Parts Truly Unknown

On Friday morning, I get a text at 6 a.m. from my friend Angela informing me that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.  She knew how much I liked him and knew this would be hard for me to hear. My husband was on his way out for work as I read out the text to him.  He said, “I know. I didn’t want to wake you up with that news.” But he knew, it wouldn’t matter how it came, the news was not good.

The rest of the day and now, I still feel a sense of sadness as I know I am not the only one. The media has continually been interviewing his friends, showing past Parts Unknown (his show on CNN), and my social media is covered with his face.  Mainly, because I follow many chefs. I have a big interest in the culinary scene due to Bourdain.

After a pilgrimage to Italy in 2006 which came with much anxiety because of fear of travel, my craving for food and travel grew.  At that time, to my knowledge, there were not many travel shows other than Rick Steves and Samantha Brown.  Much to my delight, the Travel Channel gave us No Reservations where I first became acquainted with Bourdain’s witty culinary ways.  It right away captured for me an escape from my life in concrete Phoenix suburbia, track house living.

The trip to Italy placed a sense of adventure in me that I knew had to be somewhat contained. Let me preface here, my life is greatly blessed.  To date, my husband and I have traveled abroad two more times after our first Italy trip (London, Paris, Italy again). We travel within the States quite often.  However, I long for travel in the sense that I would like to discover it like Bourdain captured it.  Places not necessarily on the tourist map.

On Sunday’s, I would look forward to his latest episode.  Where was he now? Thailand. Croatia. Turkey. Sicily.  His demeanor was also a familiar connection to me.  He had a bad boy, rebellious nature. Reminded me of my youthful past and the group of friends I hung around with. His taste in music too was much like mine. A like of rock n roll and classics.  His wit also had me laughing as I was amused by how no matter whom he had in his show, he never changed himself to interact with them.  He had them laughing. Giving me a sense that no matter what part of the world you are in, we are all the same.

Once his show went from the Travel Network to CNN, I stayed with it.  I adapted a viewer relationship via his program.  This means about 12 years of fan watching.  And with social media, there became another connection.  It gave the fan a closer connection to his person who we all believed had the best job in the world. Travel and eat the best food. What could be better? He was the one who introduced me to taking pictures of food and share my experience of it.

He was also very vocal on Twitter about social issues.  One in particular had to with the Mexican immigrant and how interwoven their culinary skills are wrapped in America’s fabric.  Always pointing out that if we were to walk into any kitchen across the U.S., you would for sure find Mexicans working the kitchen, citizen or not.

Bourdain was not a believer.  Often on his show, he would give a tidbit on how he couldn’t rationalize believing in a higher power.  I don’t recall him ever pointing out one god over another or Jesus in particular, but he was clear he didn’t believe in any of it. Even when his close friend Eric Rippert was on his show speaking about Buddhism, you could see Bourdain wasn’t fully embracing.  Despite him not having faith, I never heard him bash anyone for believing.  But I know, it would strike him if he felt a religion was, in his view, destroying a people or nation.

So why do I dedicate a blog to him?

Bourdain’s suicide not only shook me, but it had my mind going.  I thought of my cousin Gil who committed suicide in 2010.  Thought of my Godmother who was married to him, his two sons, his family. All of us who went through that day with them. The feeling of life spiraling out of control. The big black hard depth of despair.  The confusion. The pain.

Here we all saw this man Bourdain on TV just about every week or on social media, seeming to live the life we all wanted. Celebration. Laughter. Good food and beautiful environments. But it wasn’t all true. I mean, did he have that?  Yes, I do believe he did. But he also had demons that wouldn’t let him go.

In his early life, he became addicted to heroin.  He spoke about the struggles of it and also shared how he was ‘recovered’, yet always conveying, recovery is day to day. Each day, he worked at it as many recovered addicts do.  I understand this well.  My Dad was a recovered addict. Difference was, my Dad found Jesus and lived his life with freedom from it.

However, from current family who is an addict, heroin is the worst of all drugs you could ever become addicted to.  This is one that has effects for the rest of your life. Now, that’s what I have heard scientifically, but I place all in God and know that if Jesus was in their life, it would be different. And you know, I’m no expert and I don’t want to go into heroin effects, mental illness, when is it not mental illness and we call it a demon, or lack of faith issues.  I don’t have expertise to discuss.

But what I do want to write about is the soul and how our faith responds to someone who has taken their life.

Because Bourdain was a self confessed non believer, my thought process on his passing made me think about the soul like I haven’t encountered before.  Some of his fans were leaving comments on Twitter or Instagram, saying things like “hope you have peace now in heaven or hell wherever you are’, or ‘give them hell’, etc.  I thought what darkness!

In my prayer time and reflection about Gil came forth. Thinking about his time of death and what we as a family learned. Although, Gil did believe in Jesus and was Catholic, family was confused on whether his soul went to heaven. And what I found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church forever changed my outlook.

