Like many journalists turned multimedia world travelers, I envied Anthony Bourdain.
It seemed like he had the greatest job in the world. Travel to amazing places, hang out with the smartest, most interesting people around, eat delicious, innovative food, and get paid basically to have adventure after adventure.
Before I took off to Myanmar last summer, I made a point of watching the very first episode of parts unknown, just to see what Tony had done and said about that amazing country.
It was because of him that I was so daring all the time, wandering the streets in search of some new restaurant, food, flavor, or experience. It was because of him that I boarded the rickety ramshackle trains and set off into a country side of rice patties, monsoon rains, and amazing people.
I even connected with what Tony was talking about, because I spent my college years working in restaurant kitchens, learning how to cook, and seeing the other side of life. He had this amazing ability to connect to people, via the shared experience of preparing food, and then sitting down, Eating it, talking about what you’re eating, and thereby broadening the conversation to everything else that was going on around you.
Little food stands like this one in Yangon had strange & crazy mixes of cuisine from all over the world. Super-spicy Vietnamese noodles and Indian samosas.
I find that it really helps my understanding of a culture to not just eat their food – but to shop in their markets, to see the raw building blocks that the locals work with. For some reason, apples were really, really popular, despite (or perhaps because?) being impossible to grow in the steamy Myanmar climate.
Food and conversation are a natural pair.
Chocolate samosas in the Rangoon Tea House, paired with a Viennese espresso, and a spicy Burmese salad.
There’s something universal about sitting at a table and putting food into your mouth, talking and gesturing with a bite, gulping a beer to cool off the spicy burn …