I was leading a study abroad course in Puerto Rico when I heard that Anthony Bourdain had died. My immediate thought was, "Damn it, we lost another good one." Like most, I had never met Anthony Bourdain, yet he felt like a friend to me. From his very first foray into ethnographic filmmaking and eating around the globe with A Cook's Tour to his more recent Parts Unknown, he kept me company on a regular basis.
For an hour at a time, you could see things through the eyes of someone who was in awe of the people and places before him, someone who had been through the seedier side of life and knew he was lucky to be working his dream job. And while he wasn't trained as an anthropologist, I counted him as one of my own, because he got it.
Food is a cultural universal. We all need it to survive, but food is also much more than just nutrition. Richard Florida, a professor at the Rotman School of Management wrote, "Bourdain used food as his lens to explore and unveil the intersection of human creativity, authenticity, and community. In his travels around the world and in the forgotten corners of his own country, he captured the creativity of real people in real communities."
Bourdain's ability to sit and enjoy a meal that had often been prepared in the most humble of circumstances with the most basic of ingredients was in and of itself a fundamental lesson of anthropology. And it is for this reason, and the pretty tasty food that will be served, that I know that Anthony Bourdain would love the 2nd annual Farm2Fork dinner being hosted on the WIU campus on Wednesday, September 26, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. in the Lamoine Room of the University Union.
Addressing the age old question of, "What’s for dinner?" this Mediterranean-themed meal highlights food that is produced within a 100 mile radius of our community. Working together, students and faculty from the departments of Nutrition; Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Administration; and Anthropology along with Sodexo, the WIU Sustainability Committee and the Macomb Food Co-Op will host a meal featuring bruschetta with erice-style tomato sauce and roasted beets, Mediterranean tomato soup, chicken empanadas, ratatouille over polenta, Moroccan roasted potatoes, green beans with tomatoes and baguettes, plus apple tartlets with brown butter pastry for dessert.
Many of the farmers whose food was sourced to create the local and seasonal menu will be on hand so that diners can get to know the people who produced their food. The Macomb Food Co-op will also have information available for those who are interested in purchasing sustainable, locally sourced food from a community run grocery store.
Tickets for the meal can be purchased in advance and more information is available about the dinner on the TSPR Events page. The cost is $22.50 for the general public and $10 for WIU students.
Anthony Bourdain once said, "If I'm an advocate for anything, it's to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else's shoes or at least eat their food. It's a plus for everybody."
I hope that many of you will take this opportunity to move your dinner location on September 26 to the WIU campus. I am sure that it will be a plus for us all.
Heather McIlvaine-Newsad is a professor of Anthropology at Western Illinois University.
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the university or Tri States Public Radio. Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.