bittersweet recipe

It’s very exciting these few Sundays now.. where I watch my show.. where I get tweets from people I don’t know saying they like the show.  I get emails from distance cousins who I have heard not from in years that they are loving seeing my show.  I also loved in the most recent episode bringing in some of our friends to be on the show.  I also thought that overall of all the Daphne Dishes, this one was the best.  It held together. I loved making the food, loved my cocktail.   It’s a light, fun show… I hope… with some information. However, the making of it was more fraught than is seen.

One clue to that can be seen at the end of this show..”In Memory of Jeff Wannberg.”handsom

I have made reference to there being a big loss that shadowed the filming of the show.  The night before we started shooting my brother killed himself.  Jeff was not my blood brother, but a brother he was.  We came into each others life at about 2 or 3, start of pre school.  I got kicked out because my mom was the teacher and the school thought it better if she didn’t teach her own kid.  But, Jeff stayed.  It’s hard to describe to people who didn’t know us in childhood, teen years, 20’s, but each year he became more and more part of us, and visa versa.  Our homes were a few doors away and he was the only kid in his house.

4th of July in Culver City in the '70's. Dad, Cec, Jeff, me

4th of July in Culver City in the ’70’s. Dad, Cec, Jeff, me

We needed a brother, he needed us.  We went to the same progressive school for a while, so we had short hand for our unconventional childhood.  “We joined a cult” Jeff said just a couple of years ago in his characteristically dry humor.  In our teen years organically we began to call him brother, he called us sisters.  It annoyed us to no end if someone said, “but you aren’t REALLY siblings.”  We responded with annoyance or cut them out.  As he once said, “I’m not going to say, they are my really, really, really, really good friends.  That’s not right.”  It wasn’t.  We were far more ingrained than that.

I cannot sum up our relationship or Jeff in a blog post and it wouldn’t do him justice our lives together. But, since September 9th everything has been…different. He was in my sister’s weddings.

Happy Day

Happy Day

I officiated at his US wedding.  I was his best man at his Australian nuptials ( where is wife is from). We are use to him being here for family events.  It was hard having him in Australia the last several years, but he wanted to come home.  We wanted him to come.  It was just a matter of time before he did.

He was always with us at Thanksgiving. We started playing football at Thanksgiving because of Jeff.

Thanksgiving. Jeff behind, brother in law Kevin next to my mom.  I'm the one with the mullet next to my dad

Thanksgiving. Jeff behind, brother in law Kevin next to my mom. I’m the one with the mullet next to my dad

He often made a turkey.  Jeff loved to cook.  He loved French food and classic American food.  He opened his own American steak house in Australia.     I, like all those who love him, are left bewildered and bereft.  In my case I’m puffy and bewildered as I’ve put on some big grief pounds.

He was so smart, quick witted, a brain like no other.  Even while he was living far away I kept up with him with skype, phone calls, email, social media. But, it’s no subtitute for being there.  When I moved back to LA in 2000 I took an apartment that was less than a mile from him.  When I decided to do my solo shows he was the only one I wanted to direct me.  The only one I trusted.  He was a photographer, a post production producer, an app producer, dog lover, bon vivivant.  He was and is someone very special.



I didn’t know if I could get through the filming, as I mentioned before Food Network kindly offered to postpone the shoot, but I know these opportunities might not come again and I know how hard Jeff hustled to get projects that he wanted off the ground.  His wife said, go for it.  That shot at the end of the show  (“Eat up Sports fans”) When I catch the ball from Vivien was the only time my face was onscreen that first day. I can see the puff and the pain in my face. Bewilderment.  People who are also survivors of suicide know the bewilderment.  The shock.  The first few days I would wake up early before the crew arrived.  Make coffee, talk to Jeff, “Why, why?  How could you leave us?”  I would lie down on the floor and cry.  Then I would get into hair and make up and when the producer said, “Sparkle in the eye”  I turned it on.  Everyone I worked with was very patient and kind with me.

“What do you need?”  a Food Network executive said that first day.

“Ask no one to bring it up.  I will come un done.”  She did and they didn’t.

Vivien was with me the first few days.  She would stand by the cameras before we started, give me a smile and a thumbs up.  “You can do it mommy.”  It would fuel me.  I was torn up by grief, survival guilt, and guilty that I had a big project going on when he was having a hard time making his opportunities come to fruition.  When Vivien wasn’t there I would look at her pictures on the fridge and then turn around and cook for camera.  Like so many moments in my life my kids are joy gas.  I’d be a broken down jalopy without them.

my kids there for me on a shoot day... before my grief weight set in

my kids there for me on a shoot day… before my grief weight set in

When we had a day off I really collapsed.  That’s when I realized how much the show was good for me.  I loved the absorption of work.  The first few days I was trying to contact everyone who needed to know about Jeff. I had a great need to speak to people who knew us when we were younger, before something went wrong, something went sideways.  But, then I switched and I couldn’t speak about it.  If I did I wouldn’t be able to work.  I clicked over and while the camera was on, or even with the crew I started to have fun.  Jokes were coming more easily.  So, for the Game Day show it was later in the process ( except for the football scene) and I was feeling better.  When Trish showed up, who is truly one of my best friends and who knew Jeff, I could let my guard down a little.  When I give her the drink and we toast it’s pregnant with meaning.  She knew how special he was and how deep our connection was and how I was hurting.

After the shoot we had his memorial, his celebration of life.. what is the right thing to call it?  We decided on JeffCon’14.

While we were shooting I asked if he could have a memorial credit.  It has to go through some channels.  Then a few weeks ago I got an email.  Yes, his name would be there.  I was glad, but I got back down on the floor and memory of jeff wannberg

Like anyone who has lost someone you don’t want your loved one to become “the dead guy” and with suicide you don’t want their method of departure to define them.

