Image from latimesblogs.latimes.com
“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” –Joseph Campbell
Life frequently presents itself to us in interesting and unexpected ways. Sometimes gently taking us by the hand and leading us in the right direction, and other times giving us a dope slap and shoving us back on track. But it’s always there, like a watchful mother making sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Evidently, I was off-track, because life recently spanked me and sent me to bed without dinner. But this little time out has given me some space to reflect on my life. How I’m living it, what gives it meaning and what simply wastes my time. Who I am as a person, and who I have yet to be. What I’ve done—and haven’t done—and what I’d like to do next.
I’ve got the typical obligations: the 9-5, a child in school, laundry and dishes to wash…all those things that often make living the life extraordinary seem a distant daydream. Or just selfish. But I get the sense that there’s something else waiting…. And now, as I stare at the new road ahead, I see it with different eyes. And, with an open heart, I silently ask myself “what now?”
And then it came to me.
I want to be Anthony Bourdain.
Well, not Anthony Bourdain, exactly. I mean, I really draw the line at eating a pig’s rectum. Or anything that will require antibiotics afterward. But maybe a girlier version, more akin to Paris and pastries than Morocco and sheep’s testicles (no offense, Morocco, just…whoah!). I rarely watch television, but I do have a You Tube addiction, and the other day I was obsessively watching No Reservations clips. I imagine that remarkable life…traveling across the planet, chatting with locals, eating the local delicacies…and then getting to write about it all. I would envy him, except that I think it’s just so damn cool.
I realize that Anthony Bourdain is not the only chef personality to travel around and sample local fare, of course. There are others with their own schtick, like Rachael Ray’s $40 a Day show, which I enjoyed. But really, if I’m planning a food binge in Italy, I don’t want to limit the culinary experience to a glass of chianti and a bowl of spaghetti. I want to eat and drink it all in. During every course. I want to proudly haul that extra ten pounds around like a fatty badge of honor. Evidence of a life joyfully-lived. Or maybe gluttonously lived, but whatev. There is also Guy Fieri with his cross-country diner gig. I like the “Americana” in that concept, and he seems like a likeable enough person, but I am simply too old to eat that much fried anything, anymore.
No, I think when it comes to the traveling foodie/writer, Anthony Bourdain has it right. Not only does he get to eat some truly special dishes, peppered occasionally with the truly gross, he also travels to some really fascinating places, and his conversations with the residents seem more authentic than some of the others. Not just the “where do you go for…,” or the “what’s your specialty,” but the “why” of it all. Some fascinating stories come out of that, and, from a writer’s perspective, it’s the stories that really make life so engaging. Although admittedly, the food is a very close second.
I had my own amuse-bouche version of the Anthony Bourdain lifestyle when I traveled to New Orleans this summer and ate my way across the French Quarter. I had done a fair amount of research before I went, having never been there before, and had a list of all the places I wanted to try. But after some wonderful conversations with locals, my companion and I skipped about half my list and went with their suggestions. And it was perhaps the best decision we made. From the antique store owner to the cab driver, we got some fantastic restaurant suggestions…along with some very colorful stories about life in NOLA that I’ll never forget! Consuming stories and world-class cuisine…yes, that is what I want to do.
But alas, for now, the 9-5 beckons and I’m already daydreaming far more than I’m sure my employer would prefer me to. So until Bon Appétit magazine or the Food Network recognizes my up-and-coming culinary and writing prowess, I’ll finish my leftover roasted Brussels sprouts and my blog article and keep looking down that new road.© Racheal Lee Bradford