imagining yes

breakfast at Morandi's

I have been looking for the words for days. I haven’t found them yet.

You see, we spent nine days in New York, both the city and its environs, to celebrate the publication of our book, only returning home a few days ago. In those glorious, grubby days, we connected with people who are dear to us, new friends, food writing heroes, and groups of people who came out to meet us. We ate our way through the city, in one memorable meal after another. We taught a cooking class, gathered people together for a picnic in Central Park, went on the radio, met fellow bloggers at the Union Square Greenmarket, talked with folks in a Shaker village, appeared on a podcast, and talked with dozens and dozens of people who have bought our book and love what they have cooked out of it.

We three — Danny and I, plus an exuberant Lu — spent time in nearly every neighborhood of Manhattan south of 96th street, plus visits to Brooklyn, Queens, upstate New York, and New Jersey. All with a kid in a stroller and two suitcases. (Some things never change, it seems.)

When we left for New York, we were anticipating the arrival of the book in the world. We gestated that baby for nearly three years. A week before we were in New York, it arrived early, unexpectedly. Really, we went to New York to cut the umbilical cord. To celebrate. And to let go.

We came back changed.

I still haven’t found the words for it all.

I can show you some photographs, though.

And start off by saying that it felt as though the table was set for us wherever we went in New York.

sunrise over Newark

Sunrise over Newark sounds like a joke, right? How could that be beautiful?

This caught my eye as we rode the bus on the New Jersey Turnpike from Newark airport into the city. (I always think of the Simon and Garfunkel song.) Sunrise anywhere lifts my heart. More than that, however, it’s those skinny spires behind the hundred telephone poles that made me sit up straight, awake, without any decent coffee. New York City.

I lived there for four years and I never once grew tired of it. (Well, maybe a bit. Enough to leave it.) Every time I see that city, my heart beats faster. Everything happens there. It’s the heart of all that is theater and writing, young men drumming on subways and the Egyptian room at the Met, food carts and fine dining, Central Park and the East Village, cigarette butts in the street and unexpected smiles on people’s faces, grizzled beards on homeless men and insanely wealthy people hiding in their hired cars, coffee with milk and bagels, humid air and sitting on the sidewalk late at night eating with friends, business men in crisp shirts and young women in fashionable rain boots, raucous laughter bouncing off the cavernous buildings, the smell of stale air on the trains, pizza late at night, and three thousand other small details that make that place the greatest city in the world.

(Don’t argue with me. I’m a New Yorker at heart, still.)

One look at the city in the distance and all my exhaustion from an overnight flight faded right away.

Lu sees New York for the first time

This is Lu, looking at the streets of New York City for the first time. After we exited the Lincoln Tunnel and emerged onto the area around Port Authority, she stood up in her seat on the bus (Danny holding onto her legs) and just stared.

That’s what she looked like for much of the trip. She took it all in. She watched, absorbed, danced, laughed, stared, asked us questions, and watched some more.

I can only imagine the changes in her brain these past two weeks. She’s talking more and more since we returned home, jabbering and telling us stories in short bursts. The city left its indelible mark on her. She loved New York City as much as Danny and I do.

cupcake at Tulu's

There were so many good moments. Like the first morning, when we had breakfast with a friend from Seattle in the East Village. And then we wandered around the corner to find Tulu’s Gluten-Free Bakery and this cupcake in the window.

(This place is good.)

the view from Paige's porch

Or the moment when we sat on a porch in the house of a new good friend, (driven there by another new good friend) in the evening as the gloaming settled on all the hills and fields around us, the air warm, the table before us spread out with fresh guacamole, three kinds of salsa, and two kinds of tortilla chip. Danny and I looked at each other at the same time, sighed, and reached for each other’s hands.

We felt so lucky. We still do.

The next morning, when we went back, we saw this from the porch.

Wow.

the picnic

That day, we made an appearance at Hancock Shaker Village, during their annual country fair. Lu lost her mind for the sheep. We walked around the farmers’ market, admiring and sampling local blue cheeses. We walked into a room with two tables full of people, people there to see us and have a conversation about food and family, creating and making mistakes in the kitchen. I will never forget that conversation.

