I remember the first time I saw Anthony Bourdain on TV. I had an insta-crush; he was a “bad” boy. I felt the need to hide him away like a 12 year old’s instinct to stuff Judy Blume under a mattress. He was way too rough around the edges and just so full of himself.
I didn’t want to admit that I liked watching him eat exotic things in faraway lands while he drank too much, smoked too much but never (to my dismay) weighed too much. There was something about the way he morphed into so many different environments and interacted with so many different people that I found fascinating.
After a while, his show became my guilty pleasure. (At what point did we all learn that if we just named something a guilty pleasure, we could admit such deep dark secrets as loving canned cranberry sauce or never missing an episode of Say Yes to the Dress?)
I kept watching. I watched him trudge through Thailand, meander through Myanmar, parade around Paris. Somewhere around his visit to Vietnam, I started to get turned off.
He just became Too Much. Too much excess, too much cursing, too much, period.
What I had liked so much at first was the premise on which his show No Reservations was based, his tag line and subsequent description of his show.
“I’m Anthony Bourdain. I write, I travel, I eat. And I’m hungry for more.”
But the meals were never what it was about, even for him. It was the experience, the locale, the person he became as a result of the process. He once said,
“Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that (are) charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.”
I just quoted him. Conflicted much?
It’s a question we must all answer for ourselves. What makes your society? What holds the fabric together in ways that are charming and interesting and intoxicating?
Substitute almost anything for Bourdain’s “meals” (the food is just his medium) and it works as long as that medium is, well, large enough.
You’re lookin’ at it.