ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - On Friday, the news of the untimely death of Anthony Bourdain, aged 61, the renowned American chef, traveler, and TV personality shocked fans and friends he had across the globe.
Employers at the US news network CNN said the cause of death was suicide. Bourdain had hung himself at a hotel room in Paris, arguably the most prominent of the culinary capitals of the world.
"If anybody dies today, it will be from the crushing boredom, simmering frustration, and paralyzing futility at the Turkish border [with Iraq]," he once said in a program aired on the Travel Channel. "I'm thinking of volunteering for the cavity search just to relieve boredom."
That was not the day Bourdain died. And he was obviously not there to recount only the "boredom," perhaps the slightest of all trouble, people of Kurdistan have to go through on the borders that divide their homeland.
It was 2011 when he experienced what thousands of Kurds do when traveling or working in their homeland of Kurdistan, which spans the four modern states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
A few years were to pass before the long-denied, forbidden name of Kurdistan made worldwide headlines, thanks to the Kurdish resistance to a genocidal Islamic State (IS) onslaught across Syria and Iraq.
In that episode of his show, No Reservations, he acquainted his audience with Kurdish cuisine, namely mastaw -a salted yogurt drink, dolma -vegetable and leaves stuffed with rice, and family hospitality during a "delightful weekend" picnic in the mountains of Kurdistan.
The chef entertained himself with the company of some relaxed American servicemen deployed to Iraq, but not exactly in Iraq because they were in Kurdistan and safe among a friendly people. It was a war he fiercely opposed, yet he confessed to its meaning for the Kurds.
Bourdain did not show only the "Iraqi" Kurdistan. He also dared to include the "Turkish" Kurdistan in his show.
His trip began in Kurdistan's capital of Erbil, then to the Barzan region, where to this day elderly women wear all black in eternal mourning for thousands of men and boys they lost to the former Iraqi regime's genocidal Anfal campaign. He then continued north, across the border into Turkey and the city of Mardin.
The author of this article vividly remembers the exhilarating happiness his mother expressed -less for the display of the local dish, well-cooked lamb ribs on savar, a type of bulgur wheat, and more upon seeing Mardin as Kurdistan on international TV.
After all, for her, it was testimony that there were people, strangers with an understanding voice from faraway lands, that cared about her people's plight. It was a validation of the sacrifices she painfully witnessed most of her life, in the form of Turkish state's harsh suppression of the Kurdish right to self-rule, identity, language, and culture.
Watch it below.
Editing by John J. Catherine