I donate books I've already read, but a select few, I keep. Like many people today, I too would confess to being touched by the genius of Anthony Bourdain. I've admired him first as a writer before I've followed his many adventures on TV. Perhaps because his gift of writing is one I can only aspire to. His stories are always so full of honesty and grit and humor, stories I could never write the way he does because I lack the edginess, as apparent as my lack of tattoos and piercings, and my tendencies to turn my nose up on certain food and whether it is hygienically prepared. His version of writing is unafraid and raw, belligerent and irreverent, but very honest and intelligent, and clever and haunting all at once. He is fearless the way I’m not but the way I sometimes wish I could be.
His adventures on screen were not merely superficial hedonistic pursuit of food, unattainable in its number of Michelin stars only reserved for those who can drop a thick wad of cash for a meal. Instead, he covers the gamut, really trying to answer that burning question of the discerning traveler: What is the truth here, in this place I’m visiting? How is real life lived? And if that means entangling politics and anthropology with gastronomy, then so be it.
And the beauty of what his work has done is that he presented the possibilities for a deeper kind of travel. And because of that, when I travel and delightfully find myself at a dining table among locals by some auspicious event - in the Italian countryside or in someone's kitchen in Mexico, or at a coffee farmer's humble house in the Peruvian Andes - you get it. Why this all matters comes full circle for you, too. That people all over the world, despite differences in culture, have the same aspirations for happiness, and that it is at the table where we meet people where they are at their best, genuine selves.
As a traveler, these are the stories I sometimes fervently wish I could write. Gut-wrenching stories, often dark, dripping with emotion and humanity. But alas, I am not so lucky, but I am soothed that there are storytellers of this sort nonetheless who exist for the stories alone and not for the prostitution for mass appeal, likes, and clicks. The storytelling of the likes of Anthony Bourdain live on via compelling and long-form stories curated by the genius himself, at a portal I've guiltily haven't read in a while, Roads and Kingdoms. If you happen to miss him, have a read here.