Anthony Bourdain’s masculinity was an antidote to Trumpian machismo

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Suzanne Moore

He was a man’s man who supported women, offering an insight into how to be human in a divisive and difficult age

Anthony Bourdain in New York in 2000.
Anthony Bourdain in New York in 2000. Photograph: DAVID RENTAS / Rex Features
Anthony Bourdain in New York in 2000. Photograph: DAVID RENTAS / Rex Features

Last modified on Mon 20 Aug 2018 04.07 EDT

‘There is nothing more political than food. Who eats? Who doesn’t? Why do people cook what they cook?” said the great and, I can barely bear to say it, late Anthony Bourdain. There you have: the cultural, the political, the beautiful economy of this man’s understanding of people. And an answer to all the dolts who comment “what about Syria?” under every restaurant review or recipe.

I am not a foodie but I loved to watch him eat. I loved his joy in simplicity. A Spanish omelette after a visit to a dope cafe. The noodles. The food in Gaza. The breaking of bread with others. His listening. Not all raconteurs listen, but he really could. Foreignness was to be ribbed, imbibed, explored, marvelled at. God, what a lesson for the US.

Along the way, he met the #MeToo movement in the shape of his girlfriend, the actor Asia Argento, and he listened and became an unlikely ally. This man’s man – a man of knives and tats and dirty kitchens – exemplified a masculinity that could support women. This was the absolute opposite of precarious and fearful Trumpian machismo. I don’t doubt there may have been other sides of Bourdain that were sad and dark. But when he was on a beach with Iggy Pop, asking about happiness and survival, there was something great about these guys who were unafraid to talk about empathy, and love.

I loved too that he hated passionately: brioche buns, room-service hamburgers, karaoke. He said travel can hurt and that it can change you. “It leaves marks on your memory, on your consiousness, on your heart and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

He did. Yes he did.