I found my wedding dress.
Slowly, a niggling worry was creeping in. After all, it is almost three months until we are married. (And every time one of us says that out loud, we giggle, like little kids delighted by the toy dangling above us.) The wedding planning goes as easily as breathing. The rings arrived in our life. We figured out where to have the ceremony — unexpectedly, on the beach, instead of in a vast green field. People are planning to fly in from all across the country, bearing dishes of gluten-free food and good wishes. And we have figured out some absurd touches that will make this a day that is entirely our own. Relaxed and laughing — that’s how we want to be.
It amazes me how many people say to us, “Oh, if you can survive the wedding planning, you can survive anything!” What? We haven’t disagreed once or encountered even a little tug of tension. We talk. Then again, we both know that, just as it is with cooking food, whatever mood you have when you are creating, that mood will tinge itself into the final creation. We want it all to be joyful, and spontaneous.
And for godssakes, we’re having paper plates and beach volleyball at our wedding. There will be no personalized wedding favors or matching bridesmaid dresses here.
Still, this is more than just a potluck at our house on a Sunday afternoon. We both believe in the beauty of ritual. After all, every day, the Chef chops onions in the same way, beginning with a ritual of the fingers. And every day, I sit down at this computer, and begin to flex my fingers on the keyboard, diving back into the words. There’s a joy to joining the procession and repetition of form that is inherent in all weddings.
“Will you marry me?” he asks me, nearly every day.
“Yes, I will,” I answer, my smile still enormous.
Saying it to each other that day will be an extension of our everyday lives. At the same time, we will be echoing the millions of people before us who have promised to choose love. We want to do the same.
To that end, I will be wearing white at our wedding. Oh sure, it’s an outdated custom, and the time-sworn symbolism of it won’t be true. But, there’s still something breathtaking about a woman in a white dress, in the middle of summer. It’s a visual archetype, now.
Besides, the Chef requested it. As he keeps saying, “No matter what you wear, you will be the most beautiful woman in the world.” Ay god, this man. But specifically, he wants me to wear white because of a line in this song. Even though I always imagined that I’d wear red at my wedding, when he asked, I said yes.
And so, the search for the dress.
I may have adopted the idea of the white dress, but I quickly came to realize that I couldn’t wear a traditional dress. I just don’t want to look like the pouf ball at the top of a dandelion. I want to look like myself at our wedding.
Besides, have you seen the prices of these dresses? Ghastly.
There are several wedding boutiques here in Seattle. Back in October, I visited one with my dear friend Cindy, who was in town for a conference. Since she’s one of my bridesmaids, I thought, “Okay, I should do some of this wedding stuff.” We entered the sanctum of two shops (that’s how they make you feel, as though you should speak in hushed tones all the time) and entered my idea of hell.
In one store, they made me put on a hairnet and wear white gloves before I could try on a dress. That way, I wouldn’t actually taint the silk and satin with my skin. Sure, I’ll admit it: seeing myself in a floor-length white gown brought tears to my eyes. I’m really getting married, that dress said to me.
But it bunched in the wrong places, and it felt like a costume instead of my dress. The women started talking about the girdles I would need, and the tiny strappy shoes and the frilly underthings and the $200 veil. I started to feel sick.
And when they showed me the pricetag of the dress — over $2000 — my nausea turned to laughter. Are you kidding me?
Cindy and I left, quickly.
Looking at wedding dresses online only increased my ire. And my dismay. Why would I want to look forlorn because I have to drag forty pounds of silk behind me? Or pouty, shoulders forward, with swirls of satin thumbtacked to my hips? Or pretending to be a flamenco dancer?
Oh, I was ready to wear a sundress, or a big skirt and a tank top. Forget it.
But still, I’m a woman. Of course I want to feel beautiful on my wedding day. And the parts of me both tugged. I want it to be simple, inexpensive, and me, one part shouted. The other kept saying, Yes, but you’re only going to be married once. You need more than a dress from Target. It didn’t help that many of my older women friends, people whom I trust for their candor and quirkiness, kept saying, “Shauna, you want a dress that you’ll hang in the closet and never wear again.”
