“I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN CONCERNED ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY, BUT I FELT IT WAS HARD TO GRASP WHAT YOU CAN DO TO MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE,” SAYS ELETTRA WIEDEMANN IN THE AIRY KITCHEN OF HER HOME IN FORT GREENE, BROOKLYN. “I really wanted to live the ideals of the Slow Food Movement but doing that in a fast-paced urban life is really hard. That’s what Impatient Foodie, which relaunched last month with a new look, new recipes and recurring feature dubbed “Breaking Bread With,” where she debunks preconceived notions with controversial characters over homemade baked goods, is all about. Trying to reconcile those two things.” To wit, the model-turned-food blogger’s website decodes seemingly complex recipes into into approachable projects helping the average city slicker turn into a seasoned gourmand. Below, we caught up with the natural beauty who spoke candidly about going plant-based, the pressures of the modeling industry and her philosophy on that five-letter word, detox.
What led you to be mostly vegetarian?
It became more and more abundantly clear that meat has a super high carbon footprint. I really tried to rationalize that away because I loved meat and especially modeling all the time, to stay thin, it’s just easier if you’re eating an Atkins-y type diet and I was doing the triathlons for a while, so you need the protein to get stronger. Then I just said to myself, if I really give a shit like I say I do, this is just something that I need to do. So I went cold turkey.
Was it hard going cold turkey?
The first three months were hard because it’s a new habit to think about what you can’t eat and finding a nice vegetable protein. I still eat eggs. A lot of the eggs I eat come from the farmer’s market or my mom’s farm so I know where they’re coming from. Other than that, it’s no meat–no chicken, no fish, no pork.
How do you feel different?
I feel a lot calmer. I know that’s weird to say. But I’ve noticed a change in my body to be honest. I’ve gotten a little bit softer. My muscles aren’t as toned as they used to be. I actually like it. I haven’t gained weight at all, the shape of my body is millimeters different. I thought I was going to freak about that but I actually really like the way my body looks and feels. I don’t know if when you eat meat, you get a little aggro. Now my appetitive for spinning classes and Barry’s Bootcamp has gone away. I find myself going to Ashtanga yoga a lot.
Do you miss your old diet?
I really miss slow-baked salmon. Other than that I’m ok. I crave salmon the most.
How did your modeling career affect your diet?
It wasn’t easy for me. There are a lot of models that are so confident but I always felt like I couldn’t be thin enough or toned enough. I was a tomboy. I never thought about what I ate. I was addicted to pasta. When I started modeling that was obviously not ok anymore. I’ve always been long, but I haven’t always been super thin. I was always kind of voluptuous. After 12 years of eating and exercising, I changed the shape of my body but it was a struggle for a really long time to fit into sample sizes and to do the shows.
Did your approach to food change when you stopped modeling full-time?
I loved modeling and it gave me a lot of gifts but by the time it started slowing down, after a brief period of feeling bummed out, I actually started to feel relieved. It’s very all-consuming to be six feet tall and have to weigh 130 pounds or less. You have to think about what you’re consuming every single day. To free myself of that pressure felt really nice. It made me less neurotic, frankly.
With your mother modeling when you were a child, did she give you any advice when it came to your approach to food?
My mom is Italian too so the idea of ever starving yourself is off the table. I never really knew that was a problem for people until I was an early teen. That was really foundational, she was always really careful about what I ate. She was really proactive about helping me always eat well.
Did she cook when you were young?
She cooked a lot when she was home because she worked all the time. It was a lot of pastas. She didn’t make dessert because we weren’t allowed to have it. She insisted that we sit at the dinner table every night which at a certain period of time felt like a real drag but now that I’m adult, I appreciate that so much.
Take us through a day in the life of meals.
I wake up and immediately make a mocha. I usually feel my brightest and best in the morning for work so I spend about three hours just writing, answering emails and then I eat breakfast later. I usually have Anita’s Coconut Yoghurt with a sugar-free, nut-free granola or I have hard-boiled eggs with Sriracha. That’s my go-to morning meal. I don’t eat that much in the afternoon. The Greene Grape has all these amazing prepared foods and I usually go there to get broccoli with a side of pasta. The other day they had this amazing black bean quinoa soup. I cook for myself and my boyfriend every night. He’s not vegetarian but he started eating more vegetarian lately because he felt his body was acidic and he wants to get more alkaline so he’s been participating with me, which has been great so I don’t have to smell roast chicken in the house and dream. Dinner is a bigger cooking thing. Last night we made soccas and I got burrata with fresh tomatoes and basil and we had that with salad. I’m not a huge dessert person. When I eat things, I like things that are not super sweet. I wasn’t allowed to have sugar when I was a kid so I think by the time that I ate it, I was repulsed by it.
