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.

it’s almost time…

For my show to start.  SUNDAY JAN. 4th at Noon on Food Network.  I’m getting nervous.  Nervous worried- that Food Network will write and say, “we’ve never had NO ONE watch a show before, until now.”

Nervous Excited – OMG I’ve never had my OWN show.  I’ve always been part of an ensemble.  Its got my name, my stove, my toaster.. oh, not my toaster, they thought it looked too dingy so they moved it for the show.

You'll never make toast in this town again!

You’ll never make toast in this town again!

If you all can watch the 6 episodes that will be rolling out over the next 6 weeks I’d be mighty appreciative.  If you are on any social media please use #daphnedishes and @coolmomdotcom @foodnetwork in any posts.  They do notice this stuff.

I really hope you like it.  Please give  me any feedback, because if it gets a pick up I can incorporate your notes into future shows.

Mom in the make up room, otherwise known as my bathroom. Expert work done by Crystal Bernal

Mom in the make up room, otherwise known as my bathroom. Expert work done by Crystal Bernal

The first episode is very dear as my mom and sisters are featured.  I’m reworking healthy recipes of my mom’s but making them taste better.

My kids are in it a bit.  Mark will be in some episodes, he is always in the opening title.  (See how fast he can chop onions)

The day before we started shooting we had a deep loss in our family, which I haven’t been able to write about yet.  It was very hard to carry on, but everyone from the Food Network to my kids were very supportive.  I loved having Vivien on set when she wasn’t in school.  She is my little ray of sun and when I was on set and downcast she would say “Mommy” and give me a smile and thumbs up.  Then I could put a smile on my face.

Vivien sets up the shot

Vivien sets up the shot


Let’s get this Flocking started!


“I feel overwhelmed.”  I heard a mom say to another at school.  “Don’t you feel overwhelmed?”

“Yes” said the other, “I feel overwhelmed.”

I didn’t speak because I didn’t feel overwhelmed.  Not in the way they meant it.  Not about buying presents or visiting relatives or packing a bag.  I am enjoying all the ho-ho- hoing.  It’s what’s getting me through right now.

2012 has been a bit of a rough year. Both of Mark’s restaurants closing, general recession crap-o-ola  ( I think that’s what the Feds call it)  But, our worry about making a living seemed to pale a week ago Friday whenI found out an old friend had died.  My rough year didn’t seem so rough.  I’m mourning my friend and feeling very guilty about having taken him off my worry list in ’11.  I didn’t know the cancer had come back.

“But, it’s all loss to the body.” my friend Eleni said.  She had arrived as if on a cue.  She is an even older friend who lives abroad and whom I rarely see. My body sure felt those shingles from the stress, but so small in the face of what my friend dealt with.

Per usual my kids lift me out of the gutter again and again.  Nothing as good as Christmas with little kids.  The tree trimming.  Though Rex keeps saying “I wanted a white flocked tree”  Quite right, next year I we will flock it. Maybe a color even.  Why not?  It’s all artifice. Dress the tree up, dress us up.

with their cousin Lily

I’m driving us to every holiday fun thing in town.  A trip or two to Santa, Christmas puppet shows, kids get dressed up in their finest.  Love it!

The first day I heard about my friend I could only lie down.  But, the next day my motto was “who wants to bake sugar cookies?”  I doubled down on Christmas fun.   I don’t want my kids to see me blue.  They get so excited.  Chef Peel gives his two cents,  “I think you are over mixing it”  as Vivien bangs at it with a wooden spoon.  Relax grasshopper, it’s about the process. The second night I upped the ante.

“Who wants to make sugar cookies with green sprinkles?”  The heavens rain joy! I thought I had them covered when “Ava Maria” came on and I got a message from a friend about our friends passing.  I ran to my office, lay down on the kiddie couch and cried.  Vivien came after me, “What is it mommy?”

“I’m fine, everything is okay, I’m sad about my friend dying and I wanted to cry about it for a minute, but I’m okay. Can you please just give me one minute?” Sometimes crying is like going number 2.  You need to do it alone.  I got my minute and then broke out the food coloring.

Another night we went caroling with some neighbors.  We all sounded terrible, but it was great fun.  Of course I took over the crew when I felt we were aimless.  “Okay, listen, it’s Jingle Bells, then Deck the Halls. No, nobody knows the words to Let it Snow.  A 1-2-3, deck the halls…”

Next year, we are going to need to rehearse. And of course have a flocked tree.


