Tag Archives: memories

Anthony Bourdain Day: What the Chef, Author, and Travel Guide Means to Me

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 02: Anthony Bourdain visits the Build Series to discuss “Raw Craft” at AOL HQ on November 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/WireImage)

Today is #BourdainDay. In honor of their friend on his birthday, chefs Eric Ripert and José Andrés are asking people around the globe to celebrate what Anthony Bourdain meant to them, and to us. Tony brought people together because he shared food – good food, cultural food, the art of preparing food, the act of sitting down with someone to enjoy food.

Like so many other fans around the world, I was heartbroken when I learned of Tony’s death on June 8th last year. I had been a fan from his early days of No Reservations. My husband and I both scour his collection of travel shows in preparation for any trip we take and always try to visit the restaurants, many of them small, family owned businesses, that he recommended. The first one we ever went to was Salumi in Seattle, WA. We got there early because we knew there’d be a line, and there was, one that stretched around the block. There were only two tables inside if I remember right, and you sit European style, sharing space and a meal with others. We ordered our sandwiches full of the shop’s own cured meats, and bought extra meat to take home. It was an exceptional, ordinary, simple meal.

When we visited Madrid, Spain, we hit up a place whose name I can’t remember. I don’t think it was on the outside of the building. It was a hole in the wall kind of place, again maybe five tables inside. We had the best plate of jamón y queso con juevos y papas fritas. It was small, it was simple, it was muy delicioso. We went there twice.

Tony brought joy to the act of eating. He believed there was nothing quite like sitting down to a meal with someone and talking. And he got, if you’ll forgive my pun, to the guts of the matter. I appreciated his willingness to discuss cultural and political topics on his shows. He knew that as a travel guide and host, he was both illuminating parts of the world for people, but also a part of their demise. He struggled with that. He was part of a crew that showed audiences mine fields in Laos, buddhist monk ceremonies in Thailand, and how to shoot a cobra’s heart in Cambodia. The very things that made people want to jet set away to someplace entirely new and different from what they know. And yet, tourism, as much as it can help a place, can break a place as well. I think that’s why showing the late nights, the locals, sometimes the underbelly, was so key to his style of travel. If you want to experience it, you can’t pick only the good parts. To appreciate it, you should learn from it. That kind of respect for the countries he visited is why I loved his shows, and why I was a fan of his.

I’ve also read several of his books and one of his cookbooks, Appetites, which I recommend if you’re a fan, as it’s full of the recipes Tony loved and made for his family. Like his show, his books capture the thrill of travel, the smells of the food, and the essence of the people he meets. He was incredibly observant to be able to portray these things so eloquently. A year ago in July, I hosted my book club and chose Tony’s memoir, Kitchen Confidential, as our book. I knew I loved Tony’s writing, but this book in particular hit a heartstring for me.

Kitchen Confidential is the story of how Tony became a cook, learning the ropes from a hard knock group of immigrant chefs in a tiny sea shack on the east coast. (The Portuguese sausage soup recipe mentioned in the book is in Appetites. I made it for my book club.) The book also follows him as he moves to New York and climbs the kitchen ladder into different roles. There’s a scene I love where he’s begging to be promoted before, he admits in the book, he’s ready. He’s talking to this hulk of a guy who grabs a pan with his bare hand and holds it for a second or two, his skin growing blisters, just to make a point. Until Tony can do that, he’s not ready to be a cook. And Tony’s like, that guy is crazy, but also, that is my goal now.

What I love about Tony, and that book in particular, is that he validates what it’s really like to work in a kitchen. Just as he did on his show, he illustrated the down and dirty parts of working in a hot, cramped kitchen, standing on your feet all day and sweating. My parents owned a restaurant for many years where my dad was the main chef, and reading Tony’s book was like stepping back in time when I would visit my dad at the restaurant. My mom and I would enter through the staff door, which went right into the kitchen, so a wave of heat would greet you. And like Tony talked about there are undocumented individuals or guys with foul mouths working in the kitchen. My dad gave second chances to a lot of people. Many of the guys who gave me piggy back rides or cracked jokes too loud in my dad’s kitchen were men that had served time or were down on their luck. They could be hotheads, but they were a family.

And so I hope that with all the TV shows, and the books, and the recipes left behind, we can stay connected. I hope his daughter finds a space within them and feels at home in the memories they offer, because that’s what he offered me through his book. I hope you enjoy them too. I hope you go out and grab some good food today, as his chef friends have suggested. It doesn’t have to be fancy, in fact, street food was more his style anyway. I’ll be doing that when I finish up work today.

To learn more about Bourdain Day, check out this post in Esquire with chefs Eric Ripert and José Andrés sharing memoirs of their dear friend, Anthony Bourdain.

Happy birthday, Tony.

“I write. I travel. I eat. And I’m hungry for more.” ~ Anthony Bourdain

 

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When the Going Gets Tough, You Gotta Have Your Girlfriends

I’m dedicating this Throwback Thursday to all the ladies out there! 😉

When the going gets tough, you gotta have your girlfriends. Life has a way of throwing curveballs at us. I don’t know about you, but if I’m gonna take a hit to the head, I want my best girlfriend around to see it, pretend I did it on purpose, and tell every other joker in the place that it was the most badass thing she ever saw!

I’m fortunate to have a friend like that.

This is my bestie, Cat.

cat and jessi's bdayShe’s the photogenic one.

Cat just had a total curveball thrown at her. And that’s putting it mildly. She’s in a place of deep hurt right now, and I would love it if you would give her a little shout out in the comments! She’s the toughest, most talented, most vibrant, best dancer, so comforting, hardworking, sassy little latina I know! And I just love this woman immensely.

Please send your peace and healing thoughts her way!

