The Unsettled Stomach of Anthony Bourdain

 

I was always envious of Anthony Bourdain. It wasn’t only his endless international adventures, his skills around the kitchen, or his connections to the best food in the world, but the honesty with which he wrote. His first piece in The New Yorker, a modern, sharp-toothed version of The Jungle, left me with a pit in my stomach, “He’s such a good writer,” I thought to myself, “I will never be as good as this.”

He had the ability to make any uneatable ingredient or pretentious word palatable.

His character had been sharpened like the knives in his kitchen: cutting, blunt, and aggressive. Teetered on a tightrope between a rowdy American man and diplomat, he was always utterly himself.

His sharp tongue got him the fame he deserved from haggling for the finest fish in Manhattan at 4am on a Tuesday to throwing back Vietnamese beers on plastic chairs with the leader of the free world. This man could serve you a perfect eggs benedict and bust your balls at the same time.

 

When I was baking, I could never keep my cool and would stress eat raw apple slices and uncooked crumble topping as I worked through the 6 am shift. His books would be stacked between the pantry shelves, his nonchalant eyes staring back at me as I hoisted buckets of brown sugar off the shelf.

 

“How the fuck is he able to work in a kitchen and stay so skinny and his eyes aren’t filled with broken blood vessels or underlined with dark circles?” I never had the cool to do what he did.

 

My envy did eventually turn into admiration, once I was transitioning out of my love of cooking. I was over the food porn, the ridiculous desert combinations, or the pretentiousness of gastro-cuisine. What I liked about Bourdain was that he never shied away from the nasty bits. He didn’t entertain the idea that food was meant to be looked at- it was meant to be devoured.

 

“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride,” is easily my favorite quote. He understood that food is messy and fickle and not easily tamed. He seemed to gain a strange pleasure of being covered in blood, eating bull balls, or puking his brains out. He never ran from it; hell, he enjoyed it. He understood that in order to have great meals, you need to have a few fuckups in between.

 

Which is also how he spoke about travel. Sometimes, I didn’t want to agree with his crude comment or eye roll about a culture, and at times I thought he was a bit insensitive or abrasive. But he was seeing things I wasn’t, and he was being honest. He never intended his work to be click bate. He only showed what was the truth, from the unexpected hospitality in Iran, the military dictatorship in Myanmar, to the opioid crisis in Massachusetts. He was a translator. A translator of ingredients, a translator of cultures, and a translator of experiences.

Most importantly, he knew how to unite people. He understood that what bonded stronger than tapioca starch was a shared meal- how stews could sometimes solve wars. When people sit together around a table, we pass around more than butter but our experiences, our pains, and our pleasures. We are forced to listen to each other between bites. He wanted curiosity to fuel us as much as our food does. He knew how to ask the right questions and when to let the meal speak for itself. These talents allowed him to extract the secret ingredients, cultural stigmas, or unsettling histories out of people. He showed us our humanity through food, and his biting perspective and expertise is something we might not see for a long time.

It honestly baffles me why someone who has been fortunate to enjoy more breadth and bread of the human experience would voluntarily take theirs away?

I truly don’t understand suicide. And I by no means want to talk light of this situation. It is saddening and perplexing and heartbreaking that we have lost such a unique and honest human being.

I didn’t know him personally, nor am I pretending that I did. I was just another person who devoured his work. I don’t know what thoughts plagued him once the cameras were off and the kitchen doors were closed.

All I can say is that I hope he is at peace now.

I can’t help but think, what was his last meal? Did he enjoy it?  Did he savor it? I hope he did. I hope it was simple and effortless and nourishing. I hope it was a moment he was able to truly enjoy on his own, a return back to why he used to wake up in the morning. I hope it was the best meal he has ever had.

 

Tonight, I eat for Anthony Bourdain. A man I always wished I would randomly run into at a random dumpling house off Canal St, secretly trying to chew cheap pouches of heaven in peace. Tonight, I will be more risky about what I put in my body and more curious about who I am sharing the meal with.

