working playing.

working playing

When we three drove down the highway toward the ferry on a sunny Monday, Lu shouted out, “We love adventures in this family!”

Oh yes, we do.

This time in our lives crackles with emails, meetings with people, contracts, laughter in restaurants, deadlines, dinner in the sunlight, appearances, falling onto a hotel bed exhausted, and more work to do. But honestly? Most of that work just feels like play. We’re working and playing, playing and working.

The other day, I saw an Albert Einstein quote in the bathroom at a science center: “Play is the highest form of research.”

That’s what our lives feel like right now. Research. Eating. Feasting. Talking. Exploring. Exuberant, exhausted play.

We seem to fall in love with every city we visit these days. Portland, we love you too.

 

what a feast

The first evening we were in Portland, we feasted with friends in the sunlight. At nearly 87 degrees and endless blue skies, the weather in Portland made our arrival filled with ease. We sat outside on a metal table, all of us scrunched together, hands reaching. We reached for mini meatloaves covered in bacon, chicken tenders fried in coconut flour and beef tallow, bacon-wrapped dates with almonds, sweet potato puree, and ginger-kale salads, with an emphasis on the ginger. We talked and laughed and reached for more. Lu played with Wyatt, who was dressed in an orange NASA space suit. They picked berries and ran down the street with Star Wars action figures. She only stopped, delighted, to accept a balloon from Kyra, who also brought her cupcakes. The sun felt good on our faces and the food was tremendous.

It was a feast, to be sure.

cultured caveman

 

All that good, from-scratch food was made in this tiny cart called Cultured Caveman. Lucy just couldn’t believe it. “It’s tiny, Mama! What kind of restaurant is this?” She stopped asking after she ate.

Portland, your food cart scene is like no other. There are quite a few carts with gluten-free options, or ones that are entirely gluten-free. Portland is a dream of a place to eat if you have to avoid gluten. (Seattle, would you please catch up?) But this cart? Run by Joe and Heather, two of the nicest people in the world? We’re going back to this cart every time we go to Portland. I woke up the next morning thinking about the freshness of the food, including the collard greens sauteed with bacon.

I’m not on the Paleo diet. (In fact, I have a lot of problems with the name, but I’ll leave that alone.) However, all power to the people who want to eat the kind of good food we had at this cart. And if someone was smart (Heather and Joe, I’m talking to you), someone would open a series of little carts like this in airports. Everyone could eat here — they even had four vegan items — but especially those of us who have to be gluten-free. There were no grains or flours anywhere in the cart. I ate everything with delight, knowing I didn’t have to think about cross-contamination.

No wonder this felt like a feast.

zucchini noodles at Prasad

 

The next day, at lunch with Grant Butler from the Oregonian, I had an entirely vegan, gluten-free, raw meal at Prasad. I had been on KATU tv that morning, demonstrating the zucchini noodles with spinach pesto, feta, and sunflower seeds from our cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, along with the teff chocolate chip cookies with hazelnuts. (If you’d like to watch the segment, here it is.) When I saw a zucchini noodle pasta with carrots, sun-dried tomatoes, and cashew ricotta on the menu, I had to have it. Delicious and so refreshing after the meat-heavy meal of the evening before. The conversation about food, food culture, the way so many of us seem to divide against others with our food choices, and where we can all meet in the middle? Even better.

work hard and be nice

 

I knew I’d like Prasad the moment I saw this sign: Work Hard and Be Nice. We have it hanging in our office.

I’m confused about the intractable way that some of us talk about food. I’m Paleo! I’m vegan! I eat only seasonal foods! I eat only non-GMO! I’m on a gluten-free diet! The way that some folks talk about their diets? They make it very clear that there’s something wrong with you if you are not on their diet. They know the only way to be, after all.

Oh goodness, I wish we could all learn that there are a thousand ways to do the right thing.

(I don’t have to write that post. My friend Winnie Abramson already did, in this piece: “An Open Letter to Everyone Who Eats.”)

 

relax and enjoy\

Fact is, I believe any time the word “diet” is attached to how we eat? Well, I’m not interested.

Fact is, I have to be gluten-free for my health. Am I on a gluten-free diet? Nope.

I eat great food. I make sure there’s no gluten in it to ensure my health — and I stop at nothing to make sure there’s no gluten in it — and then I forget the gluten.

I bite, relax, chew, and enjoy. That’s my only diet.