Suicide

2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

Bourdain stood up for the marginalized. He brought to light topics of the poor, no one else was touching in this form of media. He used his celebrity to bring witness, life that the world sees as dejected because they don’t live like we live.  But in reality showed more riches in their cooking or family members.   In a sense, we saw the Beatitude come to life “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  And he used that compassion, which I believe was placed in him by God. Even though, he never claim that. And it wasn’t always about the poor, but sharing stories of those living with wars around them.

In God’s mercy, we leave his soul and others who have taken their lives in such despair.  For we really do not know. I for one need to be aware to check on another.  From the one who we think has it all together to the one who looks like they are crumbling.

My food pics and travel will forever have root in Anthony Bourdain. For these I leave…

*******

Help us Lord to be more aware. Help us with courage to speak to those who do not show their belief in you Jesus, so that we may direct them to your love and mercy.  For we know as St. Peter says “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Heaven is not out there only in the sky, but can by the grace of God, can be attained in the heart with true joy.  In how Your peace can allow them to breathe again. +++

Rome…veramente!

For the past couple of years, I’ve been bugging my husband about returning to Rome for a vacation.  However, lately, it’s really been aching me.

 

Thankfully, we have been to Italy twice – 2006 and 2008.  Both experiences helped us to see a little bit more of Italy.  Stops in Venice, Orvieto, Assisi, San Gimignano, Pisa, Siena, Chianti, Florence, Castel Gandolfo, and of course, Rome.

Since I was little, I have had a love for all things Italian. My favorite food has always been Italian and to clarify I’m American-Mexican.  My family still to this day likes to joke with me on how this makes no sense.  I can’t deny what it is I have passion for.  How do you fake it?

When we traveled to Rome in 2006 for a pilgrimage, everything catapult to whole new level of love.  I felt a strong connection to the culture, food, art, and spirit.  Needless to say, my Catholic faith grew because it was visibly all around.  Not like back home!

When we went back to Italy in 2008, I went with deeper appreciation, although I was still recovering from CDiff, so I couldn’t fully embrace due to stomach issues.

It’s now been 9 years and lately, I feel like I have some restlessness these days about traveling back.

As we know, the political times are not good.  Talks of war between the U.S. and North Korea are heightened everyday.  My husband feels now isn’t the time to go and when I share about that with others, some say, is it ever the right time?

It makes me sad.  How beautiful and diverse our world is created by our Father God to seek and learn from.   To grow with our neighbor, to share in prosperity of brotherhood, and to reap joy in our differences.  But yet, North Korea has a different outlook and now all the world waits to see what will happen next.  I know I’m not the only one who is praying for this threat to end.

But aside from this, my love for Italy is going a bit bonkers these days.  I live in an area where there isn’t much culture.  There isn’t much variety.  For whatever reason, it just isn’t here.  I would love more self owned bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants that serve more than bar food, gelato shops instead of yogurt (please I’m so done with yogurt spots around here), and entertainment spots.  I try not to get me down, but when you want your heart to be filled with something, 2nd place doesn’t fill the void.

I always say, “if I ever win the lottery”… I would open up a bakery that provides international treats and best Italian coffee.   Name I won’t share. However, I would make sure to hire the appropriate pastry chef who can bake pastries from all over the world.

Question: What do you do when your heart yearns so much for something, but can’t be fulfilled?

     

I think I need to start praying to our Lord more intently and asking Him to replace this because it’s a bit consuming sometimes.

Until we can get to Rome, I’ll continue listening to my favorite Italian Radio http://studiodelta.radio.it/ , buy cappuccinos pretending they taste like Rome, dine at Italian restaurants who somewhat serve like Italy, view images off of Instagram,  and try new recipes.

Viva Roma!

 

This song is by Mario Venuti – Veramente

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Vegas Food

My husband and I get to Vegas at least twice a year.  I am fortunate to travel with him when he attends a conference first half of year and now for some reason, we love to go during the holidays.  The hotels go all out in their decor and that’s something I like to see and divulge myself in.

Over the years, I’ve become more familiar with the food circuit in Vegas. Either through chance, family reference, or food travel shows.

Vegas to me isn’t about gambling and club life. Vegas to me is food, food, food!!!  Vegas is Disneyland for adults!  It also has become an international mecca for me as it includes cuisine from all over the world.  It is also a spot where many foreigners gather.  Almost makes me feel like I am out of the country.

Here are a few pics of places I’ve gone to.