We should become the intrepid, earnest eaters he wanted us all to be.

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The New York Times Supports #NoMoreTaboos

I woke up the other morning to find my face on the featured image of a New York Times article. It was because I talked about my period.

I was recently asked to participate in a storytelling show about menstruation in honor of National Women’s Hygiene day at the New Women’s Space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I JUMPED on it.

Not only is this my favorite topic, but it is necessary to destigmatize it. I was raised with a group of girls who were shameless about their bodies. Once the first friend saw a drop of blood, we didn’t shut up about them.

Our periods would often be the first topic of conversation in the 8th-grade bathroom that we commandeered every morning before school.

We had a ritual. Once we got to school, we would often bypass our lockers and head straight to the bathroom. That was our sanctuary. It was where we put on makeup our moms forbid, swapped clothes, and gossiped about everyone else in school. We would groom each other like our ancient grandmother gorillas did before homeroom.

That isn’t to say we weren’t catty with each other, which we were, but we always found ways to support each other in the end.

One of the dominant conversations, while we braided each other’s hair, put on someone else’s nail polish, and rushed to copy homework, was our periods. We were able to scope out if it was normal, observe how each other’s bodies were developing, or offer support when we were in pain. We exchanged tampons the way we would later bum cigarettes: you always buy a box to share with no obligation to pay back.

What we mostly swapped was old-wives tales about the female body and advice from our horoscopes ( “Well, you’re a Pisces, and your chart says that today is going to be rough anyways!) but what was traded around more than our skirts was a sense of support and safety. That no matter what rogue turn our bodies took, we had each other to lean on when the cramps were too painful in biology, the acne got too bad in French class, or the mood swings got too much in math.

Our bodies and minds were percolating with a new outlook on ourselves as we sat in Chemistry class together. We were often thought of as “intense” by our fellow classmates, but we were stronger together for it and have still remained close friends.

We knew that our pain would be our source of power.

Because of them, I have never been ashamed of my period. I have never once thought that it was an embarrassing topic, something to be avoided during parties, or deterred other women from talking about it. It wasn’t until college that I met women who never broached the topic or didn’t have friends to talk about it with, and I realized that my experience was the anomaly.

So, I was elated when I found out about the period party because I wanted to be with a group of women who also enjoyed talking about these experiences. But I found that it hasn’t always been a place of pride for these women. When most women get their periods, they begin a silent journey. Many women that night discussed how they couldn’t believe they were talking about it. There were plenty of women who expressed that their bodies had always been circumscribed with shame; however, together were able to bond over our shared troubles. The audience was as much of the show as the performers were. The loud sighs, the head nods and eye rolls, the belting laughs and hands-on checks as performers opened up about the bleeding that lasts for weeks, vomiting in public, or being as horny as a cat in heat, the parts that people don’t want to hear about- the honesty of the situation. We bonded over the emotional bleeding that happens as well: when men shame us, when other women have silenced us, or when we were too confused to ask. That room was clouded with empathy and estrogen.

What we need is to keep talking about it. Not talking about it sets us back.

Although we are fortunate in the State’s ( even though tampons are NOT a luxury item) to not be inhibited from normal activities- going to school, places of worship, or work- that still is a reality for many women around the world. It is not just a setback for women, but a creative, scientific, and economic detriment to society when women are not able to contribute. How much farther along would we be if women were able to participate in male-dominated spheres.

For thousands of years, there have been systems in place that conditioned us to believe that our bodies are bad, that if we spoke about it we were crazy, and if we were open about it we should be ashamed.

The patriarchy has been gaslighting us forever.

We do ourselves a disservice by ignoring it. By stuffing toilet paper in our underwear instead of asking for help.

Because we have been told to shut up about it, it took us thousands of years to get the right to vote. Because we have never had the support, we have never had a female president. Because we were silent we have been set back.

Now we need to keep talking, be louder, be angry, and not shut the fuck up.

Photograph by Bridget Badore

Photo: Bridget Badore @bridgetbadore #PERIODPARTY #NoMoreTaboos

My feelings on the patriarchy.