*****

And now for a walk down memory lane. Cuz it’s Throwback Thursday after all!

January of last year. Cat agreed to be a part of my last minute 80’s theme party. Clearly, no regrets there.

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This is Cat and I pretending to be Oscar Girls at the 2012 Academy Awards. We are now forged eternally as “Sisters in Sequins.”

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This is Cat on her wedding day. I was so honored to be the officiant for her and her husband.

Photo credit: Kelly Ottesen Photography

Photo credit: Kelly Ottesen Photography

This is Cat at Circus World in 2011. Yah, she’s the one who witnessed me smashing my face into an animal cage.

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Here we are out for Halloween 2010. She was Amelia Earhardt and I was Mrs. Peacock.

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THIS photo was captured on Cat’s birthday in July 2010 when we all went to see Little Kiss.
I believe the word you are searching for is…EPIC!

Little Kiss

This is Easter 2010, when I was still very much in Corporate America and couldn’t take time off to go home for the holiday. Cat invited Joe and I, and her husband’s family, and the group of us made the best makeshift Easter brunch ever!

Easter 2010

College. 2007. I had just crashed my car after having it about a month.
Cat and I had just become close friends.

College 2007

Girlfriends. Gotta love them. Gotta have them.
Gotta lift each other up.

You’re the best, Cat P!
(made ya laugh, didn’t I?)

*****

Who are the important girlfriends in your life? What makes them stand out?
How have you supported one another?

You Can’t Always Go Home Again

You can’t always go home again.  That’s the saying, right?  Everything is going to look different, feel different, be different, cause in most cases, it’s not your home anymore.  It’s the memory that exists, and the adventures spent growing up.  This past week, I did go home again.  I thankfully took a week of vacation to both attend the Writers Institute Conference and spend some quality time at home with the family.  Of course, after attending the conference I kept leaving my family to go write for hours.  In case you were wondering, yes, it was wonderful.  But you can’t escape a small town forever, as hard as you might try.  Everywhere I went I learned about another one of my classmates getting married, moving somewhere, having a kid, etc. and then they’d ask me, what are you doing now?  Me?  Oh, I’m writing.  I mean, I manage 20 sales associates at a department store, and I’m writing…again.  Kind of…well, I have a blog…actually…I’m writing about growing up in this town.  *Kill. Me. Now.*  What is it that makes us so competitive and comparing of others when we go home?  Please, someone tell me it goes away with age.

On this trip home, I kept thinking about the same places I used to go to all the time while growing up, and about how they’ve changed.  Take for example, the movie theater.  My mother was good friends with the owner, so she and I would go see movies together when I was little.  I remember going to see the Christmas movie, Prancer, with my mom, and the owner came to our house one day and gave me a copy of the book too.  Now, the theater looks like this:

If you could zoom in any closer, youd see all thats left is a public restroom.

Where I was standing to take the photo used to be the screen room!  Now it’s a parking lot.  And the building was knocked down and rebuilt into a storage space and public restroom.  Not exactly entertaining.

Some of the improvements made in town are wonderful.  The library was able to remodel and expand and it is simply breathtaking.  (Of course, knocking down the cinema so many years ago only helped the library’s case in this feat.  If you can’t watch the silver screen, the town will have to read about it instead! lol.)

Completely handicap accessible now! A whole extra wing! Reading rooms inside for kids, teens, and adults! Coffee and cookies awaiting upon entrance! Touche Librarians!

I find the library’s expansion uplifting.  In a town where three video rentals have closed up due to one Redbox and some netflix subscriptions, it’s nice to know the library is still meeting people’s needs and able to improve and advance its services.

One change, though its most likely proven itself to be safer, more useful, more commercial, and generally more welcoming, will forever make me sad.  The old railroad bridge.

Before: Made of wood, connected to the past, historical in value, a pioneer of structure!

After: Now known as the bike path.

You can see it’s not bad.  I’m all for bikes and encouraging outdoor activity.  But I LOVED that old railroad bridge more than anything else in that town.  Granted, the bridge didn’t look like it did in the first picture when I was growing up, but it really wasn’t far from it.  The steel rails on the sides of the bridge were gone, but the tracks were still there.  The wood was rotting and weathered.  The guard rails thoroughly rusted.  The wooden planks underneath were spacious and a safety risk for children.  But if you were brave enough to cross that bridge, you were somebody.  And me and my friends, hung out on the bridge, late at night staring down at the river below and watching the reflection of the street lights from the town on the water.  So many memories on that old bridge.  Staying up all night to watch the sunrise (turned out to be cloudy all day that day), making up stories about the fishermen that only came out at night, feeding the ducks old bits of bread, saying ‘I love you’ for the first time, and meaning it.

Walking along the bridge now, it didn’t feel special to me.  It felt crowded.  Too many people were walking past me this time.  The river didn’t look as special standing at the railing instead of swinging my legs back and forth over the water.  I was feeling pretty down, ready to start ranting to the next person whizzing by on their bicycle or walking across with a tackle box.  They had no right!  But I stopped myself, and started thinking about where I live now.  Where did I go when I needed some space, and what view was special to me in my new town.  The answer was easy.  The old bridge in the marsh.  The boards are made of wood, the best side view has a giant tree knocked over into the river and the water collects and pools over the branches to wash down the way.  I didn’t feel misplaced or upset anymore.  I felt like I was in the right place in my life right now.  I didn’t belong to this small town anymore, but I grew up in it.  And now I’ve made some roots in a slightly bigger town, but one that still speaks to me, one with an old, wooden bridge in it.  I can’t say how long I’ll stay here, but if I do ever move, I hope I find another old bridge to cross when I’m feeling lost.

Do you ever feel misplaced going home again?  What place is special to you?  What places or things remind you of home in a new way?

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