Places I like to eat/drink when in Vegas:

  • Paris Hotel – Mon Ami Gabi:  French Onion Soup
  • Aria – Carbone:  Bologonese
  • Aria – Todd English:  Fish and Chips
  • Aria – Jean Philippe Patisserie
  • Venetian  – Mario Batali/Otto Enoteca: Squash blossoms, antipasti
  • Venetian – Carlo’s Bakery:  Italian butter cookies
  • Caesar’s Palace – Francois Payard:  Macarons
  • Caesar’s Palace – Bejing Noodle
  • Bellagio – Buffet – Variety
  • Bellagio – Cafe
  • New York New York – Gallagher’s
  • Mirage – BLD:  Adult shakes
  • Cromwell – Giada: Bloody Mary and Rigatoni

 

 

Westminster Cathedral – London, United Kingdom

Just learned that my cousins will be traveling to Europe this August.  One of their stops will be Paris, France.  When my husband blessed me to London and Paris in 2011 for my 40th birthday, the talk of Euro trip made me want to run through our pics of our trip.

We visited London and Paris in the month of April. Most perfect time. Spring time!

It was also Holy Week.  Some may think why would we travel during the most holiest time of the year.  I used to think the same way until we experienced it in different places other than our home town.  And now, I want to do it more often.

We attended Solemn Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion at Westminster Cathedral.  Of course before we left, I researched parishes so that we wouldn’t miss Holy Week activities.  Westminster was closest to our hotel.

I love the fact that wherever we are, I feel right in tune with the rest of the parishioners. Not missing a beat! Westminster was grand and beautiful. I really wasn’t expecting that type of facade, but then again we had just toured St Paul’s Cathedral. Really enjoyed it’s old history worn look.

Sacré-Cœur – Paris, France

My cousin is currently touring Paris and her experiences she’s been sharing, made me think of our time there.

Before going to Paris, I of course, checked off the places I wanted to visit.  My husband only had one desire and that was the Latin District because of their food.  We for sure went there…twice!

On the day we visited Galleries Lafayette, we headed out of this magnificent shopping center to find a place to eat.  We walked, walked, slow walked, fumbled, and began finding ourselves frustrated.  From leaving the Galleries, we thought for sure we would run into a nice bistro, but for some reason we kept making turns into more buildings that didn’t provide any food or drink.  We were lost!!!

So as my husband said “let’s just go down this way and if we don’t find anything, we’ll find a cab and go back to an area we know”.  Fine.  I agreed as I was dizzy and hungry.

So we walked and found some passers-by.  Shops started to appear here and there. Next thing we see, is a cafe.  Meats and cheeses. Breads. Olives. Jams. And of course, wine!!  We had no idea that we were now in Montmarte.

We felt like we died and gone to heaven. Right away, the waiter provides us a table facing outward to the street. Sets us up and gives us full attention. The bites were delicious!!! My husband and I couldn’t believe how delighted and joyful we were at what we stumbled upon.  And while we were almost done, I remember peeking out towards the right and looking up in between some high trees and noticed a steeple.  I couldn’t believe what my eyes were showing me.  So I focused again. Then I asked the waiter, “is that Sacre-Coeur?????”  He said, “Yes!”

I jumped out of my seat and told my husband, we got to go! It’s not that far and we are already so close. We can’t let go of this opportunity.  Good thing the food refueled us. We were now on our way to this historic church that I only read about and had marked down on my planner to see, but due to time and it appearing that it was not going to be in our radius to visit, I had scratched it off and figured, we wouldn’t see it.

We arrived in about 10 minutes.

It was everything I thought it would be.  We stood there at the bottom of the steps and admired it.  My husband was ready to move on and I said…”we have to go inside.”  He said, “the only way in is by these steps.”  I said, “let’s go!”  To reach top, it took 270 steps.  The views were amazing.   There were many visitors around just enjoying this spot.  You could see the city clearly on this late afternoon.

We get to the line where people are forming to go inside the church.  And as we get closer, there’s a big sign stating “NO CAMERAS, NO VIDEO, NO PICTURES PLEASE!”  I wish I could’ve taken pictures inside.  Even now, it’s hard for me to remember what I saw and wished I would’ve written it down.  But I do recall it’s design and thinking it didn’t look like most cathedrals from that time.  The altars made me wonder who had come to pray at them.  The main altar glistened in gold. The candles flickered  in every direction. The respect inside was evident.  You were in a sacred space.  My husband and I prayed and thanked God for bringing us here.

How is it that we ended up in this spot?  All the wrong ways we thought we were taking and yet they were not.  The recognition was fully there that Our Gracious God had led us to Sacre-Coeur.   To experience not only this basilica, but to embrace its name as well.  This basilica is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  What it is, what it stands for, speaks to our visit there more than just taking in its views.  But from what my husband and I experienced in our time of marriage, what I experienced in my 40 years of life (trip was a birthday and anniversary celebration) was hallmarked in this adventure.

How I ask in my prayers that our marriage be consecrated in His Most Sacred Heart.

Thank you Jesus for the glories, the graces, the adventures you have given us to not only experience for travel sake, but for the soul and our relationship to You in them all. +++