I was the first in my immediate family and the first amongst my siblings to pursue a college degree in America. One of the many routes towards the “American Dream”.
I was unprepared, sheltered, and quite honestly, a little intimidated.
The world seems a lot bigger when you’re relying on your own 2 feet to get you from point A to point B.
The whole process was made a lot more seamless with the accompaniment of a few close friends, made up of people from all walks of life and various nationalities. The first notable thing we all had in common? We were either first generation or came from a family of immigrants.
And the second? We all were very passionate about food.
A brother of mine from that group handed me his copy of, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” one day, as we were both avid consumers of literature as well. I had finished the visibly creased and well-loved paperback within a day.
“Good food is very often, most often, simple food”, reads a line from Bourdain’s book.
And I was inspired. Why not take a day, just one, out of our hectic school week, to prepare and share a meal. My friends loved the idea.
The weekly dinner nights started off with little structure, but we soon settled on one important side dish (or main, let’s be honest): French-fries. I would peel & others would cut, fry, and make other courses of the meal.
And then the sharing of stories began.
An old coffee table laden down with food & fries became the centerpiece for voicing our concerns on current social issues, collegiate triumphs, and just our lives in general.
This was the first opportunity most of us had ever had to prepare something from our various cultures, outside of our homes. This was the first time we felt safe and truly unapologetic to do so.
Whether it be kimchi or a heavily spiced chicken masala, we shared without disclaimer.
When Anthony Bourdain lost his life to a lifelong struggle of depression, my friends and I thought of the very sentiments which inspired those dinner nights.
Open your soul, share, but most importantly: listen.
To call Bourdain a celebrity chef is far too simple and erroneous.
The 61-year old raised himself up from the abyss of addiction and began a true pilgrimage. One that, in many ways was spiritual. For the viewers, it was also educational.
Bourdain was not a perfect man, his career had many problematic missteps. But a reason why the POC community can collectively mourn him, was his self-awareness. Bourdain was wholly conscious of how little he knew & he tirelessly sought to remedy that with the act of listening.
Just as a few college friends opened our souls to one another, Bourdain did just that when visiting every village or ghetto. Every conversation shared with a local family or individual was done without appropriation or prejudice.
And for a young group of non-white millennials, we craved seeing our cultures represented through a wider lens, one that was devoid of simply poverty and war. It was beautiful, emotional, and humbling.
Whether Bourdain was visiting the Makda Market in Ghana or the home of a Palestinian family in the middle of Gaza (an episode that very nearly did not air), we were invited to connect, empathize, and become more humanized.
Friends, here are a few numbers to keep in mind if you ever feel alone:
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
TrevorLifeline (LGBTQ support): 866-488-7386