Did I have a Paleo meal one night and a vegan meal the next day?

Nope. I had two great meals, with old friends and new. They were both pretty darned great.

always dancing

 

Our kid doesn’t know anything about diets. She eats. She delights in her food.

And then she gets up to dance.

She’s teaching me, every day.

 

gluten-free bread

 

She has a pretty good idea of what gluten is and why I need to avoid it. She knows to kiss me on the cheek after she has eaten something with gluten in it. And she wants to feed me.

When we spent the afternoon at OMSI, she went right for the farmers’ market/restaurant section of the science playground. “Mama, can I sell you some of my gluten-free bread?” she asked me.

She knows I need to avoid gluten to keep well. But other than that, I eat everything and I share it with her.

Good food is good food.

Lucy signing

 

She’s proud of “our cookbook,” the product of most of the dinners she ate from the time she was 2. When I read at Powell’s the other night — a dream come true for me — she read books in the children’s section with Danny most of the time. She’s heard me talk before. However, at the end, she asked to sit at the table with us and sign books too. People in line were delighted to have her signature (she always writes her name in a square) and the mis-shapen heart she drew on every page.

Several times, she pointed to the book and told people, “This is my favorite cookbook.”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget this reading.

she wanted to be at the podium too

 

Afterwards, she asked Danny to lift her up to the podium so she could practice talking to the audience.

And walking back to the hotel a few blocks away, in the warm night air, she skipped between us, holding our hands, belting out her song. The adults at bus stops and restaurants with windows thrown open smiled at her and she kept singing, no thought of self-consciousness.

Oh, to be four again.

Tula's

The last morning we were in Portland, we stopped at Tula, one of many good gluten-free bakeries in Portland. I’ve been to some poor gluten-free bakeries around this country and I wouldn’t go back. I don’t want to waste my time eating something mediocre, even if it is gluten-free. But I’d eat the ham and cheese roll at Tula any day. They’re doing good work.

home again

 

Coming home on the ferry yesterday, Lu stood on the sunlit deck and looked toward home. I thought she was happy to be heading to the island, for at least one day of her regular schedule before we headed out again. Instead, she turned to me and said, “Mama, when are we going to sleep in a hotel again? Tonight? Please?”

We seem to be actively installing wanderlust in this child.

Work and play. Play and work. It’s a lovely way to live.

rhubarb cake

RHUBARB COFFEE CAKE

Within 30 minutes of walking through the door of our home after our trip to Portland, I started pulling out flours from the pantry to bake again. Whenever I taste other people’s baked goods, or talk about gluten-free baking with people who care about it, I’m moved to bake once more.

I also read a wonderful piece in the Oregonian about three Portland chefs who are moms as well. They talked about what sharing foods with their kids means to them. Lauren Fortgang, pastry chef at Le Pigeon, said what Danny and I feel about Lu:

“My husband and I grew up making food and I feel very strongly that it is OK to have sugar and salt (in your diet). It’s the processed foods and fast foods that you don’t want. I want Dora to have that (scratch-cooking) background, even if it just means she carries on cooking for her own family and makes that a priority. There is no pressure for her to cook for a living but I want her to care about it.”

She included a recipe for rhubarb coffee cake that became our dessert last night. I used buckwheat, teff, and millet flours in place of the AP she used, added another egg, and it was ours instead. I wish I had time to write up the recipe for you — we’re headed to Seattle for a reading at Third Place Books this evening — but I also want you to see that it’s not that hard to eat great food without the gluten. You can make this in your kitchen, pretty easily.

Just play.

32 comments on “working playing.

  1. Matt Walton

    I’ve been loving your posts recently Shauna, you’re conveying such life and joy to us with your writing. It makes me miss things, and want things that I’ve never had, and look up at the recently-sunny sky here in England and smile, and reach for a saucepan. I love cooking, I love eating the results, but I love it nowhere near as much as you do and I really would love to find that joy. And what a joy it is, where most people I’ve ever met who can’t eat gluten or have some other thing they can’t eat without becoming very ill are always thinking of the lack, of the things they can’t have. I’m lucky, I can eat anything, but I still don’t have the joy in food and in life that you’re writing about. But you’re an inspiration, and a driver to make me go out and find some of it for myself. Thank you.

    I’ve also been loving seeing a few recipes from the new book over at Serious Eats. I’ll definitely be getting a copy. Who cares if I don’t need to be gluten free — one of my friends does. I can bake for her. I can bake for me. I can sub in wheat flours in your recipes if I want to. And I will. Let’s do this.