Have you gotten more creative with dinner since becoming vegetarian?
I definitely have a lot of different kinds of pastas and sauces. Hampton Creek Mayonnaise is really the best thing in the world, it’s a vegan mayonnaise. I went through this phase when I first started going vegetarian where I would just chop up whatever vegetables I had, stick it in a warm pita and drown it in Hampton Creek Just Mayo. It was so good. I ate that for a long time. The other thing I like to do, usually at the end of the week is chop all the dribbles of vegetables you have in the fridge, make a lot of sushi rice and make rice bowls with sesame oil and Sriracha. You don’t even have to cook anything, you just make the rice and grate things really thinly and that’s it.
You traveled so much as a model, do you have any tips for staying clean and healthy while on the road?
I drink crazy amount of water, limit alcohol and try to eat very clean things like not a lot of butter sauces and stuff that’s going to make you feel even more heavy than you already feel because of jet lag. The best thing I ever did was buy a really good blackout eyemask. It changes your life when you’re traveling a lot because light makes your brain think it’s time to wake up even if you don’t want to. I also like to do a light jog for 30 minutes and listen to a podcast. Just sweat it out a little bit.
What about on vacation?
If you’re on vacation, be on vacation. Sleep a lot. If you want a pina colada with lunch, do it. I find that time is really precious and restorative. I bet you if you allowed yourself to eat a big mac everyday, you wouldn’t really want it.
What self-care rituals do you love?
I’m always playing around with things. I recently got he mustard bath and I really love the salt and coconut scrubs that you put on in the shower because they’re exfoliating but they are also moisturizing. I’m 33, and my skin recently went through a change. It’s so funny how your body changes every 3 to 4 years. I had to get rid of all of my beauty products because, I was getting rashes so I completely cut out anything that had any chemicals in it and now I only use vegan, paraben-free, synthetic-free products. The one I really love is Arbonne. They’re clean, not that expensive and great. Occasionally I use Weleda Skin Food, especially in the winter. For my body, I got shea butter at the African store in Flatbush. I love it. Sometimes I use it on my face, if I’ve had makeup on my face all day for work, I wash with Arbonne cleanser and just pat it on. For makeup, I use Arbonne’s foundation and highlighter. I have a really light lip gloss from Dior, which is slightly pinker than your lips and little bit of Armani mascara and that’s really all.
Do you have a go-to practice when you’ve felt like you overindulged and want to detox?
I think water is the best thing that you can do. I always take vitamins everyday. Even if you’ve had a crazy week, that helps to keep you normal. I have a lot of vitamins from Thorne research. They are some of the most active vitamins that you can find. I do the women’s multivitamin, B12 and Vitamin D3. I do yoga. Sometimes I torture myself and go to the Russian Bath and do hot, cold and hot cold, it’s kind of weird and gross there but you do feel reborn when you leave. And just a lot of walking. I think your body can bounce back if you treat it nicely.
Elettra’s Olive Oil Cake
” I love this cake, because it’s so low-maintenance and fast but slightly impressive.” – Elettra
2 CUPS ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
1 ¾ CUP SUGAR
1 TEASPOON KOSHER SALT
½ TEASPOON BAKING SODA
½ TEASPOON BAKING POWDER
1 ⅓CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (“I love Paesano’s because it’s deep green.”)
1 ¼ CUP WHOLE MILK
3 LARGE EGGS
2 TABLESPOONS ORANGE ZEST (1 LARGE ORANGE)
¼ CUP FRESH ORANGE JUICE (ABOUT 1 LARGE ORANGE)
¼ CUP ORANGE LIQUEUR, SUCH AS GRAND MARNIER OR COINTREAU
A dollop of this perfectly tart and creamy concoction adds an elegant finish to the olive oil cake. This is best made the day before.
1 CUP HEAVY CREAM
½ CUP SUGAR
2 CUPS SOUR CREAM
1 TABLESPOON BRANDY OR COGNAC