We jumped on another train, after Margaret drove us expertly through winding roads, landed in the city, and took off immediately for Park Slope in Brooklyn. We were late to the party in our honor (damned subway work on the weekends!), but no one seemed to blame us. In the apartment of Silvana Nardone waited fellow food bloggers, dear old friends, our book editor, small children running around our legs, and a table laden with incredible food, all of it gluten-free.

(And a motorcycle parked in the hallway, which Lu immediately climbed and sat astride the seat like a pro. We’re in trouble.)

We drove home with my friend Mark and his wife Nicole, in their tiny sports car, close to midnight, Lu asleep in my arms, the air warm through the open windows, up FDR drive, talking fast and laughing.

And the next day, a picnic in Central Park, with some of the best people we had never met before.

This was so special that it deserves its own post. We are still trying to take it in. Soon.

danny spinning LU

At one point, toward the end of the picnic, Danny said to me, “Can you take our picture? I always dreamed of doing this, here, with my kid.”

He grabbed Lu by the hands, and he picked her up. They spun and spun, in ever widening circles, the both of them laughing and filling the air with the sound.

My heart wanted to burst.

Shake Shack

Afterward, we walked on the Upper West Side, with two wonderful women. Tracy and Kim tested nearly every recipe in our cookbook for us. They were meticulous and joyful, both, and sent us photographs of everything they made. Without their work, you wouldn’t have edible pasta or crusty bread.

To surprise Kim for a weekend important to her, Tracy planned a trip to New York so we could all finally meet. We loved them, of course. We knew we would. We talked and laughed as we walked up Columbus toward Shake Shack.

This place takes cares of folks who can’t eat gluten. They knew exactly what it is, what we could eat, and how to feed us.

Crinkly fries and root beer floats on a bench outside the Natural History Museum, the wind blowing, the weather shifting, and all of us feeling good just being there.

breakfast at Jennifer's

The next morning, we had brunch at the home of our good friend, Jennifer Perillo. Do you know her blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen? You should. This woman took the trouble to make the entire brunch gluten-free for me. And it was all delicious.

The other guests agreed. No one felt deprived because there was no gluten on the table.

Also, because they are also food writers and bloggers, no one made fun of me when I took this plate out onto the front porch to take this photograph.

the Wiley team

Later that day, for lunch, we met the amazing team at Wiley who produced our book. On the left is Justin, our inimitable book editor. Seriously, we love him. Justin, the fact that you are slightly out of focus in this photo has nothing to do with how we feel about you. In the middle is Jana, our PR person, the one-woman force gathering media attention for our book. And on the right is Todd, the head of marketing of cookbooks at Wiley. He’s doing all the behind-the-scenes work to make sure the cookbook gets into your hands. He is also one of the dearest friends of my dear friend, Sherry, and the childhood friend of my awesome friend Carol Blymire. (What does it matter that I have yet to meet Carol in person? This is the internet age. I already dig her.)

That’s what this entire trip felt like: incredible connections.

cheesecake at Locanda Verde

Also, the lunch we shared together at Locanda Verde ended in this stunning cheesecake. Gluten-free.

train!

Just before we arrived in New York, Lu developed a fervent interest in trains. Mostly, due to this book, which we have now read to her 8,372 times. We could not have taken her to a better city.

Every time we approached a subway stop, she shouted out with intense glee: “TRAIN!” She sat through every subway ride with eyes wide open. She was somehow joyful when we stayed at the apartment of a friend in Astoria, for days, where the train tracks were above our heads and rattled the windows every fifteen minutes when another one roared by. “TRAIN!” she shouted.

And whenever we left the subway, again, she looked back and said, in her lilting voice, “Bye bye train!”

(I do not, however, miss walking up and down the steps of the subway, the two of us carrying her in her stroller. My biceps are amazing right now.)

New York street scene

One day, we walked from 57th Street to 14th Street, slowly. (Well, as slowly as you can walk in New York.) How many human faces we saw that afternoon.

And this guy, who walked about 10 blocks with us and no one ever gave him a second look.

I love that.

Lu looks at New York from her stroller

Lu took it all in from her stroller. She thrived in that city. She ran and smiled and danced and watched and talked until she collapsed with exhaustion, slept in her stroller for a couple of hours, and then woke up to do it again.

