Eight years ago today, I opened up a new blogger page, chose green for the header, and picked out a blog name. Gluten-Free Girl.
My friend Dorothy named me Gluten-Free Girl because she had been calling me The Sick Girl for months. Bludgeoned by pain and lethargy, numbed after dozens of medical appointments and trips to the emergency room, feeling muffled inside as the sun grew stronger outside, I had been so sick that nearly everyone around me was sure I was dying. When I found out I had celiac sprue, and all I had to do to be healthy again was cut gluten out of my life? I cheered in the doctor’s office. And after I had been living a week without gluten, Dorothy came over to see me, remarked on my sudden health and said, “Now we’re going to have to start calling you the Gluten-Free Girl!”
I had no idea that last day in May 2005 that I would ever be stopped in restaurants in New York City or farmers’ markets in Santa Fe or grocery stores in San Francisco by someone shouting, “Oh my gosh, aren’t you the Gluten-Free Girl?” I’m still kind of freaked out by it. And grateful. Because, even though I never had a clue that anyone would be reading the words I typed out on May 31st, 2005, I knew what I wanted to do with my writing.
I wanted to help people.
From one of the first entries of this site:
“I’m so happy to feel my body restore itself. I can’t even tell you what a remarkable difference there is in me since I stopped eating gluten. I’m starting to feel better than I ever have in my life. Energy is surging through me, for the first time in years. And frankly, that’s worth more than anything else in the world. To feel alive, and feel as though I finally have energy to give to other people, because that’s true life for me.”
I don’t remember most of the 991 posts I have written here. (Today’s will be 992. Goodness!) So many of you have been coming out to our book readings and parties, quoting me passages from posts I wrote four years ago or citing ideas I wrote when I was single or pregnant or trying to endure those first sleep-deprived years of Lucy’s life. Thank you. Thank you for making this girl who wanted to be a writer into the woman I am now.
When I began writing here, I wrote with urgency, a desire to pound words onto the page — I still hear the sound of a typewriter in my head when my fingers click on the keyboard — and pour out my heart. I wanted to play with words the way I was learning to play with food. I wanted to reach someone, even if it was just a future self reading those words, eight years later.
I’ve learned so much from writing this site that I don’t know where to start.
Instead, I want to say that I’m still thrilled to be here. In fact, there have been some shifts in the last six months that have made me (and Danny too) happier than ever to be putting up pieces and recipes in this space. You see, when I started writing, I had no expectations. Then, I found a community of like-minded people through comments. Then, a few years later, food blogs became a thing.
Suddenly, I felt like I needed a better camera, some scratched-up tabletops for photographing, even twine tied around cookies and striped straws. I felt the need to write often on Twitter and Facebook and whatever Google+ is and pin up photographs on Pinterest. Danny and I needed a brand strategy, a PR person, a schedule for posting, a line of products, and whatever it took to keep up and be successful.
I felt like I had to be Gluten-Free Girl.
I was exhausted. There were some years here I didn’t enjoy myself much.
It took me a long time to realize that those bits and bobs and all those expectations were preventing me from being here fully. I didn’t start this site to please anyone else, especially an imagined audience. I just cooked and created and wrote out of joy. For a time, I lost my joy to fear and hope and trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be.
Now, I’m back again, joyful, energy surging through me, alive. This site is ours again. If you like it, we’re thrilled. If you wish there were more baked goods or dairy-free recipes or Paleo tips or hemp seeds or shorter pieces or tips for how to live without sugar or less of our lives or a lot less goofy joy and gratitude? Well, now you have hundreds and hundreds of other places to go. This long ago ceased to be the only gluten-free blog on the internet. Or the best. Or the most gluten-free.
We’re just here, singing our song.
You’re always welcome to change the channel.
Now, for those of you still here? Here’s a bit of our joy. We’re playing with our food, Danny and I. And there’s still so much to learn and experience and share. I’m still here. Imperfect. Mostly laughing.
As Mary Oliver wrote: pay attention. be astonished. tell about it.
Add laugh often to that list and you have my only real rules for life.
So here I am, eight years later, filled to the brim with gratitude at my health and the abundance that a life without gluten has become.
This morning, Danny and Lucy and I drove to our favorite farmers’ market on Vashon, finally open after months of us waiting. Cherries! Asparagus! Rhubarb! At the base of what we do, we’re really just geeky excited about food.
Small strawberries, sweet and red all the way through, stood right in front of us. We bought a flat, of course. There will be strawberry crisp and homemade strawberry soda and strawberry smoothies for breakfast. This evening, however, we’ll have frozen yogurt popsicles studded through with roasted strawberries. Lucy will be so happy.
- 8 ounces fresh strawberries, topped and cut in half
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or port or something thick and syrupy)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Heat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Put the strawberries in a large bowl. Pour in the remaining ingredients and toss the strawberries until they are coated. Put the strawberries on the lined baking sheet and spread them out evenly.
- Slide the strawberries in the oven. Roast until the strawberries are softened and wilting into themselves and the juices starting to thicken and turn syrupy, about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Cool the strawberries before eating.