Food

Why I Never Feel Alone When I Cook

The Comfort of Cookbooks

Last Friday, I was standing at the kitchen counter, fussing over a chicken…

On the stove, the pot of oil was hot and ready. All the vegetables were neatly julienned in separate bowls, waiting to play their part.

But first I had to cut this chicken into eight pieces. I hadn’t noticed when I’d chosen this “simple” french dinner recipe, but it was right there on the ingredient list: “One whole chicken, about 4 lbs., cut into 8 pieces” (emphasis mine, but I still think it should have been there in the first place). There were no instructions on how to do so. I rotated the bird on the cutting board, then flipped it, deciding to start with the wings. No, wait, the legs. But what if I couldn’t find the joint? What if I tore off too much skin, therefore ruining the entire meal, and I’d done all that fancy julienne chopping for nothing?

“It’s chicken, numbnuts,” Anthony Bourdain said. “This isn’t open-heart surgery, it’s dinner. Quit dicking around and cut up the bird.”

“But I don’t—”

“While we’re young, please.” He folded his tanned arms and leaned against the counter, waiting.

I threw up my hands and turned back to the cutting board. I hacked up the chicken and dropped it into the hot oil. An hour later, the kitchen was filled with a buttery, peppery aroma. I scooped out the messy but juicy chicken with great spoonfuls of tomatoes and onions. Poulet basquaise: a perfect dinner for this early summer night.

“That’ll do,” Bourdain said, nodding at the pot. I wanted to apologize for my drama earlier, but he was already heading for the table. “Now grab the wine.”

None of that’s true, of course. I’ve never met Anthony Bourdain. I did make poulet basquaise, but I was at home, by myself in my kitchen. I’d found the recipe that afternoon, in Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. Like millions of people — everyone I knew, it seemed — I had spent time that day revisiting Bourdain’s work. My Instagram feed had become an uninterrupted stream of quotes from Kitchen Confidential and the 1999 New Yorker essay that launched Bourdain’s phenomenal career as a writer, traveler and foul-mouthed American icon. It was June 8th, 2018, and Anthony Bourdain was dead at the age of 61.

Loss is a weird thing, and it’s even weirder when it comes to celebrity deaths. I didn’t understand, at first, why this one hit so hard, or why I sought solace in this old cookbook rather than one of Bourdain’s essays. I texted my husband: I feel silly, but I can’t shake the Bourdain news. I’d like to make one of his recipes for dinner. You okay with some kind of french-y chicken thing? My husband replied instantly: Me, too! And yes, french-y chicken sounds great.

I chose Bourdain’s poulet basquaise right off the bat because it looked easy (again, overlooking the part where I’d need to debone a chicken—NBD). But I spent at least another hour looking through the pages, reading Bourdain’s instructions and little side-notes: “Keep the quail carcasses for making the sauce, and if you want to be arty-farty, reserve the drumsticks too,” he writes in the headnotes under Chartreuse of Quail. In the instructions, he suggests that, “if you’re uncomfortable [using a] ramekin for some reason, you can do the same damn thing with a heavy soup cup. Got it? Capisce?” The recipe ends with a slap on the back and a deadpan compliment that may or may not be sarcasm: “Congratulations. You have completed one fancy-ass dish.”

Recipe writing is, by necessity, pretty direct. You don’t need many adjectives to explain a baked potato, and you don’t want to confuse the reader or overcomplicate things with flowery language. A recipe needs clarity, not voice. And yet, that voice always comes through. Chefs like Bourdain know that a cookbook is more than a manual. To truly learn a dish, you must be taught, and so they teach. They write themselves into the text, and every time you open it, there they are. And as usual, every teacher is a little different.

Marcella Hazan, for instance, is a task-master. Before becoming one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisines, Hazan was on track to become a scientist. She earned doctorates in biology and the natural sciences, and she brought that exacting, no-nonsense specificity to each of her cookbooks. Nearly every recipe ends with strict instructions to “serve at once.” She includes such painfully precise measurements as 1/4 teaspoon of garlic (and no, you absolutely may not use a garlic press). Her polenta method requires that you add the cornmeal “in a very thin stream, letting a fistful of it run through nearly closed fingers. You should be able to see the individual grains spilling into the pot.” Somehow you must keep an eye on each tick-sized grain of cornmeal, and at the same time, “make sure the water is always boiling.” Oh, and you also have to grow a third arm so you can simultaneously whisk while you’re doing all this. That’s one step, by the way. The next step is standing at the stove, stirring continuously until the polenta “forms a mass” in 40 to 45 minutes. Did you need a bathroom break? Too bad.

Julia Child, on the other hand, cares nothing about time. Not like Hazan, at least. It’s done when it’s done — when the sauce gives off an aromatic steam, or when the pastry shells puff up like magic in the oven. She is the enthusiastic art-teacher of the cookbook shelf, and her delight comes through in every page of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Take the classic French omelette: “a smooth, gently swelling, golden oval that is tender and creamy inside.” The hardest part, she says, is simply believing that you can do it. You have to take hold of that pan handle with both hands, tilt it above the stove, then shake it vigorously. “You must have the courage to be rough or the eggs will not loosen themselves from the bottom of the pan,” Child urges. So, do not hesitate. Be brave. And if it doesn’t work, oh well. “Push it into shape with the back of a fork,” she writes.

