She’s best known as a leggy beauty who’s walked high profile runways and posed for top photographers, but 33-year-old Elettra Wiedemann is a rising star of the food world, too. Her newly-released cookbook Impatient Foodie: 100 Delicious Recipes for a Hectic, Time-Starved World arose from her popular food blog of the same name—and is a must for anyone who wants to cook and consume healthy food without missing a beat of their busy social calendar. We caught up with Impatient Foodie herself after a Luxury Retreats-sponsored dinner party to celebrate her book at a Southampton home in New York.
LUXURY RETREATS: You’ve been a successful model, Refinery29’s Food Editor, and now, you’re an inspirational voice among foodies with your blog, Impatient Foodie, and new cookbook of the same name. How has your relationship with food changed over time?
ELETTRA WIEDEMANN: Growing up as a tomboy, I often wanted to eat just pasta and bread, and I never concerned myself about my diet. Obviously that all had to change when I became a model. I still loved pasta and hated being deprived of it, so I thought, how can I have my cake and eat it too? I started experimenting, doing things like adding spinach and lentils, taking out a third of my portion size, adding cashew cream to my tomato sauce and using less Parmesan cheese. In the end, it was modest but still an incredibly filling meal. But it took me six full years to figure out how to make everything and how it all fit together. It’s a formula that works, though. I still eat today what I would eat as a model.
LR: What was your goal in writing the Impatient Foodie cookbook?
WIEDEMANN: Sometimes at the end of a long day at work I’d come home in a bit of a daze, and go grocery shopping while listening to a podcast, exhaustively throwing things into my cart. At home I’d wonder, why did I buy this? And what do I do with it? I’d end up making a subpar recipe or just ordering from Seamless. So I wanted to structure my cookbook to help people in their own ‘oh shit’ moments. As in, oh shit, I bought a bunch of zucchini, so what can I do with it? It was really important to me that the recipes were fast, made delicious healthy meals, and most of all, work. Nothing makes me angrier than a recipe that doesn’t work. It discourages people from cooking and makes people not want to deal with it.
I’m definitely impatient in every aspect of my life. If Impatient Foodie had a motto, it’d be ‘cut the bullshit.’ I feel like whether its food, or fashion, or decorating, people want to participate in those things and be good at them, but there’s so much blah blah blah and preciousness around them that they’ve become overwhelming. What I try to do in Impatient Foodie is offer good healthy meals that people can make quickly and successfully, so that they’ll try again. I want to only create good cooking experiences.
LR: You have an interesting philosophy about the connection between good food and high-fashion, and how an appreciation of each has changed. Tell us more about that.
WIEDEMANN: Fashion in my mom’s day [Wiedemann’s mother is Italian actress and model Isabella Rossellini] used to be about rarity. Things were handmade and high-quality, and crazy artists just happened to be making art that you could wear on your back. And then followed mass production of fashion. There’s still couture, but that’s only accessed by .01 percent of the population. Clothes aren’t really ‘luxury’ if 50,000 of the same cashmere sweaters are produced. So I think part of the reason that food has become such a movement is that there’s a bespoke-ness in each tomato that you eat or in each roasted chicken that you make. I still remember the first time I ever tried an heirloom tomato—I bit into it like it was an apple, and it changed my life. It was like I’d never tasted a tomato before, and my mind exploded.
No two meals are ever exactly alike. Each one is a bit of artisanship that can’t be replicated, a once-in-a-lifetime moment. It’s more than foodie-ism, good meals are all about creating individual experiences and memories in a world where everything is mass-produced. The market is saturated with ‘stuff,’ and I think maybe people are just getting a little tired of just buying things, especially things they don’t need. Food still has that quality of, oh, you cannot find this anywhere.
LR: What’s something in your cookbook or in the making of it that you’re particularly proud of?
I didn’t want to do anything obvious. You can obviously pair beets with lettuce and make a salad, but everyone and their mom has done that. I wanted every ingredient and every recipe to have a huh, I hadn’t thought to make it like that moment.
My recipe for beet and ricotta spaghetti one of my favorites in the whole book. I’d seen beets used in a pasta before, maybe in a magazine, and it stayed with me. I’d wondered if I could reimagine that recipe, and finally, I tried it. It’s delicious yet simple, with ricotta, basil, lemon… It’s comforting in the winter, light in the summer—and it looks incredible, it’s so beautiful.
LR: Even Oprah (yes, that Oprah) has taken notice of Impatient Foodie, and recently invited you onto her Oprah Magazine Adventure of Your Life cruise to Alaska as a guest speaker. What was that experience like?
WIEDEMANN: It was so surprising when I was asked to join—and when Oprah calls, no matter what you have going on, you say yes. I immediately thought, I have to be inspiring, I have to have all these messages, but then after scripting my speech about 20 times, I thought, ugh, how boring. Impatient Foodie started from a place of desperation and confusion. So I started the talk from that place to explain my growth, and I think that really resonated with people. It definitely felt authentic and real. That’s what Oprah’s all about: living your best life, being your most truthful self. [Editor’s note: You can listen or read the full transcript of Wiedemann’s speech on her blog.]
I knew that Oprah was wise, but I also learned that she’s incredibly funny. I’m a little too young to have watched her talk show, so maybe I never knew that, but she’s such a quick-witted person and it was great to see that side of her. I found myself laughing so hard, so many times. She’s cultivated such a fantastic community of people who want to listen to each other and to help each other, and it was incredible to be part of that.