Anthony Bourdain actively hated on vegans and vegetarians at any opportunity and constantly talked about the beauty of pork, so, me being a hardcore vegan loony, why was he my hero?
Firstly, he was an influence on me way before I went vegan. Personally, I’ve been obsessed with the man since I was around 17. I bought a flat-screen television on my sixteenth birthday and we moved to a new house and FINALLY got cable TV. I would always have the Travel Channel on, always, Samantha Brown, Andrew Zimmern, the random ‘best yachts-beaches-mansions-castles-etc and No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. I was immediately intrigued by his demeanor, dry humor, self deprecation and appreciation for different cultures.
When I found out he was an author I bought his classic Kitchen Confidential (a first year read at cooking schools these days). His stories about the NY and East-Coast chef scene in the 70’s and 80’s, the partying, drug abuse, fornication and all around debauchery, made me love him even more and forever changed the way I write. At the time, my friends and I were all cooking and delivering at a pizzeria, smoking out back and sipping schnapps as we did the closing cleanup and I thought I had my own band of pirates just like Tony had back in the day.
Then I became a vegetarian and eventually a vegan and had to reconcile with the constant ridicule my hero dished out to my lifestyle. The reason he gives for hating on veganism is what he calls ‘The Grandmother Rule.’ He basically says that, when traveling and being offered food from someone, he’s going to graciously accept, eat it, ask for seconds and say thank you, like he was in the house of his very own grandmother. He says to be a vegan and reject the kind offering of a stranger, who can sometimes not have much to give, is morally deplorable.
I get it. I think those word deplorable is too strong but I’ve been in situations where very kind people wanted to feed me and get a very distressed look on their face when they find out I’m vegan and they don’t have anything to give me. I feel bad. I’ve also been in a few situations where the ‘good person’ thing to do is muscle down a few bites of food. Whether it’s peas and fish (It was A LOT more than a few bites. Check out our Fishy Peas blog), a sausage soup with no BALLS of sausage but FLOATIES galore and chicken broth or most recently Christmas cookies with butter and eggs. Every once in a while, when traveling, I have set my vegan morals aside in favor of being a good guest and in the back of my mind I’m always thinking Tony would be proud.
For me, as I’ve said in the past, it is more about being a good person than anything, being vegan for the animals or having a bite of food so I don’t offend my kind host. Thankfully, there have only been a handful of incidences in five years of veggie traveling and they’re becoming fewer and farther between. I’m getting better at letting people know I’m a vegan, that I don’t expect anyone to bend over backwards to accommodate me and that I’m perfectly fine cooking for myself or simply eating some fruit, vegetables and bread.
I’m not sure where his episodes are these days, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, the dark web (I think it depends on the country) but you need to watch an episode or two of ‘Parts Unknown,’ his final show, even the episodes about different parts of America are incredible. His Houston, Montana and West Virginia shows gave me a huge appreciation for America and had me more homesick for my own country than ever.
He wasn’t just a guy who made travel TV. He was so much more than that. He was a storyteller, an author, a chef, a cranky old man, a hero to hipsters everywhere, a hipster hater, a travel junky, a former junky, a man who cared about culture, the truth and showing people the world.
There was and is nobody like him, especially on television. He gave no f’cks. I like to think we’d get along in spite of our lifestyle differences. We could definitely bond over alcohol, tattoos and spicy Indian food (the only veggie cuisine he ever complimented on air). He was a cult hero to many more than just myself and lives on through his countless fans.
I’ll forever emulate his writing, speaking style and travel habits. I’ll forever wonder what made him end it all in his prime.
I hope you’ve found some peace Tony.