and so it ended.

Berkshires- bacon gives me a lardon

We woke up in Portsmouth, a little tired, and very much grateful.

We had been on the road, driving around New England in a minivan crammed with fresh vegetables, food from our sponsors for our guests, and a whole lot of memories in our heads. The potluck tour (round one) had been like nothing else we had experienced. And we three were doing it together, meeting new people and eating good food everywhere we went.

But we were a little tired that morning. The night before, we had met a few people at a lovely old women’s club in Portsmouth, at a small gathering. There was miscommunication, phone calls I should have made but we were in Italy, and some mis-steps. So when we pulled up to the place, we weren’t even sure that anyone would come. But we sat around, sipping soup that tasted more like autumn than summer, and talked with the women who had arrived. Tell truth, I was glad for the quiet time. I have never talked so much as I did those two weeks. I had to be on every night.

(This weekend, friends of ours asked Lu how she liked our trip around New England. “Fun!” she shouted. And then she grew quiet and said, “It was a little boring, though, because my mama talked about the cookbook every night.” Fair enough, kid.)

This breakfast, outside a little cafe, was a relief. Danny read princess stories to Lucy while I ate my corned beef and hash, gulping down hot coffee and resting my voice. We had one more potluck to go.

Berkshires- Alana in her kitchen

We ended our journey in a good place.

Our friend Alana Chernila is a warm apple-maple chip, made with apples from her backyard. She’s kind and loving, soft-spoken and thoughtful, funny and real. She cooks every day, but she’s not pretentious about her food, convinced hers is better than yours. She’s just cooking. She and I had a conversation as we cooked together in this kitchen, about blogging and how artificial the life of food seems on blogs, about the joys and imperfections of cooking for your family every day, and how little the hard, humble work of making food actually makes it onto the internet. I’ve been thinking about that quiet, connected conversation that happened as we chopped vegetables and added cream to a fish soup, ever since. It changed me, the way a conversation with a friend can happen in glances as the smell of fresh ginger wafts up from the cutting board.

(And if you don’t know Alana’s wonderful book, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making, I suggest you grab a copy. Our copy is food-stained and well-thumbed. I turn back to it, again and again.)

When Alana found out about our potluck tour, she immediately offered us our home.

Having a party in a friend’s home was such a lovely way to end this tour.

Berkshires- spice drawer

And what a home. Alana has the kind of home I dream of owning some day. It’s humble and careworn and almost entirely kitchen. The kitchen is half the house, with a big space for people to gather for a party in the evening, shoulders rubbing against each other as they leaned into the big pot of soup for another ladleful. The windows steamed up quickly, the table groaned with all the food, and the laughter from the little library area rose higher as the girls had their own dance party.

I like our house now. I like it a lot. But being in Alana’s home made me realize this may not be our permanent home. I want a big, comfortable kitchen like this. We spend all day there anyway. Why not have a home that’s all kitchen with some bedrooms on the side?

(Maybe someday we’ll build it.)

Also, this spice drawer! Alana’s husband Joey (oh my gosh, we all love Joey, especially Lu), painted the lids of half-pint jars with chalkboard paint. We’re doing this soon too.

Berkshires- vegetables

We had lots of vegetables left for that last party. Melissa’s Produce sponsored our tour and sent us fresh produce for nearly every potluck. We chopped and slivered and grated and zested and made dishes for the potluck all afternoon.

We couldn’t use it all, as much as we love fresh produce. Lucy ate most of the leftover red peppers. Raw. Not kidding. She eats them like apples, leaving only the seeds hanging from the stems. No one can believe she eats them all.

After we returned home, Alana wrote me an email: “Thank you for all the extra produce. I came in from the farmers’ market and spent the rest of the day making kimchi, pesto, roasted red peppers… it was awesome.”

Can you see why we love her?