This is what I love about recipes: Indeed, the writing is instructive, but it is also intimate. The chef is speaking directly to you, guiding you, scolding you, supporting you, every step of the way. I stand up straight when I cook with Hazan, feeling her sharp eye on my hands as I level out the garlic in my teeniest measuring spoon. I save Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon for the coldest day in February, when I am in need of a day at the stove, whipping up something warm and heartening. I can hear her hooting laughter as the stew meat hits the oil with a startling crackle. “And we’re off!” she cheers. “You know, dear, this will be even more flavorful tomorrow.”

Cookbooks are a particular comfort, on bad days or during times of grief and loss. It’s not only that they help with the cooking of comfort food — though there is healing in that, certainly — but also the people they bring to life. That’s why, I realized, I didn’t reach for Bourdain’s famous essays, but for his old cookbook. I don’t mean to knock the rest of his work — the man never wrote a boring sentence in his life, as far as I can tell — but his recipes are different. In them, Bourdain is at his most joyful. There’s an ease and excitement as he tells you to put on some music and rinse the beans, then suggests you move that pot off the heat before you add the cognac, “unless you like setting your hair on fire.”

He hollers and nudges, tells you not to be a baby, tells you that you can do it. Broke the butter sauce? Who fuckin’ hasn’t? “I’ll tell you what I tell every rookie cook in my kitchen,” Bourdain writes in the introduction. “‘Throw it out. Start over. Do you understand what you did wrong? Good. Now don’t do it again.’” Screw-ups are good, he continues. “Screw-ups — and bouncing back from screw-ups — help you conquer fear.”

Quit trying to be a wunderkind and just keep trying, Bourdain argues. You do not need genius to be a good cook (which is great, ‘cause you ain’t got it, bud). “You need the will,” he says. “You need the desire. You need the determination to go on — even after you’ve scorched the first batch of stew, burned the sauce, mutilated the fish fillet, and lopped off a hunk of fingertip.”

Above all, Bourdain believed, “you need love.” You need to love the process, the tools, and of course, the people for whom you are cooking, “because the greatest and most memorable meals are as much about who you ate with as they are about what you ate.” If you don’t love it, then what the hell’s the point?

What a sentimental schmuck, I thought, standing alone in my kitchen. The room was hot and thick with the smell of bell peppers and cayenne. I looked over at the table, where my imaginary friend sat drinking wine from a sweaty glass. He nodded, gave a shrug. “Got a better idea?”


Kelsey Miller is an author, speaker, freelance writer, and creator of The Anti-Diet Project. Her upcoming book, I’ll Be There for You, is now available for pre-order. Here’s her week of outfits, as well.

P.S. 17 wonderful reader comments on grief, and what food geniuses eat for lunch.

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo.)

  1. sally says...

    Thank you Kelsey, and all your thoughtful commenters…this is lovely and true.
    As someone who lost their beloved brother and soul-mate to suicide, every suicide announcement brings me to my knees. Especially Bourdain’s passing, and my brother was so much like him–a force of nature and a “last principled man”.
    I also was helped by Sara Benincasa’s piece for Medium: https://medium.com/s/story/when-they-leave-8eb15cc2ee1f

  2. Holly says...

    I also cannot shake the death of Anthony Bourdain. I am an insomniac and if I had a particularly difficult night I would watch episodes of “Parts Unknown” and I would fall asleep before the show ended. Last night I had a dream about him. He was still living and it felt real.

  3. Emma says...

    I loved this. Thanks, Kelsey.

  4. This post is everything! Thanks Kelsey!

  5. STACY KOEHN says...

    GREAT WRITING – THANKS TO CUP OF JO FOR PUBLISHING THIS INSIGHTFUL AND UNIQUE POINT OF VIEW. DEEP DIVE INTO MY COOKBOOK LIBRARY WILL HAVE MORE MEANING AS I JOIN ‘MY’ MENTORS AND FRIENDS IN THE KITCHEN.

  6. I felt the same way whenever Chester Bennington of Linkin Park died last year. Before that I always thought people who got sentimental over celebrity deaths were… Weird, for lack of a better word. We never knew them, after all. We only knew their work. But then Chester died and it was like the whole world flooded; growing up, his music had literally saved my life…. And suddenly I was in a world where there wouldn’t be anymore. A world where I’d never be able to meet him and thank him for that.

    Anthony’s death hit me in a similar way- though not one as complex as that; mom taught me how to cook, and to “try anything at least three times” before saying no… Gramma taught me how to took, and to love the process… But Anythony and his shows taught me how to be fearless in exploration and experimentation, and how to appreciate food and the people it comes from. There’s a big difference, and I’m grateful for the lesson… And once again, life is filled with that strange and uncomfortable sadness.

  7. I couldn’t agree more, with every bit of this. It’s exactly how I feel about cooking, too. Whenever I get stuck, my husband knows to ask, “What would Ruth [Reichl] do?”

  8. aga says...

