how my plates taught me a life lesson Food for Thought

I’d Give Anything For Just One More Martini With You

Last Friday, my Grandad didn’t send me an email. Usually I’d receive a note from him in response to the weekly Impatient Foodie newsletter, which goes out every Friday at 11AM. He’d write to me to tell me what articles made him laugh, which ones made him think, or, if there was a slideshow, he’d pepper me with technical questions (he could never figure out how to work a slideshow). His Friday emails always felt like a little North Star in the midst of my own internal doubts about this site. Because, to be perfectly honest, some days I love Impatient Foodie and feel proud of it, and some days I hate it and think it’s stupid. And I think Grandad felt that, so he made extra effort to write me something every week to encourage me to keep going, to keep trying. He always encouraged everyone to just try their hardest – he praised people for that. And sometimes knowing that an Impatient Foodie article had made him laugh was enough to keep my chin up and quiet my critical mind. But a week ago, his email never came because my beloved grandfather died in his sleep, sometime late Thursday night or early Friday morning.

As I type that my nose is starting to itch and my eyes are filling up with tears. I wish I could say that every passing day gets a little easier, but it actually feels like it’s getting harder. Maybe the shock is wearing off and I am facing and feeling the reality of the situation: I will never see my grandad again, I will never hear his voice again, I will never cook with him again, I will never share a meal with him again, I will never share belly laughs over martinis with him again.

When I close my eyes, so many of the memories that come back are around food and family meals. I can vividly recall the time he taught me how to cook a salmon filet in the oven with just olive oil and salt in less than 10 minutes; or that time he encouraged me to try mussels for the first time; or that time that his front tooth fell into his soup on a trip in Hawaii and we almost hyperventilated from laughing; or I can hear the whir of his blender in the morning, making one of this “Grandad shakes” – a mix of berries, fruits, seeds, powders, etc that he carefully researched, sourced, and adjusted according to his health concerns/ailments of the moment. He always believed food (and some cheeky drinks) were the best medicine. And he lived to be almost 100 and was in fantastic physical and mental shape right until the very end, so maybe there’s some truth to that.

Trying to write and ideate for the site this last week has been really hard, and I am sure part of that is just grief making its way through my system. But there’s something else to it too: I have always known that I wouldn’t be the person I am without Grandad, but the last few days I’ve started to realize that maybe Impatient Foodie wouldn’t be what it is without him either, or if it would exist at all. I was a picky eater as a kid, all I really ever wanted was pasta (or tortellini with pesto) and I was stubborn about it. Grandad was the only one who could open me up to try new things like portobello mushrooms, goat cheese, oysters, eggs benedict, boy choy, passion fruit sorbet, and bouillabaise. And it wasn’t ever because he tried to convince me, it was just watching him enjoy those foods with so much pleasure made me jealous and want to try. This past week, I’ve realized how much of this site’s DNA – the celebration of food and connection, and even my own ability to cook – is closely intertwined in my grandfather’s legacy and influence on me.

Whenever I get really down, I have to remind myself that when it comes to the “game of life”, Grandad won with pizzazz and that is something to celebrate and try to emulate: He lived with incredible integrity, was hugely adventurous, raised a family that still to this day is tight knit and radiates love, he was successful in his work life, and he saw the world and played on and in almost all its mountains, oceans, and rivers stretching from Papua New Guinea to Siberia. He also made a full “180” in the own nature of his existence from military man to practicing Zen Buddhist. He was so incredibly devoted and loving toward my ailing grandmother in recent years that sometimes it took my breath away and showed me what true, pure love really is. I have to be thankful that Grandad was in my life for 33-years and was the bedrock of my family. No one could have asked for better.

And those thoughts do help me to keep my chin up, which something I know he would have wanted me to do. But then there’s a little voice in my head and in heart that can’t help but feel I’d give anything to have just one more martini and belly laugh with him.

Fred Wiedemann – my grandad died
Fred “Grandad” Wiedemann – father, son, brother, naval-officer, businessman, world-traveler, adventurer, azalea-gardener, seeker of meaning, foodie, martini and margarita aficinado (1923-2017)

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