When I feel overwhelmed with emotion, I know it’s time to write. From the moment I found out about Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide, I have been unable to shake him from my mind. I can’t stop watching his interviews or reading his quotes on facebook and Instagram. I can’t stop thinking about the pain that was obviously so deep and unyielding that he felt entirely hopeless. I don’t know him. Obviously. But I do know depression and mental illness - I’ve seen it in many I love and it is the scariest, hardest to understand, overwhelming disease ever. It happens regardless of circumstance. In my mind, Anthony Bourdain had the best job in the world. He had a partner who loved him. He had friends. He was authentically himself. But the darkness was more powerful than all of this; his internal demons too real. I won’t even try to understand, because I don’t. I certainly won’t judge…what the hell do I know? What I do know is the impact he had on so many. What I do know is that he had a powerful need to connect with humanity. He seemed to have great empathy and understanding for the similarities and differences in people. This I do understand. He had an overwhelming need to travel the world, to TASTE the cultures, to meet the people, and to write about it. He has inspired me on so many levels. I have read countless quotes and stories about him in the 24 hours since I learned of his death, and the one that resonates the most with me is
“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move, as far as you can. As much as you can. Across the Ocean. Or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”
It’s no secret that I love to travel; I think I spend every spare penny (and probably more pennies than I actually have) on travel. I find the most joy in the people and the food in the places I travel; and I try to capture every last detail and nuance while there and then regurgitate it into my computer so I won’t forget. In the moment it seems I will never forget, but oftentimes when I record an experience and then go back and read it later, I have already forgotten the details! That’s where you find the love, after all, in the details. You find the love in the thinly sliced truffle, in the beautiful presentation of a gorgeous meal, in the apt descriptive terms on a menu, in the brilliant crimson red of an edible flower adorning a cheese plate, in the smokiness or saltiness or bitterness or creaminess of a dish prepared with love. You find the love in a spontaneous conversation with a driver, or a stranger sitting next to you at a community table, or in the people sharing the delight with you. I love to travel with friends and loved ones, and I love to travel alone; completely different experiences. “Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life”. So very true. I am reminded of the savory mushroom and gruyere crepe from a street vendor when I was alone in Paris, ceviche so fresh I could taste the ocean in Mexico, truffles so delicate and full of earth I can feel them melt in my mouth just thinking about them, pasta made from bright yellow eggs that is perfectly el dente, cheese that is all at once salty and creamy and delightful in Italy. Fruit so exotic and bright in Hawaii. The charcuterie boards made by my talented son - both food and art combined with love. I could make a list miles long. And with these memories of the food, I remember the PLACE. THE PEOPLE. THE EXPERIENCE. Anthony Bourdain was a master at describing these experiences, at creating these experiences, and at connecting with people and cultures through their food. His life cut short inspires me to live mine to the fullest, to embrace the people and places and cultures I am fortunate enough to intersect with in this short life I’ve been given. Each time I travel and eat and experience new people and cultures I will take his advice and embrace it. CONNECT. The power of connection through food traverses all politics, cultures, and lifestyles. I will be even MORE inspired to write about these experiences from my heart in an authentic eyes wide open way. Anthony Bourdain, may you rest in peace. You made the world seem small and approachable, yet exotic and vast all at the same time, you made the similarities and differences between people palpable. You made me want to GO, EAT, CONNECT, and WRITE.
As I was writing this, I received an email from Laura at Fattoria di Fugnano. In my last post, I wrote about my beautiful experience at her vineyard with my friends for my birthday. It’s one of those places that takes your breath away with its natural beauty, a simple yet elegant vineyard and home, and the love that goes into the winemaking and farming. While I was there, I had this fantasy - a vision really - of Zach spending his summer there working in the fields, in the kitchen, with the wine….and somehow, magically, with the power of the universe behind my vision…he is there. He is having the experience of a lifetime; that intersection of food and place and work. He is creative and talented and one of the hardest working young adults I have ever met. In the past couple of years he has grown into this creative culinary talent through various kitchen experiences, and just has that GIFT of creating beautiful food that tastes amazing. Anyway, Laura sent me a photo of Zach - all dressed up at a wedding in Sicily, and I literally burst into tears; the happiest of tears because he just looks so damn happy. I never imagined how wonderful it would be to see your children grown, happy, and living out their dreams. I am so grateful to Laura and Jennifer (the two women who essentially made this happen for Zach), and I can’t wait to see them all next month when I return to Italy for a few days to visit him.
There is so much world out there to see, so many things to taste and experience, so many connections to be made!
I will close with a line from a Brian Andreas poem - “She said she cried at least once each day not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful & life so short”. GO, EAT, CONNECT.