June 09, 2018

A love letter to Anthony Bourdain

AnthonyBourdain_Letter_byJilsonTiu

Here at Preen, we’re fully aware that adult life doesn’t always go as smoothly (and look as beautiful) as curated Instagram feeds. We all face challenges amidst all the good things. Meet Mikka Wee, a former food editor-turned-working gal in Singapore, who’s about to share all the ups and downs that come with adulting and living. Welcome to Bless This Mess

Dear Mr. Bourdain/Tony/Anthony Bourdain,

Your departure from this world has left us confused and bewildered. Finding out about your sudden passing from a friend, while I was ordering dinner, made me take a step back and catch my breath. I blinked twice as I felt the goosebumps prickle all over my body. And to think, just a few weeks ago, I was browsing through your cookbook, wondering how you prepare—or should I say, prepared—your version of scrambled eggs. No, this is isn’t real. This isn’t real. This isn’t real.

But it is. You are gone.

I may not understand the internal perils you went through, nor the inner demons you are fighting. While it may have seemed that you were living the life, scouring the world, and devouring great grub, we are reminded once again about what the camera fails to reveal…

Forgive me for being selfish, but you leaving too soon felt like the end of a dream for me. You are my bucket list interview, the man who I’ve always looked forward to sitting down with and writing an article about. I envisioned us sitting on small plastic stools outside a roadside eatery, flailing our hands around to ward off the greedy flies heading towards our humble yet delicious dinner. Me, nervously scrambling to find the right words as you coolly sip your second bottle of ice-cold beer. I know I share this dream with a thousand others—more even. See? This is how strong your impact is to many. You left too soon.

In my friend’s words, you are probably the most important man in food today. There are more travel shows and food shows now than ever because of you. There are more people who enjoy food because of you. You broke the rules—relentlessly and fiercely—but you never forgot to give back. You’ve helped communities at home and in foreign lands. You educated the world about taste, and how most of the world’s greatest dishes needn’t come with silver cutlery. That a great adventure didn’t have to cost a fortune. That the best ingredients that go into a dish are love, hard work, and a healthy dose of tradition. 

As a food writer and a food editor back in the day, my team and myself have always looked up to you, just as many others did, the benchmark of an epicurean. I went to Myanmar with a backpack and with your Parts Unknown recommendations as my guide—and damn, they didn’t disappoint one bit. As I was scrolling through Twitter, I read a tweet by Frederick Joseph of We Have Stories, and he couldn’t have said it any better—you took us to a trip around the world, and gave us the opportunity to explore and experience new food and new cultures. To quote, “Because of him (you), many of us dreamt of going to these places—and then worked hard to make it a reality.”

I read your books, watched your shows, and followed your lead. Your storytelling will always be one to be remembered and looked up to. You carried your battle scars as part of the Bourdain package, and you were never afraid to incorporate them into your commentaries. I always loved listening to you because your words carried meaning beyond the surface—they carried stories and struggles and history and narratives. 

Most importantly, you were all about people and humanity, which is so devastating, because we’ve lost such a great one in you. You were also all about community. You’ve changed the concept of what it meant to “feast” and made it more about the people and less about the food. You were a living Supertramp, an advocate of the literal meaning of movement, a badass chef, and a rebel with a good heart. 

You have moved my life and that of many others’ in such a way that knowing that we lost you felt like losing a dear friend. You said travel isn’t always pretty, it isn’t always comfortable. It will hurt and break your heart, but the journey changes you; it should change you. And your journey changed us, too. Our eyes have seen a bigger world, and our hearts have felt a wider community. Thank you for your life and for sharing your adventures with us, Anthony Bourdain. Your zeal and zest for life is transformative. You are and will always remain a legend. Thank you for teaching us how to eat well, to travel adventurously, and to live boldly.

As I browse through my Instagram feed, I see many of the people I’m following, posting photos of themselves with you, and I’ll admit, I’m getting a bit jealous; but I feel contentment in having devoured your work—your articles, books, interviews, and shows. There is an adjective you frequently use to describe the immense joy you get upon biting into an incredibly satisfying piece of food—as if you’ve struck gold. Anthony Bourdain, wherever you are right now, I hope you are experiencing that same joy—a never-ending adventure filled with, in your words, “white-knuckle” moments.

With love forever,
Mikka

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.

 

Photo by Jilson Tiu

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adulting, Anthony Bourdain, Bless This Mess, culture, death, Mikka Wee



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