I write this after the news of Anthony Bourdain’s passing has hit. He was one of my favorites to watch on the Travel Channel and CNN, and I thought to write something deep and insightful but I have yet to finish my first cup of coffee, so my mind drifted and a phrase popped into my head. Buen Provecho, translation? Enjoy your meal. The three countries I have gone to that use this phrase is Puerto Rico, United States, and France.
When it is said in the States, I believe it is said with only a hint of care. It is said mostly by servers who get paid the bare minimum and who by and large don’t care. The fake smile and infliction in the voice is the same for each table, granted if you are a regular you might have a vaguely different experience and there now runs an 80% chance the server will care if something is wrong with your food, but in all actuality it is the servers job to take your order and bring it to you, plastered smiles and all.
“Enjoy your meal,” as they run to the next table or back to the server stations.
“Buen Provecho,” says the mesera.
“Buen Provecho,” says the family next to you.
“Buen Provecho,” says the old man passing by.
“Gracias, igual,” you say to all of them.
In Puerto Rico meals are taken seriously. This is a time that is more often then not spent with family. In addition, the food is prepared with such love that everyone can’t help but wish you a good meal. When you’re in PR and eating, you are tasting it’s history, you are sampling what Puerto Ricans are made of. The flavors of the Taino, African, and Spaniards blend so wonderfully into something that brings you to a home you didn’t know you had.
Even in my college years, everyone understood just how hard it was to get a full meal between classes, so many times I would be walking to the library eating a bag of chips, and people would wish me a good meal regardless.
Puerto Rico is known for it’s friendliness and meal time is no different. Puerto Ricans will always wish you a good meal, because it is a good meal. Anthony Bourdain himself could attest for how wonderful the island and food was something that could make him real happy.
France. The quintessential “Bon Appetit,” I only heard it said a couple of times, with the Parisian cockiness that oozed confidence. They knew that their food was good, great. Frances food made me happy beyond belief. It was delicate, and made with care. Whereas the Germans put their brainpower into engineering, the French put theirs into the food, and it shows.
French cuisine is known worldwide, most of the french words for kitchen and food isn’t even changed into other languages, it’s kept to it’s native French, because no one dares mess with perfection.
“Bon Appetit,” is said with well deserved confidence. They know the food is good, and they know that by the first bite you will agree.
“Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me.”
-Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018)