I remember watching Anthony Bourdain's TV programme on Iran and thinking to myself how well he captured the essence of our culture - with all its richness and glaring contradictions.

This is how Bourdain reflected on his trip to Iran: "of all the places, of all the countries, it's here, in Iran, that I am greeted most warmly by total strangers".

Bourdain, an American, experienced this warm reception in a country whose cities are dotted with state-sponsored murals that feature "Death to America".

Many people watching the programme would have been surprised to find a nation supposedly so hostile to America, was so warm and welcoming to an American.


This is because, despite our globally connected world, we know surprisingly little about each other, which is why Bourdain sought to bring people together through food.

His aim was to eliminate fear, because he knew fear was the root cause of hatred and hatred was the biggest obstacle to peace.

Iranians loved the way Bourdain, not only showcased their cuisine, but also their temperament and culture.

For once, they were being portrayed as extremists for all the right reasons: extreme in their love of hospitality and extreme in their generosity toward total strangers.

Bourdain showed the world that the only thing Iranians were capable of killing foreigners with was with their kindness - just ask any tourist who has ever been invited to a dinner or lunch party at someone's house in Iran.

Bourdain understood that political slogans said nothing about real people and real lives- that the best way to get up close and personal with people was to share a meal with them.

This is specially the case in the Middle East where food always takes centre stage and where Bourdain's work was said to have made the most impact.

No wonder then that there has been such an outpouring of love and emotions for Bourdain from Middle-Easterns all over the world.

Palestinians, in particular, are mourning the loss of a close friend as Bourdain was a vocal supporter of Palestinians and did his best to give voice to a people he said were "robbed of their basic humanity".

Bourdain's hate for Henry Kissinger and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, together with his support for undocumented immigrants and minorities were a reflection of his disdain for injustice and his deep sympathy for human suffering.

Given the above, perhaps it is not surprising that he was not happy - no one who is in touch with reality can be - but the fact that he found his life not worth living is a big loss to all the marginalised people on whose behalf he worked and campaigned for.

Bourdain is gone but we can make sure his legacy lives on. We can do this by coming together and rejecting the dehumanisation of others.

Let us also remember what Bourdain taught us- that as diverse as our food is, we all have much more in common in our humanity- and so to make peace, we first need to come together- and what better way to do this than to break bread.

Donna Miles-Mojab is a British-born Iranian living in New Zealand.
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