A Life Worth Living in Arequipa

Back to back! I have another guest post from the incredible travel blog A World to Travel. 

This time we take you below the equator to a hidden gem of a city at the tip of Peru on the border of Bolivia and Chile: Arequipa.

 

I awoke in the desert around Arequipa after being in Peru for a total of 18 hours and spent most of my time in the dark on a bus.

I awoke surrounded by sand dunes, an element I am not so familiar with. I had been traveling for 5 months and had made my way from Mexico City through the lush rainforest covered countries of Central America that are dripping with foliage, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, multicolored flora and fauna, and electric streaked hummingbirds. So being surrounded by beige was unsettling. It was like driving through an ocean of suspended waves, frozen in time like a magic spell had been cast upon them, and the repetitive pattern of curves and swirls of the desert was meditative and occasionally boring.

Then our bus began to elevate and made its way down a rockier mountainous path, an adjustment from our smooth sail through the desert.

You can feel the rumble of Arequipa before you get there. It’s like walking towards a thunderstorm. As you drive closer, the power of the active volcanoes and city comes in clearer, but you are still surrounded by the silence of the desert. You are stuck between emptiness and everything. It’s hard to describe.

We arrived when the sun broke over the city like an egg and began another glorious day.

I arrived at Arequipa at 7 in the morning while the city was just waking up. In broken Spanish, I asked a combi driver ( cab driver) to bring me to where I would be staying. I was going to be working at a chocolate shop for the next few months and living with the other workers and owners.

I stepped out onto white and beige cobblestone street. The air was crisp and dry with no water vapor between you and the sun. My hair for once wasn’t immediately curled. I put down my bags and took my first walk around the city.

Once you step out into the cobblestone streets, you will feel a ubiquitous force that whisks itself around the city. You will find it in the streets, in the basements of monasteries, in the bites of ceviche. Maybe it’s that the walls of the city are made of the same material that hovers above them; the rock from the volcanoes have been repurposed to make a different kind of juggernaut.

Maybe it’s the fusion of colonial Spanish, ancient indigenous, and modern influences condensed into one area. There is so much life in a such a small space, surrounded by extreme nothingness. The energy is trapped, like a frantic bee in a Mason jar.

Or maybe Arequipa is special because we are always reminded of our existence. The volcanoes are always in sight, a constant reminder of their magnitude and your minutness.

We can sense the lava flowing beneath the buildings and our bodies. It’s a place that reminds us we are alive and to not waste such an unlikely possibility.

Whatever it is, Arequipa is an experience not replicated elsewhere.

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You can check it out here!

This is a great article filled with travel tips on where to go, what to eat, and how to experience the White City of Peru. Arequipa has been safe to travel to for groups or solo travelers ( including solo girls!). It is cheap to travel to and great to travel throughout the year.

Best Beer Gardens in Prague

Hey strangers!

I just had my first feature guest post on the wonderful and wanderlusty travel blog Getting Stamped.

I wrote about my first love: Prague.

Prague planted the seed of travel for me. I had always wanted to travel but didn’t want to go somewhere that all other young college students were going. I wanted something different but not too foreign.

I was far from disappointed.

Like a first crush, I have never fallen in love with another place so hard and so fast. The avant-guard glass blowing, cobblestone streets, the tenebrous history and surrealist literature, the colors of the walls, and sausage + beer for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

But there was something else…

It was the most strange feeling to wander around a city that was older than the country I had come from. I felt my brain grow because it was the first time I recognized there were so many more people on this earth with equally complex and full lives that weren’t in the States. For a moment, all the mental dominos fell and I realized my tiny existence on an infinitesimal planet in a much larger universe. 

There were billions of people coexisting with me that I would never meet.

I was able to give these people faces and extend empathy towards them. They had lived different lives than I had, raised differently, and had a different mother tongue.

This was a feeling I would become addicted to- the feeling of tinyness.

This is a feeling that would ignite an ache for distant places so vast it would drive my life for nearly a decade.