Couldn’t we just elope?
Luckily, I was saved by the unexpected, once again.
I had been looking in thrift stores. I had been asking around for seamstresses. I had played with the idea of buying an inexpensive dress online. But none of it felt right.
In all my searching, one name kept emerging: Champagne Taste, in Kirkland. First of all, Kirkland is “on the east side,” a territory I never venture into, if I can help it. (This is, of course, an artificial divide. East of Lake Washington means more suburbs, Microsoft, big cars, and a place nothing like my taste. And a store called Champagne Taste? There is absolutely no way I could ever find my wedding dress in a placed called Champagne Taste, I kept saying.
Then again, a little thought niggled in my head, you never thought you would meet the love of your life online, either.
A day of teaching writing to sixth-graders drew me over past the Lake. What the hell, I thought. I’m going over there anyway. I’ll just stop into Champagne Taste so I can cross it off the list of places I have to look.
Come to think of it, that’s exactly the same mindset I had when I met the Chef.
When I walked into Champagne Taste, I almost started laughing. Rather than the shi-shi place of faux refinement I had feared, I found a store cluttered with clothing in all the corners. Purses were piled on the floor. Shoes were askew at the feet of different dresses. There was a winsome chaos to the place, something slightly shabby and human. So much for expectations.
As I walked to the wall of wedding dresses in protective plastic, I listened to the two women customers circling the store. “Oh my god, we’re free!” They told the two women running the store — both of them quite a bit older than I had expected, with frosted hair — that they were having a “sister day.” These two sisters had ditched their husbands, leaving only notes about leftovers in the freezer, and hightailed it for a day of inexpensive manicures, shopping, and dinner out. They were perhaps the jolliest people I had met in a long time. (And the loudest.)
The wedding dresses I saw were beautiful, but still far too costly. If I had been searching for one of those grandeloquent dresses featured in wedding magazines, but at half the price, this would have been the place. But I was not. I saw a plastic shelving unit stuffed with inexpensive veils, so I turned my attention to them instead.
One of the happy sisters turned the corner and walked into my nook. I saw, for the first time, that she was wearing a terribly fake gold piece on her forehead, a loud imitation of what Indian women wear. “Do you know what this is?” she asked me, suddenly.
Startled, I answered. I told her about bindis and their significance.
“Hey!” she shouted from across the store. “We found the right person1”
When she turned back to me, she saw me fingering a veil (I was still puzzled as to how to wear one). “Wait a minute!” she shouted again. “Are you getting married?”
When I mumbled that I am, in July, she actually grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me to the front of the store. “She’s getting married!” The three other women in the store — all of whom were in their early sixties — perked up and moved into action.
“What do you want?” one of the owners asked me. “What kind of dress are you picturing?”
I spluttered, not prepared for all this attention. “Well, simple. Simple, simple. No gee-gaw, no frou-frou. Something elegant, but really just a beautiful white dress.”
The owner seemed to jump a foot, so eager to grab a dress from the back that she nearly tripped. She came out, within a minute, holding three dresses in my size.
The first one was good. Actually, better than anything I had seen so far. I was just about to reach out for it, so eager to be done that I would have taken good enough. But then she unveiled the second dress.
It turns out that your wedding dress — just like your love — is easy to spot. You just have to sift through a lot of them before you can see it clearly.
The women all insisted that I try it on. “We want to see what you will look like on your wedding day!” So I slipped it over my head, and it slid right on. When I emerged from the dressing room (just a cubicle with a tattered curtain), for the first time in my life, I felt like Cinderella at the ball. They all oohed and aahed, and I couldn’t help but blush.
There I was, wearing the dress in which I will marry the Chef.
And can I be gauche and talk about money? It cost me less than $150.
The sisters left, waving behind them and singing out loud. The owners helped me find a veil, in under three minutes. I paid them, grinning all the while and talking a mile a minute about all the stories of us and the kind of wedding we are having. They smiled. They must see this all the time.
