A Raw Deal

Posted · 24 Comments

I’m a little lazy and have time management issues, so I rarely make it to the gym. So when I’m asked occasionally how I stay in shape, I usually attribute my no-sweat fitness to genetics, explaining how my father’s abs were about as hard as his partying.

I also eat healthy food. I’m not one of those skinny bitches who swears to eat deep fried bacon-stuffed donuts for breakfast.

For years of my childhood, the only foods I was allowed to eat were raw fruits and vegetables (and on occasion, soy, millet, baked potatoes and yams). My mom took your average vegetarian or macrobiotic diet waaay further. It wasn’t enough to simply shop at health food stores (or “hell food” stores as I called them back then). Her motto: “You name it – we can’t eat it.”

This manic/organic lifestyle was especially difficult because I had come from the great culinary center of the South, and food was central to everything.

Both sides of my family were in the food and restaurant business. In 1912 my great grandfather, Guiseppe Uddo, emigrated from Sicily with his bride and her $30 dowry, bought a horse and buggy and started a small food-import trade in the French Quarter of New Orleans. His Progresso products eventually progressed into every major American supermarket.

My maternal grandparents, Joe and Josie Riccobono, at one time owned five restaurants, specializing in celebrated Italian family recipes.

And in the late 1970s my father, Peter Uddo, owned the Riverbend, “The busiest restaurant in New Orleans,” according to Gambit newspaper.

The bottom line: the only vegetables my family eats are creamed. They’re Italian and they live in the murder and obesity capital of the United States.


One night, I recall overhearing a loud argument between my Uncle Paul and my Aunt Gina about not enough raisins in the bread pudding. Point is, I’d not be shocked if some murders down there are actually committed over food.

But once my mother left The Big Easy for rural redwoods, she was, in her own words, committed to raising “warriors”. Sure enough, life often felt like boot camp. We actually spent a Christmas holiday at a health institute in San Diego where they specialize in wheat-grass “cleansing” – fo real. Wheat-grass colonics and ear flushes were available, but some folks simply prefer to snort the stuff. There was even an option to douche – for those warriors who really want to smell as fresh as a summer’s day. Needless to say, three days of having every orifice of my body flushed with chlorophyll was not the kind of gift from Santa I was hoping for.

As a kid I wanted nothing more than to return to my family in New Orleans and all the delicious excess. I craved high-cholesterol, gluten-filled, preservative-laden foods – anything but live enzymes! Yet once I began modeling, for a time my mother’s low-food diet came in handy. And now, after years of flip-flopping and experimentation, I feel I’ve found some balance midst the culinary polarities of my past. I still occasionally question what’s ultimately “healthy”, and that answer, like me, continues to change and evolve… I believe every body is unique, and therefore it should be up to the individual to discover and choose what to eat…or where to pray, whom to love, how to dress…you get the point.

24 Responses to "A Raw Deal"
  1. Reileen4 says:

    Love this pictorial memory. And now every time my mother questions whether I put on weight I can firmly tell her, "every body is "unique" mom!"

    Now, where can I get those deep fried sugar-cube-bacon-stuffed donuts?

  2. Mindschmootz says:

    Oh, Adele, thank you for clarifying that first sentence, "Truth be told, I’m a little lazy and have time management issues and therefore rarely make it to the gym." After just getting to know you, I am loath to hate you. LOL

    I often joke that as a child of the South, the pinnacle of my food pyramid is bacon, because everything is better with bacon (or at least bacon grease). Long before "Bubba" gave his soliloquy on shrimp, the same could be said for bacon: You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it, deep fry it, stir fry it – you get the gist. That being said, as I post this comment I'm eating organic whole oats, berries, and milk…so yes, there is a happy compromise to excess in food and life.

    What is most appetizing about your blog is the taste of familial history you give us. I love a good story about family and how it shapes our lives. As a fellow Southerner, I know you have a million yarns to knit together. Lucky for us.

  3. lizadoo says:


    too handsome.

  4. Adele Uddo says:

    Reileen, that's EXACTLY what I say to my own family when I'm told I look too skinny! And as far as those donuts…I imagine if you looked hard enough in New Orleans you might find them wrapped in Turducken.

    Oh Schmootz, don't loath me because I'm a lazy skinny bitch.. Thanks so much, I too love family stories, and god knows the Southern variety can get quite juicy. Would love to hear a few of your own tales someday. Until then, I'll keep knitting away!

  5. Adele Uddo says:

    Lizadoo, I imagine you're referring to my dad…? Though Pawpie was quite a hairy hunk too.

  6. Lynn Zavaro says:

    I wanna hear more about your family in New Orleans! Eat. Enjoy. Be Merry. Love, Lynn

  7. Adele Uddo says:

    Stay tuned Lynn, plenty more on that to come! 🙂

  8. Sophie says:

    The photos are priceless. And a very healthy lifestyle came out of all of this for you. How wonderful. I think many women, given this childhood would have run straight to Dunkin Donuts and never looked back. xoxo

  9. Anonymous says:

    that's my favorite blog so far. i could relate to all of it possibly because i was there for a small portion! elon can't even say the word "millet" now without gagging. great photos too. i love your blog, adele!! and i love you.

