After years of physical suffering and not knowing what was wrong with me, I had been ecstatic to find the food that loved me back. Blessed with a website that helped people, as well as a new career in food writing, I had found my life in food. And then, almost a year to the day after my celiac diagnosis, I found the Chef.
We fell in love at first sight. When we began talking, we felt like friends. Sure, there was enormous physical attraction, but that was not the deepest flavour. Instead, we tasted comfort. Talking with him felt like keeping my hand wrapped around a warm cup of coffee. Our conversation tasted like potato-leek soup, like apple crisp, like coq au vin just out of the oven. We wafted vanilla and sugar between us. We devoured each other’s words.
Food is fuel for our relationship. It is one of the languages we both speak. When he starts to cook, we don’t talk. I do some dishes behind him, but mostly, I sit and watch, as he bends and listens to food in the skillet. He pinches salt between his fingers and dashes until the flavours start to sing. He plates our meal, his face wide with excitement, because he knows how much I’m going to love his food.
He is the executive chef at a Seattle restaurant – Impromptu Bistro – that in the past year has become almost completely gluten-free. Someone recently asked the Chef how he could change his French-inspired cuisine to never use flour or wheat. What he said was: “You meet this woman. You hold her in your arms, you fall in love with her. And then you find out that there’s something in your food that makes her sick. You teach yourself to adapt.”
One evening last June, the Chef made us a spectacular dinner. Pan-roasted beef tenderloin, on top of mashed potatoes, with a port-balsamic-veal-stock reduction sauce, with balsamic onions and soft chevre on top. Just before we ate, he started to slice up some bread to go with his meal.
Now, I’d never made a fuss about him eating gluten. But if he ate bread, he would have to brush his teeth before we could kiss. Just the breadcrumbs in his mouth would make me sick. That night, feeling close to him, I complained, “Do you have to eat bread tonight?”
Without turning around, he said, “Honey, you’re marrying a chef. You’re going to have to get used to the fact that he’s going to eat bread.”
What? I said. “What did you just say?”
He turned red, and said, “I said that I’m going to eat bread.” We danced around the kitchen, giggling, not saying it.
Later, in the middle of our meal – glorious, every flavor alive – he slipped down onto one knee. We laughed, and then I started crying.
Yes, I said. Yes.
Soon, we will be wed, in a large field with blackberries growing wild along the edges. One hundred of our closest friends will celebrate with us, in Discovery Park. It feels like the right name – every bite, and every moment we spend together, feels like a discovery.
And of course, the entire wedding will be gluten-free.
For Shauna’s superb gluten-free Quinoa Salad recipe see Allergic Living magazine’s Spring 2007 issue.
To order that issue or to subscribe, click here.
Shauna James is a writer based in Seattle, and author of the blog: glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com. Her first book,Gluten-Free Girl: How I found the food that loves me back … And how you can too, was published by Wiley and Sons in the fall of 2007. Write to Shauna at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shauna James Ahern’s and Daniel Ahern’s new cookbook is Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, published by John Wiley & Sons. Their blog is Glutenfreegirl.com
Celiac expert Shelley Case on: