I recently had to say goodbye to my dad, who won his battle with pancreatic cancer.
I say won because he lived (and enjoyed!) an additional eight years after being diagnosed. He was a walking miracle in the medical community.
His bonus years can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as the medical staff he adored, his positive attitude, the love and support from friends and family, and the healthy lifestyle changes he made. Up until last month, my dad was lifting weights and drinking smoothies on a regular basis. Not bad for a man in his 70s!
Those final days with my dad were some of the hardest days of my life, yet oddly, somehow up-lifting.
Being with someone as you see their life come full circle, with no regrets, is simply beautiful. This transference of love and acceptance is hard to explain unless you have been through it.
I am going to miss my dad. Most of all, I will miss our weekly chats where we would often share recipes and discuss what we had for dinner the previous evening. Among many things, my dad instilled in me my love for food and passion for cooking. He was a straight craftsman in the kitchen. To my dad, true happiness was sharing a few laughs with friends and family while sipping on wine and eating a home-cooked meal. Although simple, there was nothing better.
Food has always been an intricate part of expressing love in my family. Nothing says “I care” more than, “What can I make you to eat?” I do not find it ironic that after all these years, I am now in the health profession talking to others about their relationship with food and how to better it.
When celebrating my dad, I can truly relate to the quote by Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine.” In this context, we use the word food loosely. While we can concentrate on the scientific breakdown of food (e.g. protein, carbs, sugar content) and what it does to the body, it is important to remember that food is more encompassing than just that.
Food has the power to bring people together; it has the power to create memories. Think about the many joyous moments in your life—your first date with your spouse, your child’s first birthday party, holidays, weddings or simply dinners with friends. Food was there, and hopefully laughter too. And in the end, that’s what life is all about—being happy.
While most of us have a love/hate relationship with food, in those special times when we are among loved ones, remember to breathe, enjoy your meal and share a few laughs.
It is important to take a minute to digest those fleeting moments, as they contain key healing benefits that no green juice or superfood can provide. I know my dad sure did.
To keep my dad’s spirit alive, I’d like to share with you a classic recipe of his, “Chicken Country Style.” It’s the perfect simple dish to make for a big group of people. I hope you use it the next time you are creating memories with those you love.
Chicken Country Style
(Serves approximately four to six people.)
2 lbs. of mixed chicken legs and thighs, organic preferred
1 lb. sausage, turkey or pork, organic and nitrate free
4 bell peppers, sliced, (my dad liked to use 2 red, 1 orange and 1 yellow)
5-6 cherry vinegar peppers, chopped—add more if you like spicy
1 large onion, cut into quarters
4 cloves of garlic, whole
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1 Tbs. fennel seeds
Dash of Sea Salt
Dash of fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a large tray, add meat, sliced pepper, onions, dressings and seasonings. Mix together, cover tray with aluminum foil, and place in oven for one hour.
After one hour, remove tray and drain about three quarters of the liquids in the tray. This will help brown the meat.
Place tray in broiler, uncovered, for another 20 minutes, or until meat starts to brown. Mix and turn all ingredients every few minutes to cook throughout.
Serve and enjoy.
Author: Donnie DeSanti
Editor: Toby Israel