    What a beautiful idea to make a dish in Anthony’s honour. I was so saddened by his death. His shows were not about food, they were about what food means, how we relate to food, and, in turn, how we relate to the world… His shows were about culture. They taught empathy and fostered curiosity for the world we all live in. And there is nothing we need more than having empathy for how others exist in the world. He will be so very missed.

  9. What an incredible essay. I didn’t feel much in response to Bourdain’s death, not having known much about him, but Kelsey absolutely captured what I love about cooking. I first discovered my love of cooking when I was lonely and miserable in Brooklyn. She’s right–it fills you with a sense of having a community.

  10. anne says...

    Wonderful post, thank you. Feeling the same <3

  11. This was amazing — thank you for the great writing and the lovely reminiscences.

  12. Catarina R says...

    I loved this so so much. Thank you.

  13. Bianca says...

    I’ve not been able to shake off this news either. I have started re-watching some old episodes, flipping through his books. I’ve never felt so saddened by a celebrity’s death, and also have shared with many friends, that I didn’t realize how much he meant to me until now. He touched so many people, and made all cultures feel valued and respected in such a down to earth manner. I hear his voice in my head too and it makes me happy.

  14. Stephanie says...

    Thank you for this. Recipes can hold such meaning – it’s not just the food – it’s the experience of cooking and the memories of that go with it. Whether the connection is to someone you never met or a personal one.

  15. Kay says...

    This is really, really, really good writing.

    My heart broke when I read about Bourdain’s death. A lot of people commented saying how “unsurprised” they were by it — doesn’t that make the whole thing sadder? That a celebrity who did not make a secret of his former substance abuse, or darkness was unable to find the help he needed? I can’t help but feeling that we, the fans, let him down. The culinary world lost a shining star last week, and humanity lost one hell of a brave, curious and truly global citizen.

    I live in Montreal and passed by several of the spots Bourdain visited in his MTL episode of The Layover — an episode I proudly watched several times- since his death. There are certain things I can’t eat or cook without hearing him cursing in the back of my mind. Just like I can’t cook anything French or slow without hearing Julia Child’s uniquely enthusiastic voice in my head also. Glad I’m not the only one!

  16. April says...

    stunning. more, more, more of this!

  17. Molly says...

    Lovely, lovely piece! I recently pulled out some favorite cookbooks that were in my rotation about 6 years ago – in a time before my kids were born and I started leaning more heavily on quick internet recipes. You are so right about the comfort found in a cookbook. Thinking about it now, I don’t feel that same voice come through in many online recipes. Online versions are often down to business, without the notes and supporting text. For that and many other life reasons, cooking began to feel more like a chore to me over the last few years. Here’s to hoping that a return to cookbook-cooking will bring back a little of the joy!

  18. Alicia says...

    This was wonderful! *Sigh* I was heart broken when I heard that someone who was so inspiring was gone. He made travel effortless, and fearless. And trying new foods and cultures exciting. He was so cool, without even trying. It’s hard to fathom what his demons were to be honest, but we all have them. And the funny thing is when I was down and depressed I would watch his show…or one of his shows. There is a comfort in food and who you share it with and he made me feel like he was sharing it with me.

  19. Lesley says...

    Beautiful.

  20. as a fellow foodie I’ve been funked out as well.Your easy has helped me heal..I wept..I layghed

  21. JP says...

    This is beautiful, a lovely tribute to AB! Tearing up as I read it through this beautiful piece.

  22. Trish says...

    This was beautifully written and a joy to read. Thank you, Kelsey!

  23. Sara B. says...

    What a lovely essay and beautiful tribute. My family enjoyed a Swiss fondue in honor of my Dad’s 70th Birthday this last Monday, and I too couldn’t help but imagine Anthony at the table with us swirling and twirling the wine-soaked, cheesy goodness.

  24. Heather says...

    Beautiful piece, thank you for sharing! I too felt a grief for a stranger I didn’t know I could feel. And I too made a dish in Bourdain’s memory that night- an asian noodle dish from Vietnam, for which he inspired me to travel to last year :)

  25. M says...

    This was wonderful and so captured how I feel about cooking–it even articulated things I felt but had never examined.

    Thank you! Truly, cooking for others is one of the greatest gifts and pleasures.

  26. Katie Larissa says...

    SUCH a wonderful essay. More of this, please!

  27. Alison says...

    This is such a beautiful piece. Thank you so much for sharing it with all of us.

  28. Meg says...

    This is perfect. A beautiful piece of writing and a lovely tribute to Anthony Bourdain.

  29. I’m not crying! You’re crying! Absolutely beautiful essay. One of the best I’ve ever read.

  30. Ali says...

    Oh my goodness this is gorgeous. Crying into my G&T.

  31. Such a beautiful essay! I loved every single word, thank you.

  32. Nidhi says...

    Such a comfortable piece to read. I absolutely adore cookbooks and the stories they tell.

  33. Lorena says...

    Well played, Kelsey. Thank you.

  34. Michelle Hill says...

    I loved this. It was everything exactly the way I needed it. Thank you

  35. Miranda says...

    Just lovely, beautiful words.

  36. alex says...

    Lovely thing to read. So true.

