My dad passed away last Thursday, March 24th, 2016, at the age of 71. He had been sick with Alzheimer’s for some time, so it was both merciful and deeply heart wrenching. He had been slowly slipping away, but this was a finality for which I wasn’t quite prepared.
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My dad, prior to his illness, was a major foodie and wine connoisseur. He had a sweet tooth to rival my own and taught me the joys of a mug (never a bowl, always a mug!) full of coffee ice cream on a winter’s night cozied up in front of a roaring fire. He enjoyed fine dining as much as junk food, and I was fortunate and grateful to be afforded amazing experiences. We celebrated his 50th birthday with a dinner at the Four Seasons in Manhattan. That meal left a major impression on me. I can’t recall exactly what we ate (it was 21 years ago, and I may have the genes for Alzheimer’s 😁😖, but alas…). What I do remember was the restaurant’s exquisite touch and perennial care: Each dish was composed like a masterful painting; plates came and went without me even noticing a hand, as lifted by air; new silverware appeared in my grasp without realizing the old ones were gone. I remember laughing. I remember toasting to life.
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Over the years, my dad shared his love of wine with me and my brother. Soon after I moved to San Francisco, he visited me and we took a trip, just the two of us, up to the Sonoma Valley, where we toured some of his favorite California wineries, including Jordan and Unti. Jordan boasts a French inspired chateau and stunning one-acre manicured garden and old growth oak trees, whereas Unti has a much more rustic, easy going Northern California vibe. Both equally memorable and fabulous. Both make delicious wines with pride. On that trip, my dad generously bought me my first fancy bottle of wine from Jordan and I saved that bottle for almost a decade before enjoying it a few years ago with Mr. Foggy Foodie. Uncorking that bottle turned an average day into a magical one. The wine, deep garnet in color, was rich and decadent and the flavors delightfully shifted with the amount of time it breathed, as it released the memories of that trip. A condensed metaphor for life.
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As the news of my father’s passing washed over me, I subconsciously decided to cut myself some serious slack on this mold diet as I dealt with the arrangements, travel, funeral, and loss.
The night I found out about his death all I wanted was that Hungarian goulash from the Red Tavern. Mr. Foggy Foodie sweetly brought it home to me. It reminds me so much of the Jewish style brisket my father masterfully made during my childhood. I never got that recipe from him, but once I get over my fear of cooking meat (which I am feeling ever closer to) I plan to try to recreate it. The goulash was an excellent stand in. It gave me a stomach ache (Was it flour? Butter? Grief? Who knows!), as well as a hug from within. It made my soul feel comforted, if not my belly.
When we arrived in New York/Connecticut, MFF and I met up with my older brother and sister in law. We decided to dine to the nines (thanks big bro!) and celebrate my dad in style. We went to a restaurant named Rebeccas and ate scrumptious food, plated with such finesse it sparked my memory of the Four Seasons meal. We dined, caught up, talked over family stuff, recounted some funny but mostly poignant dad stories. I tried to stick to my diet as closely as possible during that meal to be kind to my system. I had a delicious salmon dish that I will definitely be attempting to replicate at some point soon. It was braised in chicken stock with root veggies and tons of fresh dill. It was brothy and simple but full-flavored and fragrant. As it turns out, chicken soup is good for the soul.
As the weekend progressed I said f@ck it more and more to the diet and enjoyed some wine, PIZZA! (OMG DELICIOUS NY PIZZA! YESSSS!), and a bagel with cream cheese piled on. To my delight my stomach didn’t revolt too badly and I made it through the weekend in one piece, more or less. I’d like to say I got right back on board but that would be a lie. I’ve had wonderful friends give me chocolates (sea salt chocolate covered-caramels… don’t mind if I do.) and Mr. Foggy Foodie and I had our favorite, comfort food, Thai delivery two nights in a row this week. I had some more wine last night but have been heading back to clean eating.
All in all, I let food do some comforting this week, and I do not regret that decision.
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One thing a death will make you do is break some rules. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Life is meant to be lived, within the bounds of health, and straying from strict dietary rules is part of that for me right now. I realized that loosening the reigns didn’t make me fail, and didn’t instantly make me feel horrendous, minus a few bouts of belly discomfort. It’s all a spectrum, all about total toxic load, and a long term balance will need to be forged, as I am a food and sweet lover, and want to enjoy a glass of wine and a decadent meal, as it does bring me great enjoyment, just as it did my father back in the day. I recognize, however, that I haven’t always eaten primarily for health and often ate whatever I wanted at whatever the cost, just as sometimes my dad lacked boundaries and lived an overindulgent food life, which could have contributed to his disease. To find a way to occasionally indulge and enjoy the pleasures of life within good boundaries is ultimately the goal in my book.
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Sadly, as the Alzheimer’s took hold, my father’s interest in food and wine dwindled, as did his sparkle. It’s a cruel disease that his spirit is now freed from. I hope he is finding renewed joy in the aromas and flavors on the other side, enjoying a heavenly meal, with roaring laughter.
That’s how I’d like to imagine him.
Yours with love and well wishes,
The Foggy Foodie