I remember the first time I watched Anthony Bourdain. His travels filled my mind with so many questions – how can he eat that; that looks amazing; I wish I could travel like him.
His show opened my mind to other. He instilled in me the idea that food is a universal language, and that it knows no bounds. Fork or spoon, insert eating device – one simple or complex bite, and you could easily be transported. You can, in fact, taste lineage.
Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.
– Anthony Bourdain
I had an opportunity to travel much of South East Asia exploring culinary feats and meeting exceptional people. His show taught me how to experience a culture through food – including the times you had to muster through the mental blocks of “how the hell am I going to eat this,” in hopes to not offend. Despite living it for a brief year, I could never do it with as much cynical humor and grace as Anthony. The universe did something right when picking Anthony for this show.
Even as envious as his show can be at times, there was truly no better person fit to educate the world about the vast cultural landscape we live in. This includes most recently when Anthony visited Armenia – a historically ignored, do-not-discuss topic of a country with an open wound: genocide.
As an Armenian, I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I was to read the headline before that episode aired. His articles on a country I’ve never been to, but identify with through generations of family dishes passed down, were nothing short of brilliant.
He walked me through familiar dishes, but also inspired with ones I’ve never heard of before. His interviews with Armenians were unbiased, poised with simple questions that allowed the people to tell the story of culinary brilliance that’s been forged through years of cultures melting together across the region. Much of which, I’d never known before this show.
When I read the headlines of his death, my morning became less bright. I still don’t know how I truly feel at the moment, but one thing that helps is knowing how much I’ve learned; how much he taught the world to experience other, not just acknowledge it.
Anthony Bourdain pulled back the veil on cultural stigma. He was a pioneer. A champion for cultural understanding, through one of the most human ways possible – sharing a meal at a dinner table.