    I only wish Anthony could have seen that his broken mayonnaise could have been rescued- but then most of us I suppose know that the pain of depression is the maddening heartache of pain and rumination and voices that doesn’t seem to stop, telling you again and again and again how worthless you are… we are so fragile and precious.

  37. Carol Wayne says...

    My voice in the the kitchen was Laurie Colwin…when she died, I felt I had lost my best friend…cooking makes us open to each other…a lovely essay and tribute.

  38. Elle says...

    Absolutely gorgeous piece of writing. This really comforted me. I find great peace in my kitchen and treasure my cookbooks and the different “voices” they have which I wasn’t completely conscious of until I read this post. Thank you.

  39. Min says...

    Beautifully written! Your words transported me right into your kitchen. Thank you!

  40. Karina says...

    Thank you for this and I have a feeling this is just the type of thing he’d love to hear. I had a difficult time last Friday as well. I couldn’t focus well at work, and was in disbelief we lost someone with so much authenticity, understanding, and honesty. I have a few Parts Unknown episodes left in my queue that I can’t bring myself to watch just yet. I was joking in the car earlier, “what am I going to do without these episodes? It’s like I actually have to go out and experience the world myself.” Well, that’s exactly what I plan to do! It’s added fire to the flame in terms of planning for long-term traveling next year.

  41. Shauna S says...

    This essay was impactful, thank you. I don’t know much about Bourdain, but I appreciated the taste your impression gave me.

    The love that shines through cooking a meal for others is powerful. I have long preferred real cookbooks to online copies of recipes for two reasons. First, I find them easier to browse and draw inspiration. Second, I love making notes in the margins about any changes I made, but also with the dates and any special remarks about what people thought about this recipe or when it was served. (I find it especially amusing when my husband and I totally disagree on our opinions of the dish and record this as well.) I hope to pass on my cookbooks to my son with the dream that when he is cooking without me, my notes will reflect my love and care for our family and our family meals (plus he will have all of my secrets to successfully prepare the recipe).

  42. Stephanie says...

    Thank you for this! I was only a casual fan, but have been much sadder about Anthony Bourdain’s death than I would have expected. The odd thing is, just last night I dreamed I was sitting at a table with him, much like what you described! So your writing especially struck me today. Thank you very much.

  43. Cate says...

    Absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for writing this. More from Kelsey, please!

  44. Peg Smith says...

    thank you

  45. Lee says...

    Love, as essential ingredient. You can taste it.

  46. Zo says...

    Thank you for this, it was very healing and reassuring to know I’m not the only “schmuck” who’s so upset about his death! Beautifully written.

  47. Steele Marcoux says...

    I love this post so much! Inspiring cooking, reading, and most of all writing. Thank you cup of jo for investing in and publishing great writing! Keeps me coming back every day!

  48. Anna says...

    This essay is amazing. Kelsey’s voice belongs right up there with Marcella and Anthony and Julia. My parents and I are cooks and I thrive in a noisy and boisterous kitchen, and we’re also voracious cookbook readers (even the ones we don’t actually use). They are stacked up on the coffee table in their house and mine, and even my non-cooking husband has caught the bug. Thank you for brightening up my afternoon.

  49. Molly says...

    Just beautiful. Needed this today.

  50. Cheryl says...

    Loved this!

  51. Ann says...

    Such a lovely tribute! Such thoughtful writing and careful consideration of what to include. I loved this!

  52. Jenna says...

    What a beautiful, beautiful piece of writing. I, too, have been hearing his voice (his craggy, deep, wonderful voice) in my head since his passing, particularly his laugh, which boomed through our television speakers many nights. Tony made me want to explore this world, eat exotic foods, meet people who were different than me, and see new and exciting things. My husband and I watched his Tokyo show almost every night for weeks before we went to Japan, and every time we passed a sight or restaurant he mentioned, or had a particularly delicious and fresh piece of sushi, or an odd or particularly foreign experience with a combini employee, we would turn to each other excitedly and say “Remember when Anthony Bourdain…” or “Anthony would’ve loved…” His passing has hit me so hard, and left me so bereft. He will be missed.

  53. Eliza says...

    I’m not much of a cook right now (I’m hoping I will be in another season of life), but I don’t think it’s at all silly to mourn and commemorate someone we don’t know. I think your french-y dinner was beautiful, a lovely tribute, and a happy indication of humankind/kindness/kindred.

  54. Valerie says...

    Long, long time reader but first time commenting. Thank you, Kelsey. This is beautiful.

  55. Hani says...

    Kelsey,
    I never had the bond with Anthony Bourdain that much of the food world had; nevertheless, the appreciated this piece so much.
    I feel that the cooking, feeding, writing, sharing–all of it, goes such a long way in healing us, especially in the wake of heartbreaking things. Thank you💛

  56. Emmie says...

    This essay was beautifully written and made me cry. Thank you for posting!

