My entire life, I have been writing and saying that series of numbers. I have written it on applications and forms to be filled. I have repeated it like a mantra when people have asked. And last spring, when I was so deathly ill — before my celiac diagnosis — I must have responded to the question with those numbers at least one hundred and fifty times. “What is the date of your birth?”
That makes today my 40th birthday. That’s right. I am forty years old today.
Seemingly, much of this culture doesn’t shout a hallelujah about turning forty. In the past few weeks, I have seen more greeting cards than I would care to remember about how to lie and be perpetually 39. Why? What is wrong with growing older? It just means I have lived.
After surviving last spring, the terrible time of lethargy and pain, I celebrate every day. I celebrate the fact that I’m alive, and kicking, and dancing. Going gluten-free was not a punishment for me. It was liberation. Since that spring, I have been spinning with energy, and singing.
And what a year 39 has been. Writing this site, finding new friends, gliding on the happy sighs of a life fully alive for the first time in my life. A literary agent, a spot on the Food Network. And then, gloriously, the love of my life, a dream man who makes me sigh with happiness every day — the Chef. How could life be better?
How could it be better? Well, I’m going to keep living it to find out.
Lately, I’ve been quiet on this site. I returned from Sitka and just dived right in. I’ll write more soon about what I have been doing — a trip to Tucson to meet the Chef’s parents; a reorginization of the house; cavorting in the sunshine with friends and family — next week. Promise. Mostly, I was busy writing, finishing the absolute last draft of my book proposal. (And now? It’s done! it’s done! All fifteen copies are sitting in my agent’s office, waiting to be sent out to editors. Fingers crossed, everyone. I’m hoping that you’ll be hearing about a food memoir/gluten-free cookbook soon.) After typing in tiny bursts throughout the day, for days in a row, I just needed a break. So I ate and played with the Chef and lived my life without writing about it for awhile.
But I have to return soon. I have been so moved by the barrage of emails I have been receiving from people all over the country, after they saw my spot on the Food Network. I have been overwhelmed and enlivened by every one of them. It’s clear to me how many of us are out there, doing our best to eat gluten-free and make our way through the world. So many of you have written to say that my spot made you feel encouraged, and hopeful, about the possibility of gluten-free living moving into the mainstream. I’m honored that I could do anything to help. And if you have written to me, and I have not written back yet, just know that I will. I have been taking the time to write to every one who writes to me, because you have been pouring your personal stories into my inbox for me to read. Thank you.
I would like to share one of the most eloquent comments I have received lately, something that brought tears to my eyes:
“My wife Jessica was diagnosed with Celiac in 2005. Since then we have bounced around the supermarket trying to find products without gluten. Sadly as most of us know most things have gluten in it in some form or another.
The other day we were watching the Food Network and saw your plug on the Power of Food. My wife teared up and looked at me.…to quote what she said..
My eyes swelled with tears and we both hugged one another and had a good laugh and cry. Thank you for your hard work and keep it up. There are those of us out there who truly appreciate the efforts you have gone through.
My goodness, with experiences like these, how could I mind turning 40? Thank you, Daniel. I’m so happy that I could help.
So mostly, I greet the day with a Hallelujah. In the morning, I danced around the kitchen to “Birthday” by the Beatles, which the Chef called in and requested from our favorite radio show, Breakfast with the Beatles. Every year, from the time I was sixteen, I have listened to that song on my birthday, first thing in the morning, when I put it on myself. This year, for the first time, someone played it for me.
My dear friends Sharon and Gabe flew in for my birthday, from Los Angeles and New York City. Even though I have known Sharon for more than half my life now, we have not been together on my birthday since 1988. Gabe and I have been in separate places on my birthday for the past ten years. And of course, I have never celebrated a birthday with Danny, the Chef.
You see, this time last year, I sent out an email announcing my three-day, hell-of-a-bash, 40th birthday party. I called it, “To Hell with the Wedding Party.” Since I couldn’t seem to meet anyone who seemed my match, and I was so joyfully aware of lucky I am to be alive, I just decided to give up on that elusive search for the mate. Hell with it. Who needs a wedding to bring all my friends from around the world together?
Well, it turns out, I had to change the name of the party. Now, it’s just a hell of a bash. It has been a beautiful weekend so far. Gabe, Sharon, Monica, and I went to Dan’s restaurant on Friday night, where he has debuted his new Spanish menu for the month. We laughed on the patio, in the twillight air, then leaned down together over the food. And then we moaned, all of us, and stopped talking, so we could eat. Prawns with scallions and a garlic almond-puree (pictured above). Pork tenderloin stuffed with chorizo sausage, brined for days in cloves and sugar, then roasted, accompanied by saffron risotto and an organic heirloom tomato sauce. Lamb chops dusted with cumin and coriander, alongside roasted eggplant and a cucumber yogurt sauce. Braised black and white beans with a warm bacon vinaigrette and fried sage leaves. Chocolate mousse with amaretto. Ay god. I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful birthday celebration, my dearest friends in the world with me, and the man I love more dearly than I ever imagined making us this food.
And this morning, there have been flowers, Beatles songs, and a breakfast of roasted red potatoes, wilted spinach, poached eggs, and perfectly sauteed bacon. (No fire alarms set off in my kitchen.) Much laughter. Soon, we are all heading to Discovery Park, where friends, family, and former students will fill an enormous green field with laughter and stories.
Of course, there will be plenty of great, gluten-free food.
8.6.06. Forty? Fabulous.
stay tuned to this spot for the recipe for a summery watermelon salad, perfect for a birthday picnic.