    1. Kim Foster

      I don’t know who you are Matt Walton, but that was a beautiful, wonderfully-honest comment. Also this was a lovely post that inspired it. :)

    2. shauna

      Thank you so much for this, Matt. This is such an honest, lovely comment. Joy’s hard to find sometimes. I find it takes stripping away anxiety and insecurities and being here in the moment. Whenever I do, there’s joy.

  2. Megan

    So sorry to have missed your reading at Powell’s — finding the time to wrestle myself away from my own two hungry kiddos is a challenge! I love your blog and the way you inspire me to be aware. Of my food. Of my family. Of life. I’m fortunate in that I don’t have to avoid gluten but I try to eat as consciously as I can — avoiding as much processing as possible. Thank you for your work — and your play!

    1. shauna

      Thank you, Megan! We’ll be down in Portland again, sometimes this summer. We want to throw a gluten-free potluck some sunny day.

  3. lisa

    re your comments about “diets” — AMEN sister. I am so happy to cook anything for anyone who comes to my house and I am happy to respect what they want to eat — but the sanctimonious stuff is so boring. You said it well and I’m about to go read your friend’s post. I am so looking forward to cooking and eating with you in a week or so!

  4. Charlotte

    As a Portlander, I am constantly delighted by all the food possibilities this town has to offer. Whether you like to eat out or cook, there is something for everyone. And the food cart scene? The BEST. Of course I am biased…lol!

    I’m glad you enjoyed your stay in Portland. I have recently decided to eat low gluten for general health reasons. I am looking forward to getting a copy of your book. Too bad I missed the event at Powell’s. I found out about it (and your new book) the night you were there.

    By the way, I love Seattle too. Lived there for a year.

    The way to write about food and family resonates with my upbringing. Very inspirational. Keep up the good work!

    1. shauna

      Thank you. I’m completely amazed by the food cart scene. I want one visit to Portland where we eat all our meals from food carts!

  5. Lisa C

    I enjoy your blog so much! This looks like it was an amazing trip… the food?! Oh, the food! Being an East Coaster, I am so curious about Portland, Seattle and all those cool little places you guys have over there. Hopefully I will get there one of these days!

  6. Kimberly

    Great post, and nice to hear about your travels! It is so wonderful to see Lucy enjoying this at her age.
    That being said, I must say that the necessity of unique airport food boggles my mind. As much as I love eating, food, preparing food, talking about food, etc. sometimes food it just fuel. Sometimes I just eat a Larabar, a banana, and a bottle of water and move on with the rest of my life. Is it necessary for every single time we consume food for it to be a transcendent moment?

    1. shauna

      I don’t believe that every bite of food should be a transcendent moment. How is that possible? But I don’t think it’s too much to ask for fresh food in airports. Right now, almost everything is swathed in wheat and preservatives. I don’t mind a Larabar and banana between flights. But with flight delays only increasing, the lack of good food is really a problem. Airports in Europe have good food. We could too.

  7. Jacqueline Raposo

    Beautiful post! My 20-year break from gluten comes with a hefty dose of other physical ailments, and times like these — kids, travel, good friends, being outside, fulfilling work — are the best remedy.

    And, as a writer, I actually am extra-aware of the “I’m Paleo”, “I’m a vegan”, “I’m gluten free”. No, you’re not “a vegan” — you’re a human being who eats a certain way. I’m not “a Lyme” because I have Lyme disease anymore than someone who has Celiac disease is “a Celiac”. These things shape who we are and how we spend our time, but they should not be our primary mode of defining ourselves. In my humble little book.

    1. shauna

      That cracks me up. I’m a Lyme! Putting it that way makes it pretty clear, doesn’t it?

  8. Deb

    People always say to me “what kind of diet are you on?” I say, I don’t know, the Deb diet. Folks love labels, it makes them feel safe. Much like you I try to encourage people to eat in a way that simply works for them, without the labels. Thank you for spreading this message, for your great recipes, your great blog posts and your authentic joy in living and sharing your family with us.

    1. shauna

      That’s it. Labels make us feel safe. Except they’re also like little boxes, aren’t they? “…to eat in a way that simply works for them.” That’s lovely.

  9. Sarah S

    This. Is exactly how I feel about food and the separation people put between themselves and others because of a perceived righteousness about ‘their’ way of eating. I love this :) Thank you for writing it Shauna.

  10. Heather Hunter

    Shauna!

    Heather here from Cultured Caveman! Thank you so much for stopping by the other night. For the record, I have some issues with the name paleo too. To me it’s about health and the word “paleo” invites an unrelated argument about reenactments. Neither joe nor myself are dogmatic and I, for one, have been known to snack on one of kyra’s delicious treats!!! Stop by any time you’re in town. :)

    1. shauna

      Heather, you and Joe were the souls of graciousness and good humor. I couldn’t imagine you being dogmatic about anything. And your food was wonderful.

  11. Carolyne Thrasher

    “Seattle would you catch up.” Best line ever! I was born in Portland, and it is always made to feel like an awkward younger sister to Seattle. Truth is Portland is a best kept secret. Please do tell your readers that the weather you described for this last week is atypical. Normally it rains from October through the middle of June. Frequently people visit during one of these not normal months and then move here from sunny so cal and find out the next year that it is gray, gray, and more gray except for the middle of June through the end of September. Other than that Oregon is a great place to live if you have food intolerances of ANY kinds. Keep up the good work guys.

    1. shauna

      I always feel so sorry for anyone who arrives in the Pacific Northwest in August and decides it’s the place to be. But, if that person can survive January through April, they are welcome to stay!

  12. Lina

    Everyone has health issues, it seems. And just eating gluten free does not guarantee health. Sorry, but white rice flour and sugar do not promote health. Nobody can argue that one. Dismissing
    diets is just as snobbish as those on diets dismissing those who don’t.

    Frankly, I’m gluten free on South Beach, proudly so, and loving The South Beach Gluten Solution book I just received.

    Frankly, I could care less what everyone else does, but I respect everyone’s choices. And it’s no crime to speak the truth and say some gluten free foods are just 0 nutrition. But we all have the right to eat whatever.

    1. shauna

      Lina, I don’t think a steady diet of white rice flour or sugar is healthy either. Far too many of the packaged gluten-free foods emphasize that combination. And you can see from this post what we tend to eat. But I also believe the occasional treat is not going to hurt anyone. I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you. All I was talking about is the way we divide ourselves into diets we follow. Some people use this as a chance to beat up other people. Food deserves more than that.

      1. Reeb

        Hear hear! It has taken me over three years to recover since my celiac diagnosis and I’m still not 100%. During that time, great help was/has been provided by these limiting, named diets: Paleo, BED, macrobiotic, etc. But you are right, there is some part of human nature that tends to divide us into camps, with commandments and followers. In the end, as I am finally recovering, I am going with Paltrow’s book…“It’s All Good”.

  13. Eleni T.

    Diet shmiet! Love how you don’t define the types of meals you eat, Shauna. There’s a whole world of food out there, we don’t have to make gluten free define us — it’s just one thing of many that we are. I think it’s best to eat the foods that agree with you, make you feel good, put a smile on your face, and taste delicious!

    Also, bacon wrapped anything is seriously tasty! Bacon wrapped scallops are a favorite.

  14. Donna

    Due to years of ongoing muscle pain, I finally tried a gluten free diet two years ago. Within 2 months I was pain free as well. (It took 2 months for the incredible headaches to stop!) I love bread, crackers and thought I would starve..only to find Rudi’s had my back. I love the cinnamon raisin bread! Little by little, more items have been added to my diet (and I’m not starving by any means) and I wouldn’t go back for anything!

  15. Jen

    Shauna, just ordered and received your new cook book here in the UK. It is inspiring!! Thank you for all that you do! Jen

  16. Ally

    Shauna, I so appreciate your attitude and perspective on food, eating, and how it tethers us together. Nope, no diets in this house — just food that nourishes and brings immense joy in our bellies. Thanks for always inspiring.

    Also, I absolutely love seeing Portland featured here — I just had the pasta fresca yesterday for lunch! Love this city to the moon and back. My partner Paul and I are full of gratitude for the great food we get to eat between Eugene and Portland — and we have so many fond memories of sharing in the bounty here with James and Kelly! Thanks, and be well.

  17. sara forte

    love that piece from Winnie. Here’s to hoping that in a culture that seems more and more obsessed with qualifying things, we can all just be loving people without the need to define every decision. Glad you guys are having a wonderful time! I adore Portland. Appreciate having your recs.