What Anthony Bourdain Knew that so Many of us Have Forgotten
I became a fan of Anthony Bourdain after reading his first book, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. I was in my early 20’s at the time, and had been working in the restaurant industry for about 5 years. His honesty about the industry was refreshing during a time of burgeoning “celebrity chefs”, who often painted life in the kitchen as a glamorous extension of the customer experience in the dining room; it was anything but. He remained one of the few celebrities that kept me captivated; whenever I would turn on the TV to find a new episode of No Reservations or Parts Unknown, I was immediately drawn in, knowing I was going to learn something new. Anthony told the stories of ordinary, working class people in a way that was raw and authentic and beautiful.
Now, it would be a fair question to ask how a dietitian could sing the praises of a man who drank excessively, smoked like a chimney, ate glutinously, and all around did not live, nor care to live, a healthy life. It’s because Anthony understood something that too many people have forgotten: that food is not solely a means for survival or a sum of its parts. Food brings people together, it is a part of who we are, where we come from. It reminds us of home. Anthony used food as a gateway into people’s worlds. He understood that to know a people you must experience their culture, and thus, their foods. The food we eat tells our story. And for me, as someone who focuses on health and wellness, this is immeasurably important to understand. Anthony was celebrating food at a time in our culture when food was being demonized and compartmentalized. Over the last half a century or so, we have reduced food into a vehicle for health ONLY. You're either eating the right way (all healthy, all the time) or the wrong way (sugar, fat, carbs). You gave into your craving for ice cream? Shame! You chose organic, fat-free, gluten-free kale chips over pretzels? Winning! Good foods vs. bad foods. This type of thinking has left us wallowing in a world of guilt, confusion and failed diets. If we are truly going to improve our health in any real and sustainable way, we have to learn how to find happiness and satiety in the foods we eat. Like Anthony, we have to allow ourselves to celebrate food without guilt. We have to look for balance in the foods we choose, so that we feed both our bodies and our souls. Too often, we choose only one or the other.
Anthony, Rest In Peace. You made your mark on this world and we are better for having had you in it. That’s all most of us can ask to achieve. And you will continue to inspire me to help people love food and drink, unabashedly... if not in smaller quantities than you preferred.
Here’s to you. And here’s to food.