Before my trip to South America last year, I looked for places he’d been. I had 24 hours in Cali in Colombia, and he’d gone there, had dinner with some local musicians. When they showed the outside, I paused the show and googled the name: Sevicheria Guapi.
A month later I was there. The owner came out as I approached. Can I help you? he asked, as if I’d approached a home and not a place of business. You guys got dinner?
Oh yes, he said, then ran off some Spanish I missed, but in the unmistakable tone of a question, a suggestion of a meal.
Sure, I responded. He waved me inside and I followed.
About 15 minutes later he returned with a black lava stone bowl with a near glowing orange stew. My spoon stirred up shrimp, clams, and fish. The first sip coated my mouth with a salty, creamy sea.
Only after did I clarify what it was: cazuela de mariscos. Later I would look up the recipe to cook it for my friends. Cream, butter, half the ocean.
Anthony Bourdain brought me here.
In a world riff with bullshit, he was our tour guide to the real world. He got all up in the reality of where food came from. He let the world speak for itself.
I’ve said for a while now that my career goal is to be a lady Anthony Bourdain. And by that I mean to show myself as wrinkled, scarred, but alive. To be excited about the world, as fucked up as it is. To invite people down to this other level, below the clouds of Coming Up Next and odeur de influencer.
He spoke up for the world, for those so often ignored.
Like so many of the best people, he was broken early. When he wrote one piece and sent it on a whim to the New Yorker, only to have it be published and change his life, he was delivered to us humbled and bemused.
“Don’t let the darkness eat you up,” sings José González, though he does not provide further instruction.
Why am I lying in bed, in the long skirt I wore to temples in Myanmar and a old boyfriend sweater, giving in to rounds of crying and letting everything I was supposed to do today buzz on my phone?
Because fuck, man. Even with the most delicious tastes in this world, death can sometimes taste even sweeter.
He never pretended the world was any other way.