Clearly, we are not stimulating her enough at home. She slept solid and long hours every night we were there. Our little island may be too quiet for her.

We watched the city through her eyes, watched the panoply of people, the mix of races and fashions, the directness of conversation, the democratic way that everyone stands on the subway platform together, and we talked about the world in which she lives. In New York, we were so happy for her, to know such a place.

Whole Foods event

And we taught a class. Walking into a Whole Foods in Manhattan, we saw our own names.

That was a trip.

Thank you to all of you who came out that night. We will not forget the connection with you.

madison square park at night

Afterward, we walked uptown in the warm air and found Mozzarelli’s, a pizza joint with gluten-free slices. They were just about to close, so we found extra slices in our hands. We walked to Madison Square Park, found a green metal table, and sat with Lu, eating pizza.

We laughed, the stress of making all our appointments for the day slipped away from our shoulders, the next day before us, our daughter dangling her feet from the chair, and all of us eating good pizza together in the warm evening air.

at the Union Square Greenmarket

The next morning, we met fellow food bloggers at the Union Square Greenmarket. This woman was perfectly dressed for the occasion. It was as though she stood there for my camera alone.

gathering salsa

It’s fast-talking joy to walk through a farmers’ market with other people who love food enough to write websites about it. And then to stop talking to admire the box full of fresh ingredients that would make up salsa later that day.

Those of you were there? Thank you.

Lu examines the peppers

Lu loved the peppers best.

EAT

EAT. That we did.

There was an adventuresome meal at Prune with Francis Lam, who is my new favorite dining companion for the way he pays attention carefully to every bite, silent, then releases into exhalation and enthusiasm. (Poached chicken in aspic! Pho beef short ribs! Creamed corn succotash!) Have you been to Prune? Go now.

There was the three-hour Greek meal we ate in Astoria with my old friend Gabe and his wonderful girlfriend, Pilar. We sat at a table on the sidewalk in the warm air and let the waiter decide for us what we should eat. (He was wonderful but sounded like a parody of Borat, so we laughed whenever he stretched out our daughter’s name. “Oh Luuuuuucy! Won’t you smile for me?”) The grilled haloumi alone was worth the entire night.

There was an extraordinary lunch at Gramercy Tavern with Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, the authors of The Flavor Bible and many other books. Danny cooked at Gramercy Tavern when he lived in NY (the same time as me, 12 block away, but we never met then), and he cooked with the help of Culinary Artistry, Page and Dornenburg’s earlier book, for over a decade. It’s how he has created dishes for every restaurant in which he has cooked.

We were both amazed to be sitting with these people in that place. We were even more amazed to feel such an easy sense of kinship with them. The edits of the manuscript for their next book were due the next day, and then they were getting on a plane to Argentina. But they made time for lunch with us.

The eating was amazing on this trip.

gluten-free Reuben sandwiches

Including this Reuben sandwich at Friedman’s Lunch in the Chelsea Market. Look at that. How could you not want that?

(It’s clear they use Udi’s bread for their sandwiches. Good move.)

I could eat at Friedman’s Lunch every day, given the chance. Too bad it’s across-the-country away.

Here’s the thing. We ate nearly every meal in someone else’s hands. We only cooked once in 9 days. And in fine dining and dives both, I ate well. And I ate safely.

It’s entirely possible to eat gluten-free in New York City.

sherry, shauna, and megan

We met some amazing new people on this trip, people who might be friends for years.

But in the end, it’s such a comfort to see old friends. These two women, Sherry and Megan, sustained me through some lonely times in New York, when I lived there, almost a decade ago now. They made me laugh, made me think, and made me feel loved.

Now, they both have children (Sherry has three daughters, Megan has two boys) and I have Lu. We all have husbands whom we adore and respect. And there I was, in New York, on a book tour, hugging them both.

We all agreed — we had no ideas where our lives were going when we knew each other back then. No one could have ever predicted this.

yes/imagine

For the picnic in Central Park, we asked people to show up with the words YES or IMAGINE on them somewhere. When we arrived, we were so moved to see it on bags and purses, on wrists and hands. YES and IMAGINE.

I have YES tattooed on me. Danny has IMAGINE tattooed on him.

