Good morning, hoddlers - ** Content Warning: This hoddle reflects on a documentary that mentions suicide and depression
It took me almost a year to pick up the will to watch Roadrunner, a documentary about late chef/author/documentarian Anthony Bourdain, who died of suicide in 2018. Nearly two weeks after watching it, I finally resolved to write about it, understanding the complex nature of Bourdain, his life and his death.
I wanted to stay away from it because I knew it would be told in such an emotional way - though the title track (Roadrunner, of which the documentary was named after) tempted me so. That concern was validated once chef Eric Ripert appeared on screen moments after I pressed play.
For those who think, after watching the documentary, that it did not do enough to tackle the subjects of mental illness and depression - I would have to agree. But who would talk about it? Very little of those featured was the answer. Ripert, in his stoicism, flatly refused to discuss it. Others broke down in tears.
The documentary aimed to celebrate his life, but I cannot help but imagine it was borne of innumerable pain.
When your hoddler-in-chief was but a child, he would turn on Bourdain’s No Reservations when he got home from school. During summers, it would be on the television all day.
There was one question Bourdain asked during an episode in Brittany, France, that has stuck in my head ever since: “Where the f*** is my seafood tower?” And it was in this episode that I first learned what bread could be, or what a mille-feuille is.
In that gloriously cynical and sardonic cadence of his, Bourdain demolished the barriers of entry that for so long prohibited the everydayman from exploring the myriad rich traditions of gastronomy around the world.
In Helsinki, Kurdistan and Bordertown USA, he immersed himself into the subject as if nothing were beneath him. Bourdain dined with reverence alongside Jose Andres at El Bulli, but he loved cooking duck for outdoorsmen in the Ozarks.
I think that’s because he understood humanity. Bourdain wasn’t just a chef et al, he was a writer with a deep appreciation for mankind. And, as his show expanded, he quickly grew into a human-rights advocate through the medium of travel television - take Crimea and Vietnam, for example.
I remember in one episode, somewhere in New York where Bourdain and Ripert were back on a ktichen line, that Bourdain espoused his love of punk rock. This guy was a punk rocker - Ramones, New York Dolls, Blondie, Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground. He quipped that anyone playing The Grateful Dead in his kitchen would be fired.
That gritty, troubled New York was his scene. And it tore through that pretentiousness through which food can so often be delivered.
His television programme opened the doors to the world for me before I even knew how to travel. How can midnight in Salzburg, Austria (during the middle of winter), or a greasy sandwich at a cafe in Lisbon, Portugal look so inviting?
I like to think No Reservations had some sort of impact on my life and the decisions I made in travelling, be it for studies or pleasure.
It isn’t a surprise to me to learn how reserved Bourdain was away from the television cameras. He was a writer, after all. One virtue that most - if not all - writers possess is aloofness. For all the great writers this world have seen, so many have been in some kind of solitary, whether that be physical or mental.
Your hoddler-in-chief does not possess the words to appropriately reflect on Bourdain’s illness. That wouldn’t be respectful, either. Instead, I would save that for those who knew him. But it was heartbreaking to watch their joy get sucked away when asked the inevitable question of Bourdain’s death. And the pain with which they spoke was palpable.
There have been other television hosts and programmes that have attempted to imitate what Bourdain did since his passing. None, though, match the sharp delivery by which he speaks. And none can match his writing prowess.
His legacy will be complicated, and again I do not know how to appropriately comment on it. I will remember how he opened the world to me, how he accessible he made world travel and global cuisine. And I will remember how he made me want to actually explore it for myself.
As universal as television and food are, he made it feel deeply personal.
Fitzie’s track of the day: Punkrocker (feat. Iggy Pop), by Teddybears
And now for your links:
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Jurgen Klopp admits dig at Tottenham and Antonio Conte was ‘wrong’
Wycome Wanderers to face Sunderland in EFL League 1 playoff final
PFA launches consultation on brain injuries in football
Fifa investigating accusations of sexual abuse against refereeing instructor