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Breaking Bread: Anthony Bourdain's lessons on social capital

 

 To Break Bread with Someone

 

Definition: To share a meal with someone.

 

This expression means more than just eating; it is sharing a sense of brotherhood with someone or some group of people. It is a significant event that fosters some meaningful connection and cooperation.

 

Perhaps you are enemies; breaking bread with someone indicates a sense of forgiveness and moving forward to the affair

 

The news of Anthony Bourdain’s unexpected death spread around the world at the speed of the Internet but with the personal intensity of the global village he helped build among vastly different cultures along decades of work as a master chef-essayist, entertainer and -most significantly- neighbor.

 

This tall, multi-talented man with playboy good looks and unpretentious ability to connect and befriend fishermen, cooks and presidents left many legacies to his viewers and followers all over the world, no less among them, lessons on what makes people bond together and overcome barriers to integration.

 

Armed with cookware, camera and a flair for conversation and prose, Bourdain showed us several keys to unleash social capital in the unlikeliest places: from closeted Iran and Russia to war and poverty-ravaged Africa or urban ghettos in New York or Buenos Aires.

 

As we mourn his loss, let’s look at the lessons he left to us that might help unleash and develop social capital -the bonds that glue us together- breaking barriers of culture, class and skin color:

  1. Break bread before breaking ground: engage those living in the neighborhood by sharing meals and informal moments. Take time away from your big change goals and let them feel comfortable and be spontaneous.

  2. Walk and set your eyes on the street: shop and hang around, feel the street pulse, look at what the locals do and how they do it for a living. Ask questions, directions as a neighbor would do.

  3. Talk to the unimportant about the unimportant: have "Seinfeld" moments of banter, sharing anecdotes (let them tell you theirs), thoughts about simple things you find in common: what is a joy, what annoys us.

  4. Take the alternative path: break from the usual pattern. Turn the other way. Walk into the place you thing you would never walk. 

  5. Take the three cups of tea: as the Afghan tradition goes, "the first, you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third you join the family" (Mortenson, 2006) . You can learn more by visiting them in their own turf.

  6. Stay in touch, come back often, without the camera: come back, until the locals greet you.

  7. Think about the world you want for your children: carry pictures of yours, ask them to show theirs, then talk about the future. There is where a shared vision starts. (Kaufman, 2005)

  8. Learn the art of banter: reflexive humor, good stories go a long way. They let people show their wits and their wants.

  9. Use the bullshit detector and expose it: don't tale b.s. without calling it. People will test your honesty based on that.

  10. Ask for help, give some help: ask for directions, push the cart together, carry that extra bag.

Take a tour on the back of the cart and let them tell you stories, like here, in Barrio 31, Buenos Aires, where a new and exciting project is transforming a segregated shanty town into a new neighborhood.

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