Retired New York cop Eddie McNamara
Eddie McNamara was once a member of the New York Port Authority and worked in rescue and recovery from September 11th. He has been struggling with PTSD since then. Eddie is now a cook, and shares the story of how cooking helped set her on the path to recovery. He talks to Lidia about his experience as he prepares his signature Veggie Balls recipe. Lidia decided to share her own recipe for Meat and Eggplant Meatballs, a dish that is delicious for first responders and frontline workers.
While Lidia is watching by zoom, Eddie McNamara is preparing his special meatballs. He has arranged for some to be brought to her home so that they can “eat together”.
Meet Eddie McNamara
Eddie was a young cop with the New York Port Authority Police Department. Photo: Eddie McNamara
“I grew up in a very blue New York neighborhood called Marine Park in South Brooklyn. The people who were successful were police officers and firefighters, nurses and teachers. I took a police test because that’s what you do when you get out of the marine park and they called me at the point where I hated the advertising job I was in. I thought this might be something that I did something that might be important. I also played music; I’ve played in punk rock bands, hardcore bands and rockabilly bands. I also had the idea of being a novelist. I was always writing with friends; We wrote two films when I was a cop and we won the Buzz Award at the New York Film Festival in 2002, or something like that. I always needed a creative outlet. “- Eddie McNamara
Post 9/11 rescue and recovery team at work. Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT / Getty Images
“[After 9/11]I don’t know if I slept the month of September. I don’t know if anyone who worked there slept, it was just crazy. In the beginning everyone did what we thought was search and rescue, but that stopped after I think maybe on the morning of the 12th whenever the last rescue came. We believed for a long time there was a bag down there and there were a few people there. You had to tell yourself to go on with the work, to recover in the hope of salvation. I was then diagnosed with PTSD, depression, panic disorder, and mild agoraphobia. I get very nervous about simple things like crossing the street and I don’t know why. It feels dangerous to me. PTSD makes me feel that things are very dangerous when they are not dangerous at all. “- Eddie McNamara
Eddie’s early days as a cook. Photo: Eddie McNamara
“I started therapy and medication in 2005. I don’t know if it helped a lot at first, but eventually, over the years and with other lifestyle changes (I took up yoga and meditation, became a vegetarian, stopped drinking, etc. I was able to straighten myself out and not allow myself) I lived in Brooklyn in 2006 and was just a bum on the couch. I would watch the Cooking Channel, I would watch PBS and I would buy cooking magazines. Where I lived, the supermarkets had lots of choices Spices and Ingredients. To accomplish something, I tried to make dinner while my wife was at work. [My wife] gave me a present; It was a basic course in knife skills. I loved it. I thought I can imagine. I could be a cook. I worked a bit in restaurants and ended up doing a vegetarian blog. I made recipes for InStyle, HGTV, Yoga Journal, and a whole bunch of places where magazines were something that had money and people paid. From there I wrote a cookbook called ‘Toss Your Own Salad’. “- Eddie McNamara
Eddie points to his cookbook “Toss Your Own Salad” on the shelves of a bookstore. Photo: Eddie McNamara
“When I hack, I just focus on the hack. I don’t think that everything goes wrong in my life or that it is uncomfortable to think about events from the past. I am thinking about chopping a pepper. And at the end of the meal I achieved something. And if friends and family like it then my day has not been a waste and I can write the recipe on my blog. I’m trying to de-stigmatize vegetarianism. I try to make it fun and tasty, not boring and preaching. If people want to eat meat, great! I hope you do it in the most humane way possible. It is a free country. Do what you do What I do is geared towards vegetables, but meat-and-potato people can dig my food. Once, when my dad liked something, I said, ‘Okay, maybe I’m going to do something with it. ‘”- Eddie McNamara
Eddie tosses one of his colorful vegetarian salad creations. Photo: Rose Callahan
“I absolutely appreciate what I was able to do as a cop, even though it wasn’t my dream in the end. But I really enjoyed the service aspect of things and it’s something I wanted to keep going. Between the cooking blog, cookbook, and mental health column that I do, I feel like I can continue to be of use. “- Eddie McNamara