This trip? It was all about yes and imagine. Years ago, Danny and I imagined a cookbook. We said yes to it, every day, through hard work and recipes that failed and more testing and writing and editing. We imagined it in your hands, in your kitchens, in your homes.

This trip? We saw you with our cookbook in our hands. And we gathered, those of us who were there, to talk about food and family and laughter and unexpected delights. It was, quite literally, a dream come true for us.

Say yes to your life. You cannot imagine what could happen.

Thank you, New York. Over and over. Thank you.

p.s. It seems I did find my words after all. Thank you for reading.

45 comments on “imagining yes

  1. Kate

    Incredibly LOVELY post, Shauna. Thank you for taking us to New York with you via this post! (And glad we got to see you before you left for dinner too!)
    xoxoxoxxox
    Kate, Allen, Zoe & Rory
    (@GlutenFreeGobsmacked)

  2. Niamh

    I love the book, got it at Vashon Bookshop last week. This blog post was just wonderful. We’ve been to NY city once and our then 4 year old son was constantly saying “look mama, more fire trucks!” Vashon was really quiet when we came home ;)
    Thanks so much for sharing your family’s experiences and many congratulations on the book. A lovely story, fab pictures and mouth watering recipes!!

  3. terry

    you have an amazing talent for bringing tears to my eyes with every post, shauna!

    i love the way you describe new york. i love that city almost as much as SF. so and the gf dining there is spectacular.

    glad you got to share it witb lu. the picture of her and danny in the park is amazing!

  4. Luisa

    Ha! I totally know that crazy dude who walked ten blocks with you with the wig and nutty outfit, saw him all the time. So glad I just got to see him again here… I miss NYC. :)

  5. David L

    I love the fries at Shake Shack. Makes me jealous that I wasn’t there to share them with you : )

  6. Jules

    (okay, I have to send this in two parts b/c it’s too big for one post, apparently. Also, this one may be a duplicate)
    You definitely found the words. And the words that weren’t there weren’t necessary because the pictures took care of them ;-)
    Wow! Although we’ve never met, I feel I have made this journey with you. I am excited for you for all the beautiful, amazing things unfolding before you at once. Your description of gestation and birthing of the book seem also to apply to this time in your life. As a more recent follower of your blog (within the last year) many of your earlier posts are near in my memory and I can’t help but think how so much of your journey (and your intent with the blog), so many seemingly loose ends, all come together in perfect harmony at this juncture of your life. And the thing that amazes me is that this is but an aspect, a resting place for one’s eye (if you will) on the glorious tapestry of your life. How amazing, too, how intricately and effortlessly woven it is with so many others! Though we have never met, your life certainly has touched mine and is a beautiful thread running through my own tapestry. One can only begin to imagine the bigger picture on the grander scale of the many lives you’ve touched.
    (more to come)

  7. Jules

    (part two)
    Thank you for saying “yes”. Thank you for sharing your life and allowing so many to come alongside you on your journey. What a joy!

    And I would be remiss if I did not also mention how fun it’s been to see you develop as a photographer as well ;-) The picture of the word “EAT” in the restaurant reminded me of an earlier picture of yours of a stack of cans of tomatoes (I believe that’s what it was) and how much I liked it. And I remembered your writing previously of your photography skills and admiration of others’. You’ve come a long way in that. So many of your photographs took my breath away. I still have no words to express about the view from the porch in the country! Tears came to my eyes as a smile filled my heart when I saw the picture of Lu and Danny in Central Park. What a moment! And as I mentioned before, these pictures (all the pictures you take and share) speak volumes!

    So again, thank you for sharing so much with so many.

  8. DineInDiva

    Beautiful post and photos — I felt like I was there with you.

    Rec’d my book last week — it is stunning. You both should be very proud of that baby.

  9. Juliana

    Fantastic post! Thanks for sharing your trip. I’m glad it was so magical for you (and has made me want to visit NY again soon.)

  10. Britt

    Oh Shauna, I’m so glad you and Danny and Lu had such an amazing time here! It was lovely to meet you all and comforting to find that you’re very much the same people you are in this space–warm, generous, full of life. That said, the hugs and laughter in person, and actually watching Lu in action, just can’t be beat. Come back soon and often.

