Last week my sister Judy, while working on her memoirs, asked me to recall some of the vacations we had taken together. We started naming the big ones...Paris, Florence, Amsterdam, and the small ones...Disney World (at least twenty times), Sarasota, and most recently Naples, Florida. We reminisced about the wonderful trips with our children and the romantic ones with Arthur and Allan. We remembered my first time in a luxury resort...the Phoenician in Scottsdale, Arizona. I first walked in and exclaimed my discomfort with the opulent surroundings. We were still young enough to be impressed with a clean Holiday Inn, and the Phoenician’s chandelier was seemingly worth more than the entire Holiday Inn we had last stayed in.
It took me about two hours to feel totally at home and two days to realize I definitely wanted more of this lifestyle. I immediately broadened my book reviewing skills to include travel reviews and spent the next ten or so years reviewing as many luxury hotels as we could fit into our schedules. It was fun, and I learned to get over my college girl disdain for the material things in life.
Each trip did leave its mark on me, as Anthony Bourdain explained, and I became a better person for them. We played with Beluga whales in Vancouver and watched the fish tosses in Seattle, and both adventures made me more aware of the sea. Hiking through Kings Canyon in California heightened my awareness of the beauty of nature, and traveling through Europe made me braver.
Food has always been an integral part of our travel experiences, and Anthony Bourdain’s adventures made us all a little braver. The first time I ate sweetbreads I felt as though I was crossing the Rubicon...passing the point of no return. Of course my insane allergies put a damper on my adventurous food spirit, so at times I must be satisfied with watching Arthur try the absolutely weirdest things on various menus. Every now and again though, I find a chef who will make me something delightfully different while working within my allergies, and those are indeed the best of all meals.
Of course those same allergies have introduced me to some of the top chefs in the country, so I am not complaining. Always one to be proactive, I have spent the last twenty years checking with chefs before eating in their restaurants. The use of MSG is pervasive and used in many foods unknowingly, and that is my most disturbing allergy. I met with Wolfgang Puck when he was still a chef at Spago in L.A. and before he became a rock star, and I remember when Chicago’s legendary Charlie Trotter offered to give me a tour of his Kitchen. I found that the bigger the chef, the more apt they are to share the secrets of their kitchens. Even the chefs in Europe worked with me as I tried to communicate in unfamiliar languages in my quest to enjoy the foods of the world.
So yes, Anthony Bourdain, whatever it was that caused you to take your last trip in a realm you can not share with us, I hope you find a buffet of the finest (and weirdest ) foods to feast on, and I hope that you know that you left an indelible mark on those of us that vicariously shared your adventures.
David Bell left a little mark on me with his book, Somebody I Use To Know. First love is a tough one to get over, and when his first love, Marissa, died in a fire, Nick Hansen spent the next twenty years grieving her death. When he spies a young woman with Marissa’s looks and characteristics in a nearby grocery store, his search for a muddled truth begins.
As always, a complete review of this book follows this blog.