Berkshires- we want to hear your food stories

And the people who filled Alana’s home were warm and wonderful too, including two of the people we had taught in Italy. (Hi, Linda and Scott!) It was the funniest, loveliest way to have our September marathon of traveling come to an end, from Italy to the Berkshires. We felt so lucky to have this life.

And there were people hugging us, and telling us what our work meant to them. And neighbors talking about the farmers’ market the next day. And nutritionists and cheesemakers and women who write wonderful blogs and bring Thai nut relish, which blew our minds and made us keen to be home in our own kitchen so we could make it and put it on everything we make. (I suggest you do the same.)

Toward the end of the party, one woman said to me, “It’s funny. When I thought about this potluck, I was confused as to what I could bring that would feel like the Berkshires. But when I look at this spread, I have to laugh. This is the Berkshires.” It was a table full of dishes filled with fresh vegetables, mostly organic, classic dishes with lots of reinvention, much of it right from the garden and created out of a sense of frugality and generosity, both. This potluck tasted like the farmers’ market. This gluten-free Berkshires food was a feast.

We didn’t want to leave.

Berkshires- the road trip is done

But leave we did, the next morning. We fell in love with the Berkshires, the same way we fell in love with a dozen different places in this country that we could easily call home. We sort of knew this, but we learned it more deeply on this trip: we’re country folks. I love the thrill of cities, the rush of a new restaurant, the feeling of striding down the sidewalk and imagining all the lives around me. But I’m at home in rural areas, where people in small towns gather together in each other’s homes for potlucks, because there’s not much else to do, and they talk and laugh and leave late in the evening, happy and well-fed.

And there are enough trees around to see that autumn is definitely here.

Berkshires- driving into NY

So we drove into New York City, happy to see the tall spires against that blue sky. We said goodbye to the now-dirty minivan we had called a kind of home for two weeks and lugged all our stuff into a taxi to JFK. We were going home. We checked in as a piece of luggage that sign we had been carrying with us since Vermont: we want to hear your food stories.

And oh, we loved those stories. We loved hearing about friends making noodle kugel in New York the day after September 11th, Amish grandmothers making pie in Pennsylvania, seeing hands picking apples then slicing them for apple crisp, made gluten-free for a group of grateful people in the Hudson Valley, talking to a mother and daughter dealing with celiac in Vermont, seeing the new students at Danny’s old culinary school, watching Lucy and her friends dress up as garden vegetables for a parade in Maine, hearing the passion for coffee milk in Rhode Island, understanding why brown bread is important to someone who grew up in Boston and ate it every Saturday night with baked beans and bacon, talking about how gluten-free has been taken over by big food companies and people who don’t truly care about celiacs in Portsmouth, and listening to friends swap stories and recipes while holding each other by the arm in a kitchen in the Berkshires. I swear, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

That sign is in our new kitchen studio now, a new part of the adventures that lie ahead of us. As we cook spicy Portuguese kale soup and bake grain-free bagels, we look up at that sign and remember every day of that crazy, long, exhausting and wonderful trip. Even though it took us a good couple of weeks of October to recover from September, we can’t wait to do it again.

(Folks in the South? We’re coming to you in February. Midwest? March. We’d love to hear your suggestions of places we could hold gatherings and places we should visit, people we should talk to, and foods we really need to eat to make our next cookbook, American Classics Reinvented, into the best book it can be.)

Thank you, good folks in New England. We loved hearing your stories.

 

We want to send out a huge thank you and acknowledgment of the good companies that have come forward to sponsor this American Road Trip Potluck Tour for us all. 

Jovial Foods makes incredible gluten-free pastas, organic tomatoes, and some of the best olive oil we have ever tasted. They make simply great food. 

Attune Foods makes some of our favorite foods in the world, including their new quinoa-chia cereal, which we will be debuting on this tour. They do things right. 

Bakery on Main makes great gluten-free foods, including good granolas and bars. We’ll definitely take some of their instant oatmeal packets with us, for a good breakfast on the road.  

KitchenAid makes some of our most essential kitchen appliances. They are giving away one Diamond blender at every potluck we are holding!