Traveling understands me more than any friend can- it is my opportunity to feel connected to the larger web we are a part of.

and I wouldn’t have had that without Prague.

I miss it every day, like an unrequited romance, feeling like I will never have enough time with it.

When I was asked to write about Prague I was so excited to be able to write about the most iconic aspect of Prague: its beer gardens! I write out all of my favorite places to get lit under trees.

Czech out the post here!

 

Pinterest pin for best beer gardens in Prague -

This is a great article filled with travel tips on where to go, what to eat, and how to experience Prague. Prague has been safe to travel to for groups or solo travelers ( including solo girls!). It is cheap to travel to and great to travel throughout the year.

Be a Cow

This week I have officially started recording and interviewing people for the second season of my podcast! I’m elated but overwhelmed. I feel like there is always too much to do and that I don’t have enough hands or hours to accomplish everything I want to get done. I feel like I’m shoveling a super healthy salad down my throat, meaning I’m doing a lot of fulfilling and productive creative work but going through it all too quickly. I’m not taking the time to sit and savor it. This reminds of another time in my life when I was overwhelmed with all of the creative opportunities I had.

When I was 19, I had just finished my first year of college, and although I had declared a major, I still felt undecided about my future. I have always been a person who wants to do everything at the same time.I wanted to learn how to write and dance; I wanted to learn psychology and how to knit; I wanted to be on stage and travel the world. I wanted to do so much I never got anything done.

One day during summer break, I went to Great Barrington, Massachusetts, near my hometown, for the afternoon and stumbled upon a yoga+meditation bookstore. It was filled with books about mindfulness, Buddhism, and Tibetan decorations. The store had a stillness about it that felt like it was in a deep rem cycle. It was a calmness I was unfamiliar with. I perused the store at a pace that was slightly slower than I was used to and selected 5 books off the shelf, unsure of which one to get.

I go up to the counter where there is an older woman wrapped in soft, bright scarves and beaded bracelets jiggling against one another as she begins to handle my compulsive book selection.

“You’re going to read all of these?” she asks.

“Well, I want to read all of them because I’m really interested in Buddhism and possibly meditation but I don’t know yet because I haven’t done anything and then this other book I really want to go to Tibet and learn more about their culture, and then this other book…”

And she interrupts me and says,

“Slow down. Be a cow.”

“What?” I thought.

“Be a cow. A cow stays in one spot and eats its grass. Don’t be a goat. A goat runs around the mountain top and never gets anything done. Stay in one spot an eat your grass.”

She selects the book she thinks I need the most, rings me up and sends me on my way.

I go back to that advice all the time when I feel like I am biting off more than I can chew. Just focus on one thing until it’s complete. Have the judgment to know if it isn’t serving you, but don’t go running around the mountaintop because you won’t be able to enjoy the view from where you stand.

Let’s gear up and enjoy the process of making the second season of my podcast!

 

I really am trying to avoid becoming Liz Lemon, I promise.

Storytelling Can Save Lives

The world came together yesterday in solidarity with the American protests against gun violence. There were over 800 marches worldwide with the vast majority of the United States, but protests were pinned on most global metropolitan cities spanning from London to Sydney, Berlin to Sao Paulo.

I was fortunate to walk along the edge of Central Park with my sister, who is in high school, and my fellow friends in solidarity. We have never been affected by gun violence directly; we got to walk in protest under the sun yesterday, and we are the lucky ones.

However, I can’t say that for those who stood around me. I don’t know their motivations for attending, be it compassion or deathly personal.

Through traveling, I have found that most people aspire to be proud of their country. Of course, selective biases have us highlight the positive and overlook the negative aspects of our nations. Nevertheless, it is incredibly hard to be proud of my country, the decisions my politicians are making, and the unnecessary and unruly violence plaguing my country.

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It must be unfathomable for those in other countries to understand the subtle hostility that blows through our country like the western wind. People in Japan, who have the lowest gun homicide rate in the world, probably don’t hesitate when they walk into a bank or a cafe or any other seemingly normal space social space and think, “ What if someone here has a gun?”