  10. Comedy Karma says:

    OMG I laughed so hard on this one. I LOVE:
    "…Point is, I’d not be shocked if some murders down there are actually committed over food."

    The pictures are priceless! I love hearing about the food polarity. More more more! I am a glutton for your blog.

  11. Adele Uddo says:

    HA! A "glutton" for the blog – I love that CK, thank you so much!
    And thank you Sophie and Anon for tuning in and talking back! 🙂

  12. Sundevilgrl says:

    I so enjoy reading anything that revolves around food. You make me laugh out loud every week! I do believe that I am one of those people that could murder over food. Such foods may include: Churros, a cheeseburger, french fries, Skittles, and frozen yogurt to name a few. Of course none of the foods I have listed are healthy. What can I say, they are my "drugs"! Just curious, how old were you when X-Mas douching was in your stalking??

  13. Adele Uddo says:

    To answer your question Sundevilgirl, I believe I was under 10 when we cleansed with wheatgrass – I should mention that while douching was an option, thankfully my age spared me that unpleasant moment 😉

    And thank you so much for the mutual laughs!!

  14. Sylvia says:

    Adele… I know I'm late to the party, but happy to be among the guests. I LOVE this! Your descriptions and recollections are so vivid; I felt like I was there witnessing it all first-hand as I scanned every word. I'm addicted… keep blogging, 'cause I'll be looking forward to my fix.

  15. Adele Uddo says:

    Thank you so much Sylvia! Rest assured this blog is a healthy 'addiction', wheat and gluten-free 😉

  16. C liff Vititoe says:

    I think I went to school with your father at St. Pius X , if he did not then I knew him because he lived in Lake Terrace on the lakefront of the city, but I could be wrong

  17. C liff Vititoe says:

    Actually I know Im right. Your dad myself and Steven Occupinti live in Lake Terrace within walking distance of each other. Your dad’s family lived in the large white house at the foot of Paris Ave. right at the circle. We lost track of each other when Steve moved and we all went to different High Schools. I’m sorry to hear of his early demise but Ive lived in New York for the past 35 years and had no way of knowing what happened to those from my early years. Its good to know that he led a full life.

    • Adele says:

      Wow Cliff, so great to get this note from you! Your message made me sentimental. Anytime I hear about my dad and his early life it’s very touching. I remember that beautiful house on Paris Av. Not sure if you know, but Emeril Lagasse bought the house and lived there until a few years ago. Thanks for the kind words Cliff about my dad and for reaching out. Wishing you all the best in NY! Adele

  18. Marion says:

    My sister lived next to your Dad on The Northshore. She misses your Dad. He was good to Mary and she became friends with him. I met him when he lived there. His place was very nice. He was proud to show it off. People still talk about the Riverbend restaurant and it’s great food. My son,Frank would play with your brother ,Frank;when Peter lived there.

    • adele says:

      Hi Marion! Thanks for reaching out. I love hearing stories like this about my dad. I appreciate you sharing. Please give Mary my love. She was good to him too. Wishing you and Frank the best x

  19. Odette Horton (then Cooper) says:

    Ha, I worked at the Riverbend in the late 1970s while attending college. One of the best educations in my life. Gloria and Billy Ray took care of us girls, some in college, some working at the top of their abilities, and some just exploring life. At the time, it was the best restaurant that the female of the species could get a job at serving tables. A great step forward from the Buck 49 that the building previously housed. Great memories and gratitude.

    • adele says:

      So great hearing from you Odette! Thank you for commenting. I love hearing about your memories and appreciate your take about it being a great place for women to work back then. I still fondly remember Gloria and Billy Ray 🙂

  20. Raina says:

    Adele, I knew your Dad. I worked at The Riverbend on and off between between 1976 – 1981. I was so saddened to discover that he had passed away. One day your uncle took me to your father’s cottage he had built in the woods. While there I admired an unframed drawing that hung on the wall of a star lit sky and in the field below there is dragon dancing with a fairy while a grasshopper sitting on a mushroom plays the cello! What a magical drawing! A couple of weeks later your Dad presented me with that drawing as a gift after he had it nicely matted and framed! This beautiful drawing still hangs on the wall of my home 40 years later! Your father and his brothers were always kind to me. The beautiful drawing your Dad gave me has always served as a constant reminder of their friendship and my time spent working at the Riverbend!

    • adele says:

      Hi Raina! What a joy to hear from you. I love that story about the painting. Sounds like a piece of art my dad would’ve picked out 🙂 It means a lot to me to hear from people he knew, especially folks who worked at the Riverbend. Funny, in all these years I’ve only heard positive things from people who worked for him. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the painting all these years. Thanks again for sharing that story with me and for the kind words! x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Popular Posts: