The world mourns the apparent suicide of Anthony Bourdain today. I attribute the marriage of two of my first loves, food and writing, to Bourdain. The renowned chef, food writer, and television icon brought foreign cuisines and locales into the homes of many of us.
Image: Netflix / Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
I was first introduced to Bourdain's distinct brand of storytelling when I was a sophomore in high school. My mom and I would set aside time to watch Bourdain's show, No Reservations. One of my fondest memories is of me and my mom wildly laughing at Bourdain as he had his limbs pulled and pushed in awkward ways during an Uzbek massage.
Some people grow up idolizing professional athletes, rock 'n' roll gods, movie stars, and the like. I spent many of my formative years listening to and watching one of the culinary world's "bad boys." Bourdain didn't earn his reputation by verbally assaulting kitchen staffs or by womanizing fans. He earned his reputation by describing food as it is, good or bad, and by complimenting meals with liberal amounts of local libations. It didn't hurt to rock cowboy boots and tight jeans, either.
All food possesses a cultural context. It takes courage and literary prowess to describe food and places in candid and engaging ways. Bourdain and the producers he worked with quickly became masters of culinary-cultural storytelling. Bourdain's signature move for embedding himself, and by extension us, into the subject culture was to party his face off with the locals.
Bourdain taught me that exceptional writing does not gloss over the ugly parts of life; in fact, exceptional writing relishes in the moments that make us cringe. He knew that the deepest and most meaningful story includes the food, but more importantly, the story must be about the people that prepare and enjoy it.
As a lifelong Reno / Sparks native coming from humble means, I never dined at haute cuisine restaurants. There aren't many places in northern Nevada that meticulously prepare and present their food. Molecular gastronomy, too, is not a well-explored culinary discipline in northern Nevada. These cooking styles would have remained unknown to me without Anthony Bourdain.
To this day, Bourdain's coverage of Ferran Adriá and elBulli sits with me as the most awe inspiring piece of culinary television that I've seen. It was that coverage that turned me on to food not just as nutrition, but also as experience. The dishes that struck me most at elBulli were the fried fish draped in cotton candy and the "ravioli filling miraculously suspended in space with no pasta or outer shell to contain it," (Anthony Bourdain: Decoding Ferran Adriá). I remember thinking that turn of phrase was something special, and that I wanted to command language like Bourdain someday.
"Adriá watches me closely as I eat each course. Things rarely as they appear. His face lights up again and again as my face registers surprise, confusion, astonishment," said Bourdain. I remember thinking in that moment many years ago, "This guy is living the life I want to live."
Tony, I owe you so much. I would have never found my path without you. My heart is broken thinking about how a treatable illness swallowed you up. I wonder if you used talk therapy, medication, exercise, and loved ones to help you weather life's many struggles.
I came close to allowing depression to eat me up, too, but the resources I mentioned turned me around. Psychological pain is intolerable if you keep it inside for too long. Sharing my inner monologue with a therapist is the most beneficial thing I've ever done for my health. My insurance covered every single one of my therapy sessions; I only had to pay a $20 co-pay for each visit.
My therapist allowed me to discuss whatever I wanted during each session. Never once did she rely on cliché or outdated methods of treatment. Whatever I shared with her would allow her to carefully gather insights about patterns in my thoughts and behavior. As soon as she pointed out the patterns that were making me anxious and unhappy, it became impossible for me to ignore those patterns moving forward.
Therapy helps to clarify and illuminate those hard-to-describe negative feelings. Once my destructive thoughts and feelings were brought to the front of my mind, rather than being allowed to stew in the murky parts of my mind, I felt enormously better.
Talk therapy is not just for woo-woo, hippy-dippy, liberal snowflakes. Talk therapy should be for everybody. People of all ages, genders, races, political affiliations, and socioeconomic statuses should have access to talk therapy.
The particular office I attended was Zephyr Wellness located at 418 Cheney St., Reno, NV 89502. Their phone number is 775-525-1616.
Every staff member there treated me with warmth, care, and professionalism. Because I'm more comfortable speaking to women, I requested a female therapist. I wasn't sure if that was okay to request as I had never been to therapy before. The staff assured me that requesting a man or woman was perfectly okay. The staff also worked to accommodate the unique work schedule I had while using their services. I believe they also offer a sliding payment scale for those without insurance.
If you don't feel at ease, whether that means anxiety, depression, uncomfortable thoughts, obsessive thoughts, dark impulses, or any other "feels shitty" feelings, talk therapy can help you sort yourself out. For you, your friends, and your family, seek help before your impulses begin to feel overwhelming.
Life does not hesitate to regularly kick you in the teeth, but regaining control of your thoughts and feelings is absolutely, without question, available to every person who puts in the work.