    And congrats again on the book. It’s beautiful and inspiring and a welcome presence in our kitchen.

  11. MJ

    Thank you for this needed inspiration — and you’ve made my quote file with this one “Say yes to your life. You cannot imagine what could happen.” I have been fortunate enough to achieve one of my dreams already in life and am feeling my way toward being able to articulate a new dream to follow.

    The joy your work and family brings you is beautiful to see, and that so much of it is based on bringing or enabling joy and love for other people only makes it more so. My heart fills just reading about it.

    All the best.….

  12. THE Tough Cookie

    My favorite part of this post is the photo of Danny and Lu in Central Park. And, that he always wanted to twirl his child around like that in the middle of Central Park. I’m in a puddle just typing this.

  13. Katya

    I saw your names that night in Whole Foods around 5pm, and had to hurry home. Perhaps next time. So glad NY was good to you all.

  14. SparkCrafted

    I live just a short trip south of NYC and now have hundreds more reasons to visit thanks to this post. I’m always so hesitant to leave home and the comfort of those restaurants and eateries that I know are safe. Thank you!

  15. GF PATISSERIE

    You know what they say:

    If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere!

    You did it. There is no tougher nut to crack than New York.

    Brilliant post, some fantastic images.

  16. lauren @ gluten free in the deep fried south

    This is such a gorgeous post, Shauna. I don’t think any place makes me feel more alive than NYC. I can’t wait to visit it again (gluten free this time) and try out some of your fabulous suggestions.

    Many congratulations on the cookbook, I received mine last week and it’s gorgeous. I immediately read it cover to cover — couldn’t put it down. I cannot wait to start cooking from it.

    Thank you for creating posts such as these — you have a talent for making every one of us feel we’re right there with you. It’s an incredible gift.

    - Lauren
    http://www.glutenfreeandsouthern.com

  17. Nina Laden

    Beautiful and delicious post and oh so timely since I am on my way to Manhattan this very day. We’ve done okay eating GF in Putnam County. Went to “Holy Smoke” bbq yesterday and wait until you see the plate of food…

    Thank you so much for the names of more places we can check out– we’re staying across the street from the Chelsea Market…

    And Prune? We’ve been going there since it opened whenever we are in NY. My sister met the owner last week and was tickled to death– sis said, “it was a little girl crush moment.”

    Have tons of fun in SF… see you soon, we hope.

  18. Stephanie

    Shauna, your stories and your words are always so encouraging to me. Thank you for this post! I’ve never been to New York, but after reading your story here I feel like I got a good taste of it (and am now itching to go myself!). Thanks again for sharing. Visiting your blog always leaves me uplifted.

  19. creativecookinggf

    So glad you all had a great time (minus the rain!). I love Friedman’s Lunch and I agree, would eat there everyday if I could. I think I will have to give TuLu’s another chance because when we went, we both ended up getting sick afterwards — we should be heading back to NJ/NY around Thanksgiving so we’ll be making a trip or two into the city.

    I won your cookbook and I am in love…it is so beautiful and I shed a few tears when reading your stories. Lu is amazing too, such a precious little girl you have there :) Best of luck to you, Danny and Lu.

  20. Jenn Sutherland

    Beautiful post, Shauna! Wish I had been picnicking in the park with you and having some of those fries from the Shake Shack. I, too, was amazed at how EASY it is to eat gluten-free in NYC. It seems that everyone understood what I was asking and how to feed me. Amazing. I wish that Chicago would catch up, already! And I’m loving the cookbook more deeply, with every day, as we taste and try the recipes. Thank you!

  21. Grace @ Front Porch Yoga

    Tears are absolutely spilling down my cheeks. Happy tears, of course, because I feel the love bursting from every letter in your blog post today. Thank you for choosing love every day and for sharing it with all of us…

  22. Erin S.

    Great recap of your NYC visit. As I said before, it was a wonderful whirlwind for you, The Chef, and Little Lu

    More pictures from the Central Park picnic can be found here: http://bit.ly/dmCxIc

    Good luck with your next adventures!