  57. I love this post, Kelsey, and have long admired your writing! Thank you for sharing. I loved this line especially: “Cookbooks are a particular comfort, on bad days or during times of grief and loss. It’s not only that they help with the cooking of comfort food — though there is healing in that, certainly — but also the people they bring to life. ”

    And I have to add, re your line about Marcella Hazan being a taskmaster, that she was indeed like that in life. A few years back, I wrote a story about her family and her son Giuliano’s cookbook, and we staged a dinner party at a gorgeous home here in Sarasota, Fla., that overlooked the water. The couple who were hosting offered Marcella a glass of wine, and without cracking a smile or batting an eye, Marcella replied, “I don’t drink—except Jack Daniels.” I think of that and smile every time I make one of her recipes.

  58. Andrea says...

    This is so lovely and made it a bit dusty in this room. Thank you, Kelsey.

  59. diana says...

    I also took his death a little too hard for never having met him. I have always loved his attitude about cooking and dining; he was an adamant anti-snob. Upon his death, there were so many of his quotes and sound bites turning up about taking on a different perspective, coming out of your comfort zone, and breaking bread with people you might be quick to dismiss. He rebelled against comfort and convention with such an urgency. I have been really nervous about quitting my job and making a big change, but I think he’s right- we don’t grow when we don’t test ourselves.

    • Colleen A Wenos says...

      “We don’t grow when we don’t test ourselves.” Thanks.

  60. A fantastic read, and so true. There is something very special about the companionship of a well-worn cookbook, with all of its idiosyncrasies, the authors voice, and our own marginalia.

    Thank you
    R

  61. Andrea says...

    Just adding a voice to the choir, but this is so beautiful. My favorite corner of the internet, where it feels like I’m listening to my best friends telling me their thoughts over glasses of wine on the perfect night in the most comfortable apartment. Thank you, the news cycle can be oppressive & often leaves me feeling distant from humanity, thank you for reminding us of ours, of everyone’s. Love you friends.

    • Ellie says...

      I love the imagery in your comment. So perfect and so true :)

  62. Denise says...

    Kelsey, your writing is a triumph! Thanks for this.

  63. Emmy says...

    Thank you for this beautiful essay. I could just imagine Bourdain in your kitchen, standing next to you and giving you some tough love as you stared at that chicken. The world is a little less bright without him.

  64. Mary says...

    Just beautiful. Thank you.

  65. Megan says...

    So great.
    A celebration of such an awesome dude.

  66. Amy says...

    Just another person so happy and grateful that you, too, felt as upset as I did by Bourdain’s passing, and could put it into words as beautiful as these. I have never mourned a celebrity like this, and I definitely feel silly and a little strange for being so sad, even days later. I think it’s because I felt like Bourdain and I shared this deep love for cooking and travel, an interest that friends who didn’t understand walking ten blocks out of the way for the “best” pizza stand sometimes thought was a little bit over the top. I felt like he was my friend, an older brother or dad looking out for me, who got me in the best way, but I never realized I felt like that until he died. The knowledge that he was so lonely in the face of all the joy he presented is the saddest part. I loved what one reader said on the other post about his passing, that suicide is like dying of a broken heart. It makes some kind of weird sense to me that a man so empathetic and loving could die of a broken heart, and it’s easier to reckon with.

    • Laura says...

      This is so lovely— all of it. Thank you for sharing.

  67. jenn says...

    right there with you, sister. i’m not particularly sad for this loss, because as off-putting as it sounds, as i grow older i find myself more capable of empathizing with people who choose death. i believe Tony would be more comfortable knowing people have only the fondest, profanity-laced remembrances of him than waste time feeling sad for those he left behind, because ‘leaving people behind’ is so not the point for someone who chooses to die. i’ll always have his books and shows, and those alone will always give me the warm fuzzies, relatability, chortles and wanderlust that they always have, and that’s more than a lot of people have.

    • Lena says...

      This is just perfectly true of my sentiments as well, Jenn “as i grow older i find myself more capable of empathizing with people who choose death. i believe Tony would be more comfortable knowing people have only the fondest, profanity-laced remembrances of him than waste time feeling sad for those he left behind, because ‘leaving people behind’ is so not the point for someone who chooses to die. “

  68. Melanie says...

    Amateur chefs of the world, brace for impact. This was such a thoughtful, articulate and imaginative piece. The reason I return to Cup of Jo on a daily basis after almost a decade is because it highlights unique voices that echo my feelings, engage my curiosity or open my eyes. My entire life food has been emotional: I’ve been rewarded by food, punished by food, reminded by food… and only in recent years (in my first real, adult kitchen) has the meaning of food transformed into a love of cooking. When you learn to love the process, the tools and the people, the calories are the last thing on your mind.

  69. tyler says...

    was hoping there would be a bourdain piece on the blog this week. i wasn’t always a fan, but he won me over slowly, most definitively when he stepped up to the #metoo movement. this loss feels strangely profound, even though I wasn’t an ardent, die hard fan. what i liked about bourdain was he wasn’t afraid to look dumb, or make a mistake. too many people are.

  70. Andrea says...

    What a beautiful post! And what comfort to know how many others are affected by the passing of Anthony! It’s nice to know how rattled others are by a man we never met but were so touched by his humor and humanity! I loved him and his unique style and that he embraced so very many cultures that we get to enjoy in our homes! He was a treasure!

  71. Ginny Early says...

    Thank you so much for this. I don’t think I’ll ever shake him, and I’m glad of it.

    • Kristen says...

      I love this comment. Same.