I’m not saying that there isn’t violence in other nations, but I personally feel like there is always an edge in America. I remember acknowledging that subtle sensitivity once when I was taking a tram in Prague and for the first time thought, “ I don’t fear being shot here.” It was a novel feeling. One where I could go about my day and not question my own safety in seemingly innocuous public spaces

The thought of being shot never crossed my mind.

That thought has pleasantly carried itself with me through every country I have been to; it packs itself into my bags and I wander the world with no fear of being affected by gun violence.

That feeling changes the moment I come back onto American soil. It isn’t a pervasive feeling or something that limits my ability to move about, but there is always a moment of hesitation before entering a bank or a post office or a mall.

The strange fear has blanketed itself over our country and now looms over our schools, a place where students should be learning how to read, not dodge bullets. Fear has no place in the education system.

To the rest of the world, we look insane.

What I thought was the most pervasive aspect of March For Our Lives was the sharing of stories.

There were a few moments of this, like when the use of storytelling was able to capture a moment stronger than statistics.

At the Washington D.C. protest, Emma Gonzalez led a 6 min and 20 second moment of silence, which is how long it took the gunman to kill the 17 students in Parkland. Out of the 380 seconds they sat in silence, one individual died every 22 seconds. That’s abhorred.

Or when Paul McCartney, who was walking in the New York City protest stated, “One of my best friends was killed by gun violence right around here.”

Or all of the powerful messages, quotes, and tales on the protest signs held up by the arms of individuals who were carrying more weight than a stick and paper.

Storytelling is a powerful tool. It can be used for good, and it can be used for change.

We can not let the stories of those who have been victims to gun violence fade away. Those stories must turn into cautionary tales to parents, into persuasive arguments towards politicians, and into conversations with schoolmates who seem to be in need of support.

Although their lives were untimely ripped away, sharing their stories makes them a little immortal. They are allowed to live on in the collective consciousness and part of the larger story we are all shaping and construct a more peaceful world.

We can not let them be forgotten.
You can donate to March For Our Lives.

28 things I have Fully Learned, Half-Heartedly Remember, and Occasionally Forget in No Particular Order.

Last Friday was my birthday and I turned 28, an anxious 8 years away from 20 and 2 away from 30….but here is some semblance of wisdom I think I have learned in those full 28 rotations around the sun.

1) Please eat slowly. The food isn’t jumping off your plate, and your stomach will thank you later.

2) Don’t think you can have it all at once. Maybe you can have it all but over a slow duration.

3) Be grateful for the friends whom you can call at midnight on your birthday because you are having an irrational (privileged) existential crisis about getting older. Never let them go.

4) Be in the moment. Truly be in the moment.

5) CALM THE FUCK DOWN.

6) Thank god for therapy. I know Freud didn’t get women, but talking to a stranger about all of your inner anxieties, past demons, and future doubts is fucking incredible. KEEP DOING IT.

7) Don’t worry about being “ too intense” for some people and tone yourself down. Don’t be with the people whom you can’t be fully vibrant with.

8) Have your life be filled with one-way tickets not dresses.

9) Call your mom more. Seriously. She is fucking badass who brought you into the world, will dance to Michael Jackson with you in a grocery store, and she doesn’t deserve a sassy response 12 hours after she texted you an innocuous question.

10) Also call your dad more. He is also so wonderful and you are fucking lucky to have a great male role model in your life. He grows plants and makes the world more beautiful.

11) Spend more time in places that make you happy.

12) Make the places happy that you don’t always love ( #apartmentjungle).

13) Please dance more. Please, please, please.

14) Traveling the world is the greatest thing you can do with your limited existence on this huge planet.

15) If you can’t write down 5 reasons why you like someone, don’t hang out with them.

16) Talk to people who think differently than you do and really listen.

17) Also get out of the house 15 minutes earlier- the subways are unruly and are under no obligation to stick to a schedule. Ever.

18) Appreciate you got to make it 28 years with only minor physical and emotional damage. Others aren’t so lucky.

