Before Little Bean entered the world, people who were already parents told us, repeatedly: “Your entire life is going to change.”
It seemed safe to assume. Little to no sleep, a fierce little creature at the center of our lives, crying without words, and all those diapers to change. We imagined the worst, but we knew we would love it more than others assumed. We thought we were prepared.
We had no idea.
Much in our lives is still the same. We still love food, the Beatles, overcast days, driving and singing country music songs together, teasing each other, and farmers’ markets. We still adore each other. We still live in the same house and have the same names.
Nearly everything else feels different.
It’s subtle, sometimes. We still have long mornings together, and they still feel languid. It’s just that we wake up at 6:30 now, instead of 8 or 9. The first part of the morning, instead of being spent looking at each other and laughing, is spent looking at this tiny being in our bed and saying, “My goodness, we made her.” The afternoons and evenings always raced by, especially when I was absorbed in writing. But now I look up, and the sky outside the living room window has turned that rich, crepuscular blue, and I think, “How did it come to be evening already, when all I’ve been doing is dancing a little girl around the room?” The Chef and I still laugh and share our stores at the end of the night. Now, however, we can barely keep our eyes open past Letterman’s monologue. We stumble into bed.
It’s more than the schedules, the sleep deprivation, the sighing we do over her for hours. Our hearts have exploded open.
The sweetness overflows into everything around here. And then, when Little Bean cries, she’s the potent force with which to be reckoned. She has a powerful set of lungs, and she doesn’t mind using them. She’s dear and sweet and not fussy in anyone’s book. But when she cries — oh, it pierces our hearts. She has taught us. Compassion is not a concept anymore. Everyone I see, no matter how annoying, reminds me: “You were once a baby.”
Poor Chef, however. He has the mornings with us, and then he is gone for hours on end. By the time he comes home from the restaurant, it’s late at night, and Little Bean is fast asleep. No matter how many photographs I send him on the cell phone, it just isn’t the same. The other day, he said, “Every morning, when I pick her up, she’s heavier than the day before. And I missed all of it.”
All of this change is prologue, a way of explaining the next sentence I am about to write:
The Chef is leaving his restaurant.
As of October 18th (next Saturday), the Chef will no longer be cooking at Impromptu.
Some of you, the ones who have eaten there and the ones who had wanted to, will be shocked at this. We’re grinning with happy surprise ourselves.
You see, the Chef has been working in restaurants since he was 15 years old. As much as he thrives on the rush, and adores feeding people, he has simply never had a break. If he’s going to keep cooking, and dancing in the kitchen, he needs some time off, to find his perspective.
Along with this, the manuscript for our cookbook is due to the publishers on December 31st. That’s alarmingly soon. We have been working on the book for months, long before Little Bean was born. But, in a revelation that will come as no surprise to anyone who has been a parent, it turns out that trying to complete a book and be home alone with a baby all day? Those flavors don’t meld so well.
Having the two of us at home, though? Oh, what a joy that will be.
Mostly, the Chef wants to be the house husband for awhile, like John Lennon was with Sean. He wants to dance Little Bean around the room in the afternoon, sing her bouncy songs, and take her on long walks while I write. He wants to be a father, before he is a chef.
And so, for the next few months, the Chef will be at home, with us. After the cookbook is done, I’m sure he’ll return to cooking, in some form. Perhaps he’ll pick up some shifts at a favorite restaurant, or teach cooking classes full time with me. We don’t know.
That’s what feels so great, what feels so honest to where we are. We don’t know what comes next. But right now, in this moment, when Little Bean is eleven weeks old? We want to be with her.
We don’t have much money, but we have just enough money in savings that we can do it, if we tighten our belts. In these tumultuous economic times, prudence says to not take any chances, to hunker down. However, after the terrifying start we had with her, we both know that there are no guarantees in life. We have to seize this moment, as it arises.
We’re saying yes.
The Chef would like everyone to know how much he has loved cooking food for the people who have come into Impromptu:
“The last two-and-a-half years have been amazing. It has been such a gratifying, rewarding experience to cook for people. There are so many people who have a gluten allergy and they are afraid to go out to eat. People who don’t have a food allergy can take food for granted. Eating is such such a joyous event, whether picking up a snack with a friend or having a three-hour meal. Most people with gluten issues are still scared to eat in restaurants. I’ve wanted to give people the chance to eat safely and not grow sick. It has been such a great feeling for me, because I have been cooking the food that I have wanted to feed Shauna. And in doing that, I have been able to feed a lot of other people.”
(You see? He won’t be able to stay away from restaurants that long.)
Impromptu will still be open after he leaves. And he is training the new chef to cook gluten-free, and keep the kitchen safe from cross-contamination, so that people may still eat safely. It just won’t be the Chef in the kitchen making your food, after October 18th.
What will he be doing instead?
For the next three months, we’re going to play with food, test all our recipes, develop some kick-ass gluten-free baked goods (pasta, focaccia, dinner rolls, multi-grain waffles, etc.), and live in food together. We have big plans for how to step up this website. (More news on that later.) The Chef can look after Little Bean for four or five hours a day and give me time to write. And then, in the evening, we can give her a bath, put her to bed, and have dinner together before midnight.
We’ll be parenting together.
The Chef adores food — lives it, breathes it — more than any person I have ever met. It turns out, however, that he loves his daughter more.
Those babies. They really do change everything.