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Anthony Bourdain: Writer, journeyman, and not a vegan

There was no one better at articulating the human condition than Anthony Bourdain. When I first read Kitchen Confidential in college, it was like learning a new language — raw, sharp, and humorous in its honesty. I wanted to write like him, and when he came out with Parts Unknown, I wanted to see the world like he did. Bourdain stripped travel of glamour and extreme itineraries, and, instead, went to markets and tried days-old soup. His show documented his journeys from his POV, not as a host that followed a script. Every slurp of pho, every gulp of beer, every curse word was real. His death came as a surprise to us all. It’s bizzare how a person who attacks food with such intent and zeal can take his own life. But then again life fucks us all. Still, while he was alive, he inspired us — writer or not — with his sharp wit and brutal truthfulness. May we find, in our own darkest hours, a Bourdainism to keep us going. He would have wanted that.

  1. When I was writing ‘Kitchen Confidential,’ I was in my 40s, I had never paid rent on time, I was 10 years behind on my taxes, I had never owned my own furniture or a car.
  2. I was a journeyman chef of middling abilities. Whatever authority I have as a commenter on this world comes from the sheer weight of 28 years in the business. I kicked around for 28 years and came out the other end alive and able to form a sentence. 
  3. I’m very proud of the Rome episode of ‘No Reservations’ because it violated all the conventional wisdom about making television. You’re never, ever supposed to do a food or travel show in black and white. 
  4. To be treated well in places where you don’t expect to be treated well, to find things in common with people you thought previously you had very, very little in common with, that can’t be a bad thing.
  5. I’m definitely looking forward to the day when I stop working – if I ever stop working. I like the idea of keeling over in my tomato vines in Sardinia or northern Italy. 
  6. I always entertain the notion that I’m wrong, or that I’ll have to revise my opinion. Most of the time that feels good; sometimes it really hurts and is embarrassing. 
  7. To the extent I am known, I think I am known as a person who expresses his opinion freely about things – and I was sensitive to the possibility that if I was seen taking money for saying nice things about a product, my comments and choices and opinions would become, understandably, suspect. 
  8. I don’t think people should be encouraged to look like Kate Moss; I think that’s unreasonable. I think the normal human body should be glorified. By the same token, if you need a stick to wash yourself, you’re not healthy. 
  9. I’m a pretty decent writer. It comes easy to me. I don’t agonize over sentences. I write like I talk. I try to make them good books. 
  10. I think that if all kids aspire to reach a point where they could feed themselves and a few of their friends, this would be good for the world surely. 
  11. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.

Hopeline may be reached at (02) 804-4673; 0917-5584673; and 2919 for Globe and TM subscribers. The National Center for Mental Health may be reached at 0917-899-USAP (8727).

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