And then one of them asked me what I wrote. I told her about this site. She jumped again. Her daughter is getting married soon, and her new mother-in-law has celiac. They have no idea what to feed her. Perpetually, this is a small world.
Before I drove away from the store, I called the Chef, and told him, “I just bought my wedding dress.” It was silent on his end. For a moment, I thought we had lost our cell phone connection. And then I heard him sniff. I had made him cry, and he couldn’t talk.
I didn’t describe the dress to him. I can’t describe it to you. He reads this site every night, after all. And he has asked, sweetly, that he not see the dress, or me in it, until the moment I walk down the aisle.
Of course, my love. Of course.
One thing is for certain about this: I know him. And so I can say, without a doubt, that when the Chef sees me walking toward him, in that dress, he is going to be crying happy tears.
Oh hell, we all know that I will be too.
Tuna Bowl, inspired by The Herbal Kitchen by Jerry Traunfeld
The day I came home from buying the wedding dress, I ate this dish for an early dinner. We had seared some ahi tuna the night before, and I decided to try this. Jerry Traunfeld, who runs the Herbfarm, is a genius at light dishes that taste full and decadent. He described his version as sushi without the packaging. I had been meaning to try this for days, and that day seemed like the time.
Let me make this clear — I did not eat this bowl of rice and veggies because it had as few calories as possible. I am not panicking because I need to fit into my wedding dress. Sure, for the first six months we loved each other, the Chef brought home food from the restaurant every night, and cooked for us. We seemed to be on the all-cream and butter diet. However, life evens out. We’re eating lighter now, especially because it’s spring. We both insist — we follow the food that the earth offers in the moment.
Along with ghastly expensive dresses, what I saw repeatedly in bridal magazines and related horrifinalia, was the following: Bridal Boot Camp! What Not to Eat Before Your Wedding! How to Lose Twelve Pounds in Ten Days! Be the Smallest Size You Can For Your Wedding Day!
Poppycock. I’m clearly voluptuous, with curves and flesh. The Chef loves me that way. I do too. I walk. I do yoga. I eat well. I’m fit. But more than that, since my car accident, and the celiac diagnosis, I am grateful to have this body. I’m alive.
And so, there will be no glycolic peels or frantic running routines or a joining of the gym. Instead, there will be love and laughter and conscious food choices. There will be tuna bowls, with all the bounties that spring has to offer.
Aromatic jasmine rice
1 cup jasmine rice
2 cups water
2 glugs rice wine vinegar
½ stalk lemongrass
1 chunk fresh ginger
1 pat butter
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Combine all the ingredients in your rice cooker. (If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can do this in a pot, but watch it instead.) Set it on cook and wait for it to be done.
Fish out the ginger and lemongrass and fluff up the rice.
½ cup toasted sesame oil
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespon wheat-free tamari
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
Put the ginger, rice wine vinegar, wheat-free tamari, and garlic in a blender. Turn on the blender and start to pulverize the ingredients. As it is processing, slowly add the sesame oil and canola oil to the blender. When the entire concoction has blended together well (which is called emulsifying), turn off the blender. This will give you plenty of dressing, which will store in the refrigerator for weeks.
Find the best piece of ahi tuna that you can find. Ask your seafood person to cut into one-inch thick pieces.
Heat a pan to the highest heat imaginable. Put a tablespoon of canola oil into the pan and let it come to heat.
Place the tuna steaks into the pan. Cook for one minute on the first side. Flip the tuna steaks over and cook for one minute off. Immediately, take the tuna out of the pan and onto a plate. The outside should be seared and warm, and the inside cool.
The final tuna bowl
Take a scoop of rice. Place a few slices of the seared tuna on top. Add some of your favorite vegetables and herbs.
Sautéed red pepper
Or anything else you like.
After you have arranged the plate in a way you love, toss a small amount of the dressing on top, and toss.
Eat. You will be amazed at how filled you will feel with something this healthy.