I don’t know exactly when I first saw Anthony Bourdain on TV. It must have been one of the first episodes of No Reservations on the Discovery Channel. He visited Iceland and even though it wasn’t much for food I kept watching having once been to this country. His somewhat sarcastic outlook, his willingness to try everything and his fondness for 70s punkrock struck a chord. When I started writing about beer he was a big influence. I knew that a slew of food allergies would prevent me from ever writing about food as he did, but I could tackle beer at least. The shows turned me onto his books. Both his television work and books were about more than just the food, they were also about the role that food played in the culture, sometimes he even went as far as to completely forgo the food and just talk about the history and culture of a part of the world. And my aim has always been to show the role beer and everything related to it plays in the world.
Then came the sad news that he took his own life while filming in France.
He never visited The Netherlands for an hour long episode of any of his shows and I can understand that. His only visit to Amsterdam was in 1970 when he, like so many other around that time, slept in the Vondelpark. Living here is great and the food is great too, but the local delicacies are few and not really worth a trip for. He did record an episode of The Layover where he stays in a city for 36 hours and eats and visits places. And in those 36 hours he basically ate what all tourists though. Some snacks but nothing earth shattering. Some cafes, pancakes, herring and yes even the FEBO. If you like fried stuff and have never been here visit one of these. It’s a wonderful smorgasbord of fried stuff with influences from Indonesia, America, Germany and more.
But there is one part of the episode that is very exciting. For a few hours he visited In De Wildeman. He sat outside with Dutch actor Cees Geel and drank beers. And for once he actually seems to enjoy sitting somewhere and not be part of the touristy nightmare that it most of Amsterdam. No more talk of prostitutes, herring and drugs.
A person on the local production staff always liked In De Wildeman and somehow got it into the show. And he really is as long as they say in the city. No fancy editing or lying. 36 hours is 36 hours. If you seem him tired and cranky, it is because he is.
Beer is a common thread throughout all of Bourdain’s work. When you watch an episode, notice that he is usually drinking a beer at a meal. Whether this is in Europe or his beloved South-East Asia, a bottle of cold beer is usually standing on the table. Wine and spirits only when the item in the show is particularly about it.
After the episode aired, and especially after his death, people who visit Amsterdam sometimes try and visit all the places that Bourdain went to on his short trip. And of course In De Wildeman is part of that pilgrimage. Quite often people come up to the In De Wildeman staff to say they are there because of Bourdain.
The few hours spent there is what every traveler to Amsterdam should do. A quiet oasis of bliss in an otherwise overcrowded city.
Oh, and about that smoking of the weed you are probably wondering about? Throughout the episode he jokingly abstains from doing it, because of television rules and regulation in the US. But legend has it he did go smoke afterwards. And that it wasn’t a short time…