Terrible Weekend

June 12, 2018

Like almost everyone in the food community, I’ve spent the past few days mourning Tony Bourdain. He wasn’t a close friend, but I’ve known him for at least twenty years and watched, gratefully, as he changed the food landscape.  More than anyone, he was the person who persuaded a wide swath of Americans that food is much more important than merely something to eat.  He went beyond the delicious to demonstrate that it’s one of the fundamental ways we connect with one another.  He made it his mission to prove that food is really about community and politics, about economics, the environment, culture and history.

He mattered, and it’s almost impossible to believe that he’s gone.

I was on Cape Cod when the news arrived, speaking at a charity function for a wonderful institution called We Can dedicated to helping women in transition at difficult points in their lives.  We were, of course, talking about food and community.  And as I went out, alone, to walk along the beach in the early morning, thinking about Tony, I was glad to be there. I wished there had been someplace Tony could have reached out  to when he was in so much pain.

Then I drove to Truro, to a workshop at another wonderful institution, The Castle Hill Center for the Arts. There for a writing workshop, we were all so sad that we dedicated our  time to Tony’s work.  We began by reading his first seminal piece for the New Yorker, and then some pieces from Gourmet.  I especially like this one.

And then, of course, we ate.  It seemed appropriate to celebrate Tony’s life with food. Here are a few highlights.

Fried belly clams.  There are dozens of places to get them on the Cape.  My favorite in Wellfleet is PJ’s. (These are not theirs – I forgot to take that picture. These are from another place down the road, whose name I neglected to write down.  But it’s hard to find bad fried clams on the Cape.)

Baked Wellfleet oysters from Terra Luna restaurant – one of the coziest, friendliest restaurants you’ll ever find.  They describe their food as “rustic neo-pagan” which seemed just about perfect for that moment.

A plate of homemade salumi from Ceraldi’s – the most ambitious and impressive restaurant in the area.  They’re making their own coppa, pancetta, bresaola – and that bagna cauda beneath the radish was really delicious.  (As was everything we ate in a long meal, from crisp local oysters with samphire, to locally raised chicken and a rhubarb panna cotta.)

Had more fried clams on the way home.  And then, back in Hudson, stopped in at Oak Pizzeria Napoletana for a wood-fired clam pizza.  Seemed like a fitting end to this particular journey.

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  • greg says:

    good column, and with good dining to help digest the grief.

  • Patti says:

    Ruth, thank you so much for your email today. I have only been a fan of Anthony Bourdain’s, but I really have been saddened and upset since I heard the news of his death. I have read all of his books, and seen all of his shows. I even own a lot of his shows on DVD, and watch them over and over again for enjoyment and food inspiration. He felt like my funny, snarky, and wise friend – even though I never met him. He was just so vibrant and alive – it really is hard to believe that he is gone. Thank you for helping us all to cope and process this profound loss. I truly hope that if anyone who is reading this is hurting, that they reach out for help. Peace, Patti

  • Gerlinde says:

    Thank you foe helping us with grief of loosing Antony Bourdain . He was such an interesting character and shared his demoes with all of us. May he rest in peace. The oysters look great. I have to check out those interesting workshops.

  • Gerlinde says:

    Oh my god, I just saw all the mistakes I made. Please remove both comments. Thank you.

  • Janice Rogers says:

    Wow! That’s all I can say. Just finished “Save me the Plums” and it was the most amazing book I’ve read recently (and I read a lot!).
    As a foodie, of course, I followed your career at the NY Times and your editorship at Gourmet. (I was a friend of Anne Semmes and while my business at the time had me driving all over northern NJ, I was able to alert Anne to new restaurants to review. (She competed with Valerie Sinclair at the time). I was lucky enough to be invited to tag along to several review dinners, including Peter Kelly’s Xavier’s and Freelance Cafe. (Anne left her handbag at Freelance one night, leading to the staff discovering her true identity…false Amex card, etc…in their effort to return it to her.) Anyway, I loved Gourmet, and read it from cover to cover during your editorship and before. I applauded the changes and was stunned by the closure.
    So, that brings me to the empathy part of my email. I worked for a publishing company on Cape Cod, Lighthouse Media Solutions for 15 years. On December 20th, the company held the annual holiday luncheon party. The owner, Rusty Piersons, did not attend. (Rusty loved that party!, so where was he??)
    The next day, just before noon, he called me and let me know that he would be sending out an email to all employees that he would be closing the business.
    At noon Rusty sent an email to all 20 employees, informing them/us
    that as of 5 pm that day the company and the 15 magazines Lighthouse published would permanently close. We were all out of a job, closed out of our databases, etc.
    This, as you can imagine, on Cape Cod was big news! While many people focused on the timing (how could Rusty do this right before Christmas!), for me it was not exactly a bad thing. My son, Alex was home from college and we had a busy holiday schedule, living in downtown Chatham with friends to celebrate with, including First Night Chatham with fireworks from our little downtown deck. So, a distraction of a week. (Who can look for job during the holidays?)
    Three of us met here, at our “Chatham” office the day after the announcement. Lisa Connors, editor of Chatham Magazine and Cape Cod Magazine (who attended your event at WE CAN), our art director, Eric Brust and myself.
    We decided to forge ahead and publish at least one new magazine. On May 1st, “Chatham Living by the Sea” will be unveiled at a launch party at Chatham Bars Inn.
    The support of the business community has been beyond belief!
    I am making your book required reading for my editor and (hopefully) my art director. (He doesn’t do much reading!)
    I have been in advertising sales for the past 15 years….the editors used to get mad at me for selling too many ads…..if it led to them having to cut editorial. It took some time to get them to realize that without ad sales, there would be no editorial.
    We have been incredibly lucky, the business community has supported our effort with this new magazine, has trusted us to produce it! I can’t tell you how much I loved your book, the insight into the magazine world, especially the “teeosee” and “adjcency.” We spent a night at “Bluefins” a local Chatham sushi restaurant, working on “adjacency.” With only the three of us (and our wonderful freelance writers and photographers) I actually get to review the blink/flat plan and move things around!
    You are and have been such an inspiration. I want to re-read your book with a highlighter.
    After I finished reading it this morning I felt all day long as if I could taste every thing your described! Living on Cape Cod is somewhat of a handy cap, searching for ingredients….my husband (now deceased) and I were in the Foreign Service for a while and had access to every ingredient possible! I grew up in Northern NJ and your mention of the grasshoppers brought back memories of my day taking me to Packards in Hackensack. He was equally enthralled with strange ingredients. Having been practically an orphan, raised in boarding schools, he would never eat pasta (macaroni) or wear corduroy and embarked on a culinary quest as a dad. He would take us to the Fulton Fish Market….his building was located at 30 Church Street, and he would bring home fresh fish, while my friends were eating Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks. Your mention of the Clambake, brought back memories of the arrival of a large wooden cask from Damariscotta, ME, filled with lobsters, packed in seaweed to our Teaneck, NJ home. OK, more than enough about me. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your book!

  • Janice Rogers says:

    PS Went to the Cook Shop in Brewster today to source ingredients for your spicy noodles.
    They are ordering the black bean paste w/garlic!