Anthony Bourdain devoured the world. That’s not hyperbole. It’s not even metaphor. There was no place that he wasn’t curious to explore, no food that he wasn’t determined to try, no cap on his hunger and no ceiling, or so it always seemed, on his joy.
In his writing and especially on his TV shows, most recently CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” he exhorted the rest of us to follow his lead and open our eyes and our guts to the wondrous smorgasbord of life. He insisted that we savor every last morsel of it.
It turns out that he himself could not. Bourdain, 61, was found dead on Friday in a hotel room near Strasbourg, France, where he was shooting an episode of that CNN show. The cause, according to the network, was suicide.
His death ends a blazing career that contributed as much as anybody else’s to Americans’ increased fascination with, and knowledge about, food in all its multiethnic splendor. If we’re savvier to the ways of banh mi, bo ssam and dim sum than we were two decades ago, we have Bourdain in large measure to thank. With television cameras in tow, he showed us Asia, Australia, Africa — and he tasted all of them for us.
But his death, coming just days after the suicide of the beloved designer Kate Spade, is at least as noteworthy for another reason: how powerfully it speaks to the discrepancy between what we see of people on the outside and what they’re experiencing on the inside; between their public faces and their private realities; between their visible swagger and invisible pain. Parts unknown: That was true of Bourdain. That was true of Spade. That’s true of every one of us.
Bourdain’s and Spade’s deaths happened in a week when newly released government statistics revealed a staggering increase in suicides by Americans of more than 25 percent from 1999 to 2016, when nearly 45,000 Americans took their own lives. Experts worry that this trajectory reflects a breakdown in social bonds, in community. It’s unclear how or if Bourdain and Spade fit into that picture.
But they certainly reflect the faultiness of our assumptions, the deceptiveness of appearances and the complexities of the soul. On Friday morning, as I took call after call from friends…
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