✓✓ Read Receipts: Pork fat, triple cream, distended livers

A photograph of two aged pieces of meat.
Photo by Andrew Lowkes

Anthony Bourdain's death brought with it a series of memories. I realised that I had read his writing, seen his quotes, occasionally seen clips of his TV programmes, but I knew nothing about him. I sat down with these articles, and more, and binged morning to night on a few series of his shows before writing this—the world is a worse place without him.

  • Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It's about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals. Don't Eat Before Reading This by Anthony Bourdain for The New Yorker. You can read this piece as the rant of a hyper-masculine chef and unashamed meat-eater—Bourdain was one—looking to shock polite society, or you can read it in line with the other defining aspect of his personality; his profoundly empathy for all service workers. The writing of blood and organs comes from his understanding that fine dining relies on poor people pushing their bodies to breaking point to lay even a single plate on a table.
  • But there were glimmers of what would make him special in his off the cuff remarks. In that first episode in Tokyo, after a long meal of finely prepared Japanese food but before a toast of ice-cold sake, he looked at the camera and said, The church of food, I mean that's the only church I know. He was a writer's talker, the sort of person whose remarks could be transcribed as verse. The Church of Food: On Anthony Bourdain 1956–2018 by Collier Meyerson and Elias Rodriques for n+1. Here you read that Bourdain's style was never as casual as made out to be, to say otherwise would be an insult to the work he put into practicing writing and developing a persona, and how his TV shows shifted their focus from solely the food towards the political background of the meal and its cooks.
  • He didn't look down on foreign places he visited and their 'quaintness / backwardness / insert-usual-derogatory adjective,' the journalist Rania Abouzeid tweeted. He dived in, hungry to experience. His wasn't the Orientalist gaze. He saw humanity (& food) everywhere, and connected with it. What Anthony Bourdain Meant to People of Color by Joumana Khatib for The New York Times. One of the first things I read about Bourdain was the esteem people held him in for his sensitivity to racial politics. I didn't realise how apparent this was until I watched a couple of his programmes, he treats cooks and countries with a level of respect that the perennially racist Rick Stein, for example, would never consider.
  • One frigid evening last February, I arrived, on time, to discover Bourdain waiting for me, already halfway through a beer. He is more than punctual: he arrives precisely fifteen minutes early to every appointment. It comes from his kitchen days, Tom Vitale, the director, told me. If he doesn't show, we know something's wrong.Anthony Bourdain's Moveable Feast by Patrick Radden Keefe for The New Yorker. This is perhaps the best profile a journalist, rather than a friend or a colleague, could write. Through meals and emails Keefe presents a vision of a man who oscillated between structure and chaos, of the kitchen and of addiction, and later of travelling and TV production.
  • Once you've been to Cambodia, you'll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia—the fruits of his genius for statesmanship—and you will never understand why he's not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević. by Anthony Bourdain in A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines. I think this was the first thing I ever read by Bourdain, in the form of a tweet or screenshot. It always brings to mind a second quote, by Theodor Adorno, that there is tenderness only in the coarsest demand.
  • But I had to ask myself, particularly given some things that I'm hearing, and the people I'm hearing them about: Why was I not the sort of person, or why was I not seen as the sort of person, that these women could feel comfortable confiding in? I see this as a personal failing. Anthony Bourdain Wonders What He Could Have Done by Isaac Chotiner for The Slate. His concern for justice extended from the international to the interpersonal. He recognised and admitted his failings, but at the same time he understood these issues to be larger than mere individuals, to be linked to industries, to 'macho' behaviour, to patterns of living, attitudes that, with effort and with foresight, can be changed.
  • In the end, I cold-called him. And I don't actually remember what I said in the opening seventeen-paragraph ramble of desperate exposition that followed his simple, Hello. I know only that I was talking at standard front-stoop reporter-interrogative speed, which is to say at enough revolutions-per-minute so there are no pauses long enough for the subject-victim to say no comment or I have to go or how did you get this address, you sick parasitic bastard before slamming the door in your face. I just kept talking until I ran out of stupid justifications for having bothered him. Tony by David Simon. With Simon's recollections of how he lied his way into a friendship with Bourdain you get a sense of his immense charisma, charm, and patience with people who just wanted to talk to him.