Some of Jeff’s friends and I have connected or reconnected like never before.  It’s been a great source of support. Also, I went through an 8 week Survivors of Suicide group.  A lovely group of people.  That helped a lot to sort through the layers of feelings with people who were on the same journey. The sense of failure, rejection, lost.  One friend of Jeff’s was over a couple of months ago and said that I should start posting and talking about the show coming on.  Really?  I was not feeling like celebrating.  Then I remembered what one woman in my group said, “Fake it till you make it.”  So I did start posing about it and talking about it and people were very sweet and excited and that felt good.  I just want Jeff to be here with me.  So by having his picture in the first episode about my mom’s healthy eating and his name in the game one I feel there was a touch.

Of course the way my brain and humor works is so influenced by him he is part of it.

So, it might seem just like a light little food show, but there was a lot going on.

32 thoughts on “bittersweet recipe

  1. I am so sorry for your loss. It is always difficult to lose a sibling, regardless of the way they have died. The manner of death does not diminish the sense of loss, the heart still aches.
    I spent the morning in church at mass said for my younger sister who died 6 years ago from pancreatic cancer. It’s not easy with her gone, but I have realized that the best way to honor her is to live the best life I possibly can, to live fully, love with all my heart, take joy in the small things and be grateful for every day. You will get there, it takes time and more tears, but it comes.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss Donna. Yes, they are life companions, storer of so many memories, private jokes. I do have many days where I can feel like that, but just had a couple where I had to just sit in my sad. Thank you for writing.

  2. Wow. Now I think you’re even more amazing. I’ve lost a couple of friends to suicide. My wife and I were just talking about one special friend, last night. She was cleaning up her closet and had run across some thanks you cards, etc. from our friend, Janet Yee. The 4 year anniversary of Janet’s death is coming up in a couple of weeks. I was crying by the end of your post. I can recall the stunned feeling, as if my whole being had been injected by novacaine – followed by the grief, the tears, and the questions. Good on ya, Daphe. But you made me violate my “no crying in my cube at work” policy… we’ve all decided that our friend Janet will never be forgotten. I think Jeff will always live on in your heart, and the hearts of those whose lives he touched.

    • oh, Scott, you touch me. I’m sorry I made you violate your rule. I really appreciate you sharing your experience and feelings. I wasn’t sure about writing about this. Saw raw and personal. Best.

  3. Thank you Daphne for your beautiful expression of love for Jeff. Of course it filled my eyes with tears and my heart with sadness. I think he knows how hard it has been on you. I believe in spirits.

  4. Daphne, I sit here in tears reading your beautiful words. I still can’t believe that our amazing, hilarious, loving and brilliant brother is gone. I’m not sure who you and I would have been without him…I just know that he made both of us better people and that we were beyond blessed to have had him in our lives. Thank you for your rememberence and for the dedication on your wonderful show.

    • OH Cec I love you so much. I’m glad you were okay with it. So true, I don’t know either…
      Love what you wrote! The days I don’t believe it I feel better. The days I do are crushing.

  5. Daphne, this is such a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to Jeff. I can barely remember him from nursery school – who would believe that he would grow up to play such an important role in so many people’s lives? But I’m sure all those children are doing the same, with busy family and friends never imagining what would happen if they had to experience what you all have gone through. Thank you for expressing your feelings. It makes us all stop and think. And hug.
    Love, Jozelle

  6. Well said and heart felt. I have been thinking a great deal about Jeff this past week, as if he was trying to guide me or tell me something. And it aches that I can’t figure out what it is but I know he is in the universe championing all of us in his own way. He would have absolutely wanted you to carry on and succeed wildly. This I know. His love of food only makes your success all the sweeter. He will never know the state he left us all in, but his love and our memories will stay our constant companions. Life your life well in tribute to Jeff, a man who did the best he could, until he couldn’t.

  7. I have not known you all that long….but was so very touched by your writing….and even more sorry for your loss…life is so short and everyday should be new and an adventure…I wish we all felt more like that…but no one ever knows whats going on in others lives….we feel we do, but the fact is he must have had reasons…iI could never think of a good one but we have all had severe bouts of depression…that would be my guess ….I know I am no one …but very proud to have known you…what a great person you are …you were fab….and held it together….Thank God for your family…and kids they help you everyday…I have 6 girls…and so happy I did they make me whole…I always have a friend. .I just had to give birth to my friends. ..but never at a loss of love and unconditional love…is best…well sooooo very proud of you girl..Proud to tell Nebraska…thats my FRIEND Love Catherine McGinn

  8. Daphne, I am crying for you. I am so sorry. This is a multi layered pain, and the grief that comes from suicide is deep because of the sense of blame all survivors feel. I am sorry, Daphne. I send love, prayer, and wishes for comfort to you. I am grateful for your joy fuel of Vivien, Rex, and Mark. xoxoxo

  9. So very sorry for your loss and what you’re going through. This was beautifully written and it’s easy to see how much he meant to you and what a great person he was. It’s also nice to hear that Food Network was so thoughtful of your needs at that time. Here’s to growing and healing. Viva le Jeff!

    • Ah, that is sweet. Lump in throat. I was insecure about writing about it so I appreciate that. Yes, FN was very nice. They got the import as did the producers and they left it up to me.

  10. I’m so sorry, Daphne. I know you’re hurting. Good for you for doing your best to work through it and for being honest about where you were and are emotionally. I hope that you’re finding some healing from reading others’ reactions and support for you and what you’re going through.

    • Lindsay, people are sweet.
      Some I know, some I don’t all dear. Today I’m ok. then other days it just hits again. Thank you for your support of me and my show xo

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