  72. carly says...

    Terrific, terrific essay, Kelsey. You captured Chef Bourdain’s voice and spirit so well.

  73. JJ says...

    This is a beautiful piece of prose.

  74. Lisa says...

    Like many others, the news of this loss has really bothered me this week and it makes my heart heavy and sad not only for Anthony Bourdain and his friends and family but for humanity in general. This post, however, is so moving and eloquent because it shifted the focus of the sobering news from something heart-crushing to something peaceful and celebratory, by honoring those we lost, not by focusing on the darkness that unfortunately surrounded them, but for their unique and quirky personalities and gifts that they bestowed upon the world and the positive influences that they had on so many people. Thanks for a great tribute.

  75. Em says...

    This was an amazing read. Thank you, Kelsey.

  76. Kelsey S. says...

    Beautiful. This left me with tears, in the best possible way.

  77. Emily says...

    That was absolutely beautiful.

  78. thank you for the beautiful words. literally brought tears to my eyes. RIP anthony bourdain.

  79. Janine says...

    Beautifully written. Kelsey may still be a novice in the kitchen, but she can turn a phrase like the best of them.

  80. Louisa says...

    Even on my worst days – which are now very rare – my thoughts are not “I am not loved/ connected/ successful enough.” Instead, it is this: “I just am not interested anymore.” — When depression sets in, I am not interested in anything: brushing teeth, walking out the door, picking up a phone, pairing socks. It is this complete disinterest that is so crushing and so inexplicable. When I picture the level of energy and interest required to sustain Bourdain’s life, I think: “Yes, I can imagine needing to step back from it all.”

    With great therapy and medication, I am doing great — it is so very possible to regain that interest in life. But it’s hard to want to develop interest when that interest is gone.

    • alice says...

      Thank you for that comment which gives amazing insight to those of us who have haven’t experienced that feeling. My sister has (thankfully, like you, less so now) and I’m always striving to understand.
      May those days continue to be rare for you Louisa x

  81. Grace says...

    This is so wonderful. Thank you, Kelsey. Thank you for sharing this

    When Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade passed away last week, I felt sad, but bitter mainly. All of these people on my social media were mourning the loss of someone they did not know. It was their first experience of loosing someone to suicide. I was pissed and jealous that their first experience gets to be with someone they do not know…just a distant celebrity. Death and grief can do funny things and bring up emotions we don’t like. I mourn for both kate and anthony’s family. I also mourn for my own family. Sending love to anyone else who may need it.

    I think I am going to go spend some time in my kitchen tonight.

  82. Bets says...

    His life and death have been on my mind all week too. During a recent move with a toddler from one state to another, I donated most of my books because it felt like we needed to get rid of some things. Now I have such regret for parting with his, as they’d bring so much comfort right now. Thank you for sharing.

  83. Stacie says...

    *weeping*

  84. Lindsay says...

    Loved this.

  85. Amber J says...

    Wow wow wow wow.

    Thank you.

  86. valentina says...

    Thank you so much for writing this — it is so reflective of how I feel, and I didn’t even realize it. I so appreciate it.

  87. Rachael says...

    What a tremendous loss. I truly admired both Bourdain and Spade. Too many good ones have fallen.

  88. Anna Ngai says...

    Tears reading this essay and everyone’s comments. As others have said, I have never felt this shaken and saddened by the death of someone I didn’t know personally, and finding it so hard to come to terms with the thought of Anthony Bourdain wrestling with such pain. Food is so much more than just fuel for the body; it’s fuel for relationships, discovery, connection, adventure, love. I hope Bourdain is somewhere happy, peaceful, and food-filled.

  89. Alyssa says...

    Of all the things I’ve read on Cup of Jo, this might very well be my favorite. Cooking has become something that I love, something that ties me to other places, other people, other times. And yes, there is something so comforting about knowing that the author/cook is working with you. That’s why Jenny Rosenstrach’s books are my very favorite.

    • Amy says...

      Yes – I feel like she’s got my back, she wants me to succeed, and that with some luck, I can grow up to be her (I’m about 8 years behind).

  90. Jenn says...

    Oh thank you for this. I have been astounded by the depth and intensity of my grief for this loss. I met him only once and briefly, but he was everything one imagines he would be, except maybe kinder. The outpouring of love for him from fans and strangers and friends is so remarkable. You captured it all perfectly.

  91. Jackie says...

    *sigh*
    Would that we all could have shared a meal with him. Thanks for a lovely tribute.

  92. Lucy in England says...

    Gorgeous writing. I love to read and reread my cookbooks, my brother sent me a vintage Zarela Martinez from a second hand bookshop in NYC and I just love it, I love the book’s journey and story and I love her voice.

    I’m so sad about Bourdain. Those perfect fries at Les Halles, and the splattered greasy French Onion soup page in our family copy of his cookbook.

  93. Amelia says...

    This is an amazing post. Thank you!

  94. Laurel says...

    Thank you for this essay from Cup of Jo. I was waiting for this. What a gift he gave to the table and the world.

  95. jeannie says...

    Deeply sad about Anthony Bourdain’s death. I loved his series
    “Parts Unknown” and reading his cookbooks. And I loved this post! It made me laugh and was a lovely tribute.

