Anthony Bourdain Is Gone
Anthony Bourdain always reminded me of Frank Sinatra.
Sinatra could sing anything, even “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown” a tune way outside of his genre, because he knew that what mattered most was what he brought to a song. He saw the value in a song and each time he sang it, he validated it by saying, “I have made this my own.”
In that way, Bourdain knew that what mattered most was what he brought to the foods and people of the world. What he brought was an open mind with little condescension and a wide-open palate. His validation was in the way he could eat a dozen tiny, high-end courses of food cooked by the most famous chefs in the world and then a day later eat a meal prepared by a crew member’s mother. And shower equal praise on both meals.
He made each meal his own. And he never took his meals for more than what they were.
I don’t recall him ever making remarks like, “Oh, you didn’t put any coriander in this like it’s supposed to have.” I don’t think he ever said, “Okay, let me tell you what’s wrong with this dish.”
He let the food be what it was and appreciated the tastes and textures that were present for what they were. He adopted the same approach to the people of the country’s he ate in.
Bourdain: An Expat In Every Country
It’s for that reason that I call Anthony Bourdain “an expat in every country”. He reacted like expats should in every country he visited. He didn’t try to make the people something they weren’t or hold their food up to standards set by someone else.
I’ve written before about pizza. As an American who grew up an hour away from New York City, I have some definite ideas about what pizza is.
But I’m here in the Philippines now. And the biggest pizza chain here, Greenwich, has some very definite ideas about what Filipino pizza is.
I eat Greenwich pizza. (I did just a couple of days ago.) And I enjoy it for what it is: cheese, meat and tomato sauce on dough. I don’t compare it to the pizza from Joe’s or Mama’s that I ate as a kid.
I eat Greenwich pizza. And Yellow Cab pizza. And Santino’s pizza. And they’re all different. And they’re all what they are.
Sure, I may bite into a slice of pizza that I don’t like. I don’t say, “That’s not pizza.” I say, “I don’t like how that tastes.”
Anthony Bourdain also validated the people whose culture he was in and who shared food with him. Whether it was before eating freshly slaughtered lamb inside a tent in the Saudi desert or before enjoying a plate of adobo baboy at a dining table in an apartment in Manila, he participated in their cultures with them.
And that, too, is what expats should do.
Rest in peace, Anthony Bourdain.