnam, and Russia.
Images courtesy of CNN.