With a pinch of this, a dash of that, a sprinkle and a flourish, I long to be an adventurer, a storyteller, a healer with food, a doctor with drink, a truth seeker, and a Shaman of Ramen. To always be curious, and never too full. To always listen with open ears and heart. And to always make sure my own soul and the souls of those around me are served with sustenance, love and laughter.
As I was writing parts of this, Parts Unknownwas playing on a TV in the other room. Anthony’s voice is so specific, so unique, so full of life. It is hard… no impossible to imagine he is gone. And yet clearly he had parts unknown to us, the TV audience… but perhaps even unknown to friends and family.
TV gives us false hope. Any creative art does this, I suppose. How can Anthony Bourdain be dead, if he is on my TV??? Same with Tom Pettyor Prince… Robin Williams. Their memories are forever captured on film, tape or vinyl. They are not gone, how can they be gone?
As I ponder the impact of a man I had never met and how he has affected me, and so many others, my brain is flooded with a million thoughts and ingredients. He was a familiar stranger, and each week made me ask… How do we put together the meal of life? How do we use all we have, strive to discover new elements and techniques and stay true to ourselves, and who we are?
I look at what I have in my own pantry, my own life, and try to figure out how to make the most interesting meal possible. I try to determine how to feed the most people, including myself. I realize that I am both limited and limitless.
Food is practical and necessary, yet visionary and elevated. If we stop and ponder all the steps it takes. Pause before inhaling and express gratitude… then food becomes truly holy… majestic… magical. Any food, from the simple to the sublime, becomes something rich.
A seed goes into the ground, and becomes wood and fruit… paper and pleasure.
How many hands go into a glass of wine, a sauce of tomatoes, or yes, even a filet? Think about the farmer, the workers, the drivers, the loaders and shippers. Take a moment. Say grace, say a prayer or just pause.
Anthony Bourdain was part Escoffier, part Hemingway. He had the rebel and musical soul of punk rocker Sid Vicious, the musical heart of a traveling bluesman… the mind of a chef, the curiosity of a historian and anthropologist. He was a truth seeker. He wrote with words, painted with sauces and spoke with his heart. He broke bread with people all over the world, and yet he was broken.
In what must have been one dark moment, an entire life was stopped with a soft, plush belt. Hanging, it seems, must be one of the most brutal ways to go. Do you simply give in and relax into dying? Or do you have second thoughts, moments of regret, where the very struggle to survive and reverse your bad decision leads more quickly to your demise?
Jersey… a Jewish mother… that is where the similarities stop.
It was hard not to envy the journey and adventure. On the outside, it seemed like the greatest job ever… getting paid to travel and eat, to indulge curiosity and explore a deep quest for knowledge… to satiate your belly with the most unique foods, and quench your thirst with spirit and spirits… and of course, to share all of these experiences with others… to meet fellow travelers and connect with other souls.
If food cannot sustain you, how hungry must you be?
If spirits cannot fill your glass, how empty must you be?
If people cannot keep you connected, how painful must it be?
If a light cannot break through the darkness, how dark must it be?
As we all struggle to try to understand how a man seemingly so in love with life… so passionate about humanity and the meals that bring people together… so hungry for connection… and the ability and sensitivity to be a master storyteller… and a cultural anthropologist. How that man who shined a light on so many nooks and crannies of the world, could also be lost in the darkness… in the blackened maze of his own thoughts… and so easily vanish into the corners of his mind…
If all that was not enough… If the love of a woman, and the adoration of a child was not enough to anchor a soul in place, one cannot help but be scared for their own safety… their own ability to keep fighting. Anthony Bourdain was a literal fighter, from battling the demons of heroin to the discipline of Jiu-Jitsu… If a fighter can knock himself out, give up on the fight… then what of our own mortality and the power of self-worth and happiness?
“Fortune and fame’s such a curious game.
Perfect strangers can call you by name.
Pay good money to hear “Fire And Rain”
Again and again and again.”
– James Taylor
But as James continues… “That’s why I’m here.”
Clearly success means nothing if we do not believe ourselves to be truly successful. Love from another means little, if we do not truly love ourselves. Words of praise are like daggers and sharpened kitchen knives that cut our skin when we do not feel we are worthy.
We cover the wounds with gloves or tattoos, and bleed underneath, showing the world only the colorful, glossy surface.
Life is beautiful, but it is not easy.
Life is messy and always changing.
Life is simple and yet so complex.
Life is about balance and rearranging.
Life is quiet and loud.
Life is joyous and heartbreaking.
Life is how we define it, yet imposed on us.
Life is ours for the taking.