  96. Rochelle says...

    Beautiful essay on a beautiful person. His death has really hit me hard.

  97. Nancy says...

    Great writing, great storytelling. More please!

  98. Jennie says...

    This is beautifully written and heartfelt. I would love to see more essays of this style in Cup of Jo!

  99. Another #CupofJoDeskCry

    This was an incredible, lyrical piece. I, too, have found so much comfort between the pages of cookbooks.

    Bourdain had a kind of artichoke-like sensitivity. Spiky, yet warm and loveable?

    This eulogy pays tribute to how both his food and his writing made an impact.

  100. Rachel says...

    Made his mushroom gravy that night. My husband loves it and it felt like a tribute. I was both sad and perplexed as well

  101. Monica says...

    This also made me cry. I, too, can’t shake Bourdain’s death and find myself breaking into tears still. Five days later.

    This was beautiful and brought a smile to my face, even through the crying. Thank you, Kelsey.

  102. I enjoy reading cookbooks. Nigella Lawson writes in a way where you believe you are having a conversation with her about the ingredients, the meal, the environment.

  103. Amanda says...

    Beautiful! I also felt compelled to cook when hearing of Anthony Bourdain’s death to honor his memory and his life.

  104. Lisa says...

    Love this. I’m so sad that he’s gone. I admired his genuine interest in people and places, let alone food. He seemed to truly enjoy learning about and through others, something the world is all too lacking in these days.

  105. sasha says...

    What a lovely piece of writing. Thank you!

  106. Alexis says...

    I’m always going to miss him. He taught us all to look for authenticity in food, to be adventurous and open hearted, to appreciate and SEEK OUT places off the beaten path, and most of all that food has the ability to connect everyone.
    Would love to know if the illustration can be purchased as a print – I have that exact Dutch oven and would love Tony looking over me as I cook.

  107. Lana says...

    His death socked me (and most of my people) right in the gut. We do a monthly cookbook club where we cook foods from a chosen cookbook and then sit around, eat the meal and share some drinks. This month our theme is Anthony Bourdain and we plan on drinking some good, stiff, whiskey.

  108. Kim G says...

    This was a pleasure to read. Thank you so much.
    I feel compelled to pick up one of these classics and cook tonight.

  109. C says...

    This is incredible. Thank you. So much love in this.

  110. Kato says...

    Really lovely piece!

  111. Anneka says...

    I can’t shake Anthony Bourdain’s death either. Thank you for this beautiful tribute.

  112. gfy says...

    He was authentic. Very much missed but hopefully he is at peace now.

  113. Chelsey says...

    I have been so sad about Anthony Bourdain’s death, and like the author, I haven’t been able to really shake it. This beautiful post brought tears to my eyes and made me want to dig through some of his old recipes too. Thank you for posting this.

  114. Ruth says...

    I too felt gut-punched by Bourdain’s passing. He was a hero of mine and I think it’s the first time that a celebrity’s death felt like a friend’s passing. We made omelets and chicken from his Appetite’s cookbook this past weekend. Such a wonderful essay and I couldn’t agree more!

  115. E says...

    Thank you, Kelsey. Cheers to a beloved man who had seemingly endless joie de vivre. He will be missed.

  116. Kim says...

    I absolutely love this post. And Anthony bourdain was such a loss.

    Kim

  117. Jen says...

    Beautiful. Thank you. I’ve never felt so shaken/saddened by the death of someone I didn’t know personally.

  118. Molly says...

    I love this so much. Thank you.

  119. Erin Patterson says...

    This was just about perfect. Thank you.

  120. Lindsay says...

    This post is almost as if I wrote it myself. I am not one to follow celebrities, but Bourdain’s death has hit me like a ton of bricks. My husband and I have been inviting him into our home each Sunday for the past 12 years. We have been inspired to cook and travel like him and most importantly, look beyond initial facades. Whether that be the facade of fellow humans or facades of large cities, he digs in to truly understand. I never thought I would be inspired to travel the world in the footsteps of a man I never met, but here I am. It is such a heartbreaking loss, but as I continue to see posts like yours across the internet these last few days, it is quite apparent the impact he has had on people across the globe <3

  121. Kate says...

    Wow. This is so good.
    Also loved that you linked to an independent bookstore.
    <3

    • adrienne trunnell says...

      Ditto. A lovely post and comment.

  122. Ingrid says...

    Lovely post. Thank you!

  123. Kat says...

    A beautiful essay, thank you!

  124. bourdain’s passing has also been heavy on my mind and heart, because for someone who sincerely CONNECTED so much with people, culture, and places, to feel so wholeheartedly, despondently DISCONNECTED inside… i could cry all over again. i met him once, at a talk he and eric ripert did, and i was ridiculously shy and tongue-tied, and he was showed me more kindness than i deserved and i’ll forever remember that.

  125. Margot says...

    This was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  126. Beautiful essay. I still can’t believe he’s gone. I have plans this weekend to take myself on a solo date for pho and a glass of wine at my favorite Vietnamese place in East Nashville, in his honor.

  127. Lauren says...

    What an overwhelmingly enchanting piece of writing, Kelsey. Thank you.

