Photo by John Reardon from article on theguardian.com
Last month, we celebrated "Bourdain Day" to honor Anthony Bourdain - the former chef, writer, and star of the TV shows "No Reservations" and "Parts Unknown." In these two series, he traveled to different parts of the world to have meals with the locals, or sometimes he brought a friend or fellow chef with him to eat in different restaurants. June 25th was chosen as Bourdain Day by his friends and fans because that was his birthday. Tragically, June is also the month he took his own life last year, however, the motto for Bourdain Day is "Get out and live," and I think that's a better way to remember him.
Last summer, I binge-watched "Parts Unknown," so this summer I decided to binge-watch "No Reservations." I watch his shows to escape. I'm not traveling this summer so I like to see all the faraway places he goes to. Many are around oceans and have vacation vibes to them. But he also visits poverty-stricken places and never hesitates to sit down for a meal at a family's home and eat the same things they do. I enjoy listening to his monologues during the shows. He explains each place's history and his own feelings about how the meals taste and how the people treat him and each other.
Bourdain was definitely a storyteller. He philosophized about life. I particularly enjoyed the Vietnam episode of "No Reservations" where he spoke about the desire to move there for a year to write his own novel. I think a big part of the allure of his shows for me is that I like people who write. I like and relate to people who can tell stories.
My only criticism about his shows is his obsession with eating meat. He constantly talked about wanting to eat meat, and we'd have to watch him eat meat, and sometimes we even had to sit through watching the locals trap pigs and other animals so they could slaughter them, all while Bourdain observed and told us about it. As a person who doesn't eat land animals at all, I hate these segments. But actually, for meat-eaters, I think it's essential that they show the entire procedure that goes into eating meat so people can learn. Otherwise, they are just cooking and eating the packages of plastic-wrapped red squiggles that they pick up at the supermarket. Even though Bourdain ate so much meat, at least he saw first hand how the animals were killed rather than how the usual meat-eater just turns a blind eye and doesn't want to think about the fact that it is an animal they are eating as opposed to a cooked red squiggle. I'm not a vegan (although I wish I were), and I still eat fish. My reasoning is that I can handle watching people catch fish and then cooking them so I'm being realistic about where my food comes from.
In addition to eating tons of meat on these shows, Bourdain also eats fruits, vegetables, noodles, and desserts. Oh, and if you happen to binge-watch his shows, notice how many times he mentions eating "sea urchins." He seems to eat sea urchins in about every other episode!
So this summer, I'm again living vicariously through Bourdain's travels and meals. It's devastating that even though he traveled the world and seemed to have a job he really loved, he still couldn't get over his depression. It got me thinking: Even though I love how much of a realist Bourdain was, maybe too much reality isn't good? Considering how he left us, it seems it wasn't good for him. Sometimes we need to turn that blind eye - like the meat-eaters do during dinner - in order to survive. Escaping is good for us. Or more accurately, it's necessary.
With President Barack Obama (Vox.Com)