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Catherine Dodd Corona

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain

Progymnasmata: Encomium

 

If you do not know who Anthony Bourdain is. I suggest you get to know him. Personally, that is no longer possible since he tragically committed suicide in 2018. But it is still possible to become closer to him and his message through his books, essays, and travel shows such as No Reservations, Parts Unknown, and The layover. Bourdain will whisk you away to diverse cultures and educate you on the cultural facet of each destination. He is very good at his job and makes anyone interested in adventure itch for travel. I also recommended making something to eat before you watch him stuff his face with mouth watering hot, and spiced meals. 

Even though the aim of the shows he hosts are to vicariously travel, Bourdain makes these episodes unique. His experience in the kitchen, and his practice in analyzing cultures for his writing gives him the merit to observe and judge different cultures. Unlike many travelers, he approaches each place, as exotic or not, as a unique place worthy of thoughtful interpretation. This appreciation of the known and unknown, the simple to exotic is in my mind the most wonderful aspect of Bourdain. I am not saying Bourdain walks the streets loving everything and everyone he meets. Often he does the opposite. He is very critical and judgmental but in a way that still respects the culture, and most of the time is quite comical. For instance in the No Reservations episode on Egypt, there is a lot of seeing the alive animal in Bourdain’s dishes. This closeness to death is not common in western cultures (which frankly desensitizes westerners to death, which damages the soul), but Bourdain invites this aspect of Egyptian culture with open arms. Of course with humor, by naming all the animals he is about to eat “Ducky” or “Lamb Chop”. This ability to be respectful and inviting with a dash of arrogance and humor is such a wonderful combination that is less common in travel writers alike. 

In this same episode Bourdain never goes to the Pyramids which touches on another aim of the show. There is an emphasis to stray away, eat and find what is currently Egyptian culture. Not the culture that was popular thousands of years ago. This concept is similar to Gill’s remark in his essay A Profile of London, and Welcome to it, I doubt there’s anything I can say that will convince you that the best way to see Tower Bridge is on a postcard”. Both Bourdain and Gill are not arguing these monuments are anything less than they are. Their point is simply to find the culture of the now and not the culture of the past, because it is still diverse and enriching. This feeds into Bourdain’s appreciation of the minute and unsurprising. 

I sincerely miss Anthony Bourdain. I never met him, but it pains me that someone with his style of analysis, humor, skill, and appreciation for culture could be so troubled that he took his own life. It is a common theme with great creatives. Maybe his internal toil helped with his undying appreciation and creative juices. That may be the reason for this theme of mental illness and addiction in artists and writers. Regardless, when I hear people denote or even just solely focus on Bourdain’s issues with addiction and mental illness it angers me, because he is so much more. He is a complicated and deep character from what I have heard and seen, and most importantly is an idol for American tourists.

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