    Erin S.
    glutenfreefun.blogspot.com/

  23. nicole

    New York is honestly the most amazing city in the world. Every time I go there it’s nearly impossible to leave. So glad you had a wonderful trip — and who knows? Perhaps Lu will find herself living there one day … it seems to be in her blood :)

  24. Rachel

    Thank you so much for including us all in your wonderful trip! It was a thrill to meet you, Danny and the exuberant Lu and I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. It’s on my birthday list and someone had better buy it for me.

    Wishing you many more years of continued success! And don’t leave it too long before you come back to the East Coast.
    Rachel (aka widowspider)

  25. tracy

    Oh Shauna! You are so wonderful to have included us in your trip (and this post!). We happily made the trip to NYC and meeting you guys certainly made it extra special. It was absolutely our pleasure to test the recipes and help perfect them. You did the hard work, we just got the benefits.

    I’m almost finished with the book! We’ve already cooked several things from it. We are so PROUD of you guys.

    Hugs to you, Danny and Lu! Tell her TracyKim said hi!!

  26. Kasey

    I just received my book in the mail in last week. I cannot wait to start cooking from it. Thank you for everything you do.

  27. Ruth

    You’re my kind of people. I only wish that I could meet you and hang out with you — so much joy, and positive energy, and grace! I truly hope that you continue to say Yes to the universe and all its possibilities, as I will take that message and run with it, too

    Ruth

  28. judith

    I’m from NYC. Just had to get away. But now I feel the need to go back home. Reading your post brought me back for a moment…thank you

  29. Catherine McCord

    What amazing words and photos. Everything you do is with such grace and class! The picture of your hubby swinging Lu around in Central Park is priceless!!

  30. Ingrid Cerone

    OMG!! I didn’t realize you were going to be in NYC recently!! I was down there on the 21st walking around with friends all day. I can take the train from CT. –takes about hour and a half so I’m pretty lucky to live so close. You’re right—NYC does have plenty for us to eat gluten-free! I am so glad you had a wonderful experience in NYC. I just got your cookbook and made the pizza almost immediately. YUM!! My whole family loved it!! Thank you!!!

  31. Casa_DeArtes

    I’m so glad to be on-line again to get a fresh start in NYC. I would have love to met you all but we’re still getting adjusted. Shauna what a wonderful post to come back to. My daughter has been updating me about you blog for sometime. I remember reading before your chef and lu. Look how you’ve blossomed.

    Michele

  32. Deanna

    Shauna,

    Your writing is amazing. What an ear and eye you have, in addition to the nose and mouth that lead you around the world food-ly.

    I want to read more of you. That sounds weird, since you write so generously and gorgeously on your blog and have delivered two great books into the world. But still, I want to hold more Shauna books in my hand but not wait several years in between. Since I want to read more of *you*, I guess I’m wishing you’d publish more memoir/essay in book form. Doesn’t have to be cookbook, you don’t have to test recipes for years to share your delightful view on the world, your life, your loves.

    This seems like asking for more food after just finishing a holiday feast, not a valid desire. Maybe it’s like discovering an eye-opening new restaurant that is unlike any other, and despite having just been fabulously fed, you want more–not more food right now, but just to know that you will be back at this venue often, that the restaurant will still be there feeding you lovingly,perhaps exuberantly or tenderly but definitely always gloriously alive and authentic.

    I think that’s what I mean when I say I hope you will publish more.

    Thanks to you and Danny for huggable book. I’m reading it slowly, because once I’m finished I’ll have, yes, the fun of cooking and eating from it and the knowledge that I can re-read it at will, but it will never again be a revelation on turning the page. Huggable books are a contribution to the world, don’t you know?

  33. bubba

    My daughter, Vivian, loves your new book! What a lovely resource for her new efforts to eat gluten free while living in a house with 7 gluten eaters during college. She started a facebook group ‘Celiac in Seattle’ in hopes of finding potluck friends.

    Vivian made some pesto for you from our garden around the corner… I’ll bring some by. Cheers! Roxanne

  34. Kenon Thompson

    This is such an amazing post! Thank you for sharing your time and your experiences! I loath the time I will be able to visit NYC for the first time and when I can soon move there permanently! I don’t know if I can even find my words with this comment cause I could type all day ha ha ha!

    Simply amazing!!!! I’ll keep it right there for now! :)