  128. Heather says...

    Kelsey, this is beautiful. I love the way you’ve woven a tribute to Bourdain into a piece about the importance of human connection, and the role food plays in that. To my people out there who, like me, do not have the focus or patience to prepare complicated meals, I note that you can also gather around a trader joe’s frozen pizza and a bottle of wine… :-)

    Joanna – thanks for bringing Kelsey back! I love her writing. She never disappoints.

  129. I always love the longform pieces on CoJ, and this one is no exception.

  130. Teresa says...

    Thank you for that beautiful essay, which made me almost cry.
    I have a big cookbook collection and I like to read them before going to bed. It’s so comforting (and relaxing) in a way to have the voices of the authors with you then. And then you can sleep so well (okay, sometimes you’re a little bit hungry ;))

  131. Christine Schwalm Design says...

    I was heartbroken when I heard about Bourdain’s passing. It’s just as much as a loss as Kate Spade (partner and child left behind), but his death hit me so much harder. I’m sad that Parts Unknown will cease production. He taught such an important lesson about treating people who come from different backgrounds, culture and point of view with respect. Break bread with someone and take some time to get to know them as a human being.

  132. I’m crying still, thinking about his passing. He was such a good one.

  133. anne says...

    this is so wonderful. i have long loved the essays and food writing of laurie colwin, mfk fisher, and ruth reichl, and reading this reminded me of all of them. but i also loved the added sad benefit that this essay offers by marking bourdain’s death, which i also couldn’t shake. still can’t believe he’s gone. love the intimate, right-there-with-you tone of this, and love, love, LOVE the thought that bourdain could be perched in my kitchen too, sipping wine and making cheeky cuss-puncuated comments.

  134. Rachel says...

    I so relate to this post. I, too, found myself reaching for a recipe that reminded me of him to combat the sadness I felt. A sentimental schmuck….exactly how I felt. I also realized we all feel so sentimental and sad for someone we never met because he shared so much of himself, that we felt like we knew him.

  135. Jessica Marasa says...

    Wow, I just started crying at the end. So beautifully written and so very true. When I make gravy from scratch on Thanksgiving I can always see my grandma, drinking black coffee at her tiny kitchen table, telling me not to let it get too runny or too chunky. We are never alone when we have the words of amazing chefs in our ears. Cheers to an incredible man, lost far too soon.

  136. Shira says...

    this is fantastic. i’m savoring it as i would an amazing meal. please keep writing these.

  137. This is such a lovely tribute!

  138. This was so beautiful in so many ways. Thank you for sharing and for helping me realize how many friends I have in my cookbook collection.

  139. Laura says...

    I am a very long-time reader, and this is one of my favorite posts ever!! Thank you for posting such a relatable and uplifting story in light of such tragedy. Joanna, you always have a way of being so relatable, vulnerable, and your blog always feels so warm and kind. It’s a pleasure to visit daily. Thanks!!

    • Iris Fugate says...

      I was just coming down to the comments section to write, essentially, this exact comment. I’ve been reading almost since the beginning and this is one of the loveliest, saddest, most creative and touching things I’ve read. Thanks for sharing this writing with us.

      I started rereading Kitchen Confidential last night, and at the point in the preface where he mentions first getting a call from Eric Rippert at the beginning of his (Bourdain’s) rise to notoriety, I cried again. This essay gave me a similar feeling of sadness mixed with light. Thank you thank you.

  140. Oh boy. This was quite the essay. Tears and laughter throughout the whole thing. Thank you for your beautiful writing, imagination and tribute to one bad-ass dude. I’ll be thinking about this all day.

  141. Kathy says...

    What a fantastic essay! Thank you for sharing.

  142. Hana says...

    Thank you for writing this. I’m in a cooking rut, and this is inspiring! I also can’t shake the Bourdain news either. I heard him speak many years ago and he was exactly as he was on tv. He was not a big tv personality-just very sincere, smart, and witty .

  143. Ellie says...

    This is a beautiful eulogy to a writer, chef, reporter, and friend we all feel like we knew. I’m trying not to cry all over my lunch :). Thank you, Kelsey.

  144. Such a nice read, thank you Kelsey! I too, felt silly crying my eyes out over someone I didn’t personally know… glad I’m not the only one. Damn, what a loss.

  145. Carly says...

    Thank you for this. <3

  146. Elizabeth says...

    Kelsey- you have a wonderful “voice” yourself. Thanks for sharing.

  147. Elizabeth says...

    Wow, what a lovely tribute to him…so personal and yet so universal.

  148. Lily says...

    Oh oh oh. This made me cry. I too cannot stop thinking about Bourdain (who I always found so irresistibly sexy, particularly his attitude that couldn’t quite hide his compassion and interest in the world around him) and can’t help but feel grateful for how, through his cookbooks and shows and recipes, he showed me how to find such joy and contentment in food and time spent in the kitchen or around a table with friends, new and old.
    I keep wishing that someone close to him knew how to help him with his pain. As if that was enough. Anyway, thank you for the beautiful essay. Time to head to the kitchen myself, I think.

  149. Kiana says...

    This was beautiful Kelsey. Thank you.