By Alia Volz
I met Bourdain at a book event at a fancy restaurant maybe ten years ago. Nice guy, but that's not my point. He'd ordered a manhattan, and after a few sips, wandered off to schmooze, leaving his cocktail sweating on the table in front of me. So I drank it. Which I admit was a creepy thing to do. But I wanted to know how the great food writer took his manhattans.
While traveling through Vietnam recently, my husband and I spent hours maneuvering though a claustrophobic wet market in search of the woman Bourdain said made the best bún bò Huế in the region. Past tubs of writhing river eels and stacks of fly-swarmed chicken carcasses reeking in the steamy morning. We finally found her tucked in the back of a bustling food court, and I have to say the soup was incredible. Spicy and fragrant enough to eclipse the stink of the market. My mouth waters with the memory.
Celebrity deaths are strange. People we feel we knew because they shared bright bits of themselves on TV or in books. One-sided friendships, wherein we greedily consumed whatever they offered up without having to reciprocate. Everyone so shocked by the news, even stricken. Bourdain encouraged us to milk each drop of pleasure from life. Why did we assume that meant he was happy? I'm saddened to learn that he felt down enough to harm himself. And sorry he's no longer here to lead us through crazy markets to the lady with the richest bone broth in town.
Perfect, by the way. He took his manhattans "perfect, on the rocks."