19) Stop thinking “ it will only take 5 minutes.” It never does. It never will. Things always take more time, so start planning for that.

20) Talk to more strangers.

21) Appreciate that you live in the greatest city in the world- even if it is overcrowded, overpriced, cacophonous, and occasionally lined with human fluid- it’s the only place you get to be the weirdo you are and no one cares. People travel for thousands of miles just to stand for a moment where you get to walk every day.

22) Be aware that you are what you think.

23) Love the creative path you are on- it may have taken you 28 years to embrace that you are an artist, but for some, it could take a whole lifetime.

24) Don’t worry about not having “a real job.” Worry about not making enough of the magic that is within you.

25) Don’t think you have to finish books. If it isn’t pulling you in, put it down, and pick up something that is.

26) Tell people you love and appreciate them more. You have a fucking awesome social group, and you are not entitled to them. Tell them you love them. Tell them you love them. Tell them you love them.

27) Be fucking kind to yourself. Stop telling yourself that you aren’t good enough, that you are fat, and weird looking. The last two don’t matter and the first one is bullshit.

28) You come from a line of weird, wild, and wonderful women. Don’t let them down.

How to Eliminate Gender Violence

I wanted to share the recording of the AMAZING panel discussion I was so grateful to be on at Fordham University with the powerhouses Tayo Rockson Ceasar Fernando Barajas and Brooke Currence about eliminating gender violence.

The panel was in support of the HeForShe campaign, which addresses the issues of gender equality.  The movement recognizes that gender inequality is not just a woman’s issue, but is a human rights issue and how people of all backgrounds can work to level the playing field for everyone.

You can listen here to the conversation.

Gender violence could be your boyfriend telling you “ You’re pathetic” or your girlfriend pushing you. Gender violence could be your male role models telling you to “man up.” Gender violence could be someone being cyberbullied because they are gay. Gender violence could be someone forcing you to perform uncomfortable sexual acts.

Gender violence happens to all genders, races, cultures, ethnicities, sexualities, and ages. Gender violence doesn’t discriminate and is not exclusive to women.

Gender violence is more than just the physical bruises, the skewed statistics, and the fear of traveling alone. It’s the stories that we are told about gender in the first place, and these stories have always been violent. These stories have barricaded humans into behaving in this way or that pushing us to conform to behaviors, attitudes, and lifestyles based on a singular superficial piece of flesh between our thighs. Gender violence can be caused by not conforming to the role that was thrust onto without your choosing.

Gender violence is telling boys they can’t be ballerinas and girls they can’t be football players. Gender violence is believing in the concept of boys and girls in the first place. Gender violence is as much psychological as it is physical.

Can we easily eradicate the story of gender dichotomy, which has roots so tenaciously deep in our cultural systems and social psyche that grown and spread for thousands of years? Probably not in my lifetime. But last night was a glimpse into what the world could look like if we start opening up about these sticky conversations. It was a true honor to speak beside such wonderful intersectional allies like Tayo Rockson Ceasar Fernando Barajas and Brooke Currence on eliminating gender violence at Fordham University on Wednesday, March 14th, 2018. It was a powerful and personal experience, and I can only hope to continue to create spaces where people can open up to taboo conversations.

We might not eliminate gender violence tonight, but we can reframe the conversation so that women can take agency of their sexuality and men can start expressing their feelings. We can start doing that today. Right now. We can let boys cry and we can tell girls they can be strong. We can stop negating an individual’s human experience, which is so beautifully unlikely to begin with and we shouldn’t limit how it could be enjoyed.

 

BenCFeminist

 

I mean common. If Benedict Cumberbatch is a feminist, can’t we all be feminists?!

Strangers Abroad Podcast Has a New Hashtag!

Hey there strangers!

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***We have decided upon a #hashtag***

If you are interested in having your story featured on our Instagram, podcast, or this travel blog then #wisdomfromtheworld.

I want to hear about all the stories you have experienced abroad and the lessons the world has taught you: the long journeys, awkward encounters, favorite feasts, and the places you never wanted to leave.