My dad…one year later

It’s been little over one hour since I looked at a computer and realized it’s exactly a year now that my father passed.  I was busy today.  Taped a few Hersay’s, met a friend who is going through a very hard time, ran to get a check so my checks didn’t bounce.  I was in a co worker’s office and she was going to show me a talking parrot video. I saw the time.
“I’m sorry,” I said, ” But, I have to have a nervous breakdown right now.”  I cried and my co worker was comforting.  I went down stairs and called my sister Cecily.  I felt like I was going to throw up.  The slightly crazy feeling of last year came back in a flash.
This year went fast.
We shared memories of my father ( as I did with my other sister in the morning).  I am so happy that tomorrow my family, my sister’s and my mom are going to camp near the ocean.  I really need to be with them.  My dad loved the ocean.  He wanted us to enjoy the sun, the ocean, to smile. It was so very important to him that we would have each other.
But, I do feel exhausted.  The grief drains me.
I just came across this picture from my wedding. ourwedding05 075

My dad kissing me moments after I was married.  Why haven’t I blown this up poster size?

Week 3

Time is now counted for me in a different way.  How long it’s been since my father died.  I still get a pit in my stomach when I write that.  I still don’t totally believe it.  I like when I get a few moments where I fool myself into thinking he is just away, not gone.

Last week Mark and I went to Miami.  It was for a promotion that Coke Rewards is doing, giving money to State Parks.  I was paid to go and cover it for my blog.  Mark came too so we could have sometime together, as it has been awhile.  It took us 24 hours to stop talking about worries and problems and enjoy ourselves.  We were gone for roughly 60 hours so we had to relax fast. We ate at Zuma, Cool Miami and at Sr. Martinez, cute place, good drinks.

When we first got there I was excited to see the light of Miami, I have always liked it and use to live there part time.  Then I thought of my dad as a boy in Jacksonville.  I get lost in my head.  Then I get distracted. Then we are on the beach and I remember so fondly my dad flying out to Miami to be with me while I filmed a show for Discovery.  I am so glad he did that.  We had so much fun.  I have pictures of us on the beach. He went with me and my crew to dinner at Joe’s stone crab. He loved meeting everyone and everyone loved him.

We swam out into the warm waters and I said to Mark, “I just didn’t know how bad I was going to feel when my dad passed.”  I think of that about 10 times a day how clueless I was to this state.

Mark said, “that’s because you never know how gone, gone is.”

Yeah, couldn’t he at least be on Facebook? Or send me postcards.  I am staring at his photo right now and still can’t believe I cant lean my head on his shoulder or hold his hand.

Cecily and I were going through some of his scrap books and old photos for the memorial we are planning. I wish we had done that before (here is my dad with then Gov. Jerry Brown), when we could  have asked him questions.  We took them into the house and my mom said right away, “ask me”.

I’m so lucky to have a family to go through this with.  Thanks again to everyone who posted condolences, it is appreciated.  I won’t assume again that a friend doesn’t need my attention when a loved one passes.

Sigh, the start of the 4th week begins.

A Grievous Loss

I don’t know if this is news outside of Los Angeles, but it’s a story that has a lot of meaning in our home.

A very nice 17 year old girl was killed Friday. She went to the same school members of my family go to, so it seems a little closer to us, even though I didn’t know Lily Burk. But one thing I have learned of late is when you read about something bad in the paper that something bad happened to someone, it really has. I know that seems obvious, but when I read bad things, sad, hard things I think I try to think of ways in which they don’t affect me. To try to keep me safe. Like, “Well, I wouldn’t have gone hang gliding in a rainstorm.”  Or, “Well maybe they got some insurance money for their house in the hurricane zone.”

Being a victim of the Madoff thing taught me that. And I certainly can’t detach from this story. She was only a few miles from where we live, it was broad daylight when some piece of shit abducted her to try to get some money.  Her body was found the next day.

She is an only child and the pain her parents are in is unimaginable. My sister said today she couldn’t sleep last night for thinking of their pain. Mark and I did sleep, but when we would wake they were the first the thing we thought of. It’s too scary, too sad.

How would one ever get past this? Really, why would one? A death is hard in of itself, but their child was murdered. A National Merit Scholar, she had the lead in the school play, she was somebody. There are no words, and I can’t help but personalize it. I can’t but think, “How do you keep your children safe?”  She was driving errands in what is reported to be the the third safest city in America (NYC and San Jose are ahead). She wasn’t a solider who died saving others. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

All that love and care her parents lavished on her. The joy she brought them… ah, I ‘m sorry I’m not funny today. Another day… but my heart is heavy for this family and terrified for my own.