My uncle Pete, who was a dear part of my family died after a rather unwell stay at hospital. For my over-seas readers, he was a public figure over here and many, many bloggers have been writing about him. Except for me, his actual blood relative.

It is worth blogging about him here, at Marie’s cuisine, because he was an ardent food lover. Yes: Uncle Pete loved to eat. Fish especially. He would rumble with delight at the very smell of a great piece of fish. There is an anecdote that he once went to some restaurant and asked for dentex and the establishment tried to pull the wool over his eyes and gave him some other fish. But uncle Pete wouldn’t have it. It was not the fact that he did not like the fish presented to him, but when he knew he was right, he simply knew he was right. Trust me, the man knew his fish. I once asked him over to lunch and I made grilled salmon fillets with lemon and olive oil, and as soon as he walked into the house, he sniffed the air and said ‘Hmmm…I smell salmon!’

This photo was taken 2 years ago, when we went to Holland together for my cousin’s wedding…we were in a restaurant in Haarlem…Image

And here is a dentex fish so nobody gets confused:

My uncle was a serious man. However, something I have realised about most outwardly serious men is that they have a fantastic sense of humour. And since I was very little, I used to like to try and make uncle Peter laugh. And one memory in which I succeeded is food related:

Me: Uncle Peter, do you know I am on a seafood diet?

Uncle Peter: Are you sure that is wise? You are 7 years old…

Me: Well, it suits me fine, because I see food and I eat it!


Ok, well maybe it is not the most original or funniest joke in the book, but it made him laugh. And the memory stuck with me.

In the past two years, he was very ill with heart problems and he was constantly in and out of hospital. In my break, I would always visit him and we would always end up talking about restaurants, my blog and cooking. Due to diabetes, his eyesight started to fade and visitors would read to him, very serious stuff from foreign newspapers or biographies of public officials bought from the newstand in the hospital. I never buy anything like that, but I do buy food magazines and I would show him the next thing I would like to try and his interest was very real, as if making a lamb tagine was just as important as some latest news from the government. The thing is, I never actually found out if he knew how to cook. I know for a fact that my uncle Franco, who also passed away knew how to cook and my mother mentions my Aunt Josephine, who died before I was born, who was not half bad at cooking either.

I have to be completely honest- it has not yet sunk in that he is actually dead. I have spent so much time with him in hospital these past two years, it just seems unreal that I will not walk into his room and see his eyes widen and his arms outstretched with the usual greeting of ‘Helllloooooooooo Marie-Clairrrrrrre!’ He would be surrounded by visitors, but the moment I would walk into his room, he only saw me, poor vision and all.

I am very rational about death. At the end of the day, I am a woman of science. Death is an ironic part of life. You’re born, you live, you die. End of story. Some people scream and cry and beat their breast. I am not one of these people. I am only 28 and I have sat with families while their loved ones died, I have dressed corpses, I have sat with patients who had the misfortune of dying without a relative by their side. However, I take comfort in the mere scientific fact: If one does not die, one can never say they have lived.

And Uncle Peter lived. He really lived.