Melissa’s Produce is providing us with great fresh produce for every potluck. We love their fruits and vegetables! 

Thank you to these companies for their sponsorship of this tour. 

32 comments on “and so it ended.

  1. Hanne

    I enjoy reading your stories so much. I come from a family where food is the glue that keeps us together (first it’s: what are we going to eat, then: on which day) Sometimes your stories make me a little teary eyed. I still love reading them.

  2. Kerry

    Please, please come to Chapel Hill, NC! We have such a great local food scene here. And of course you have to try NC barbecue (Eastern and Western) — and hush puppies.

  3. Daphne

    Shauna,
    Please make San Diego part of your Western tour. We have a wonderful community of gluten-free folks who support and encourage each other every day. Come in summer and Lucy can enjoy the Pacific in a warmer clime; come for the soft and delicous fish tacos, the savory Pho, the sublime avocados that are grown in this region. Just come. :)

      1. Laura

        Yes, please, a SoCal run would be nice. LA does not have but a few commercial establishments, but we have lots of people :-). We would welcome the chance for a potluck!

        1. Nancy

          I third this request. It would be lovely to meet the three of you and to share a gluten-free potluck with you, instead of just salivating about it on your blog.

  4. Lee Anne

    Welcome Home!! I have enjoyed your travels so much. However, I was worried that you were having so much fun that you might not want to come back to our lovely Pacific Northwest! Rest up and then carry on!

  5. amy

    What a long trip! I’m sure you all had a wonderful time, but it’s always hugely refreshing to come home.

    When you’re in the south, come to Savannah (duh). There’s a small but vocal group of gluten-free folks here and a larger community of people who are really, really passionate about real food. When we moved here from Seattle a year ago, I pretty much resigned myself to starving to death in a purgatory filled with fried chicken and coca-cola, but the number of real cooks in Savannah with a deep respect for their culinary roots has been a great experience.

  6. Deb Phillips

    It was such a pleasure having you in the Berkshires and on our very own neighborhood
    I was so pleased to be a part of it
    Come back soon so we can share more good food and conversation

  7. Ginny

    I hope you’re coming to Austin or San Antonio! We have a lot of GF eaters, but the restaurants are just starting to catch up.
    I love Danny’s shirt; I wish I could overhear what he tells Lu when she finally asks about a lardon!

  8. Erica

    Columbus, Ohio! It’s in the middle of our state, so it will be most convenient for folks wanting to drive in from the corners, and the food scene here has exploded in the last decade! Also, if folks around here find out you’re coming, well. It would just be big and fun.

  9. cari

    Midwest in March? You should contact http://www.cooksofcrocushill.com and see about doing a guest chef class. I am happy to host a potluck in my home. Also happy to take you to see a local apiary if the bees overwinter or new packages are in, might be a little early for that depending on when you come.

  10. Judy Johnson

    Shauna,
    It’s been fun to travel with you. Your comments about loving small towns make me think you would enjoy Yellow Springs, OH and its surrounding Miami Valley when you set out for the Midwest. We have a couple fine restaurants that focus on fresh, local ingredients, a farmers’ market that continues into winter in a local church’s basement, and several CSAs in the region. We are near Dayton, where another large market runs all year, the Second St. Market. We are also about an hour from Columbus, where North Market does a great business as well. YS and Dayton are both book places, with several venues to talk about the cookbook. I’m not sure about a gathering place (mine is too small!), but I’ve no doubt that one could be found if you come our way.

  11. Bernadette

    I loved reading about each potluck and am so grateful to have met you three! Thanks for posting that beautiful kitchen in The Berkshires! It’s a dream kitchen for sure!

  12. Glenn

    I love your Alana story and Joey’s chalkboard paint lids! Thanks for sharing her book title and perspective. This story supports my passion for spreading the national, yet local enthusiasm for the Kitchen-to-Table movement. Good to see through your stories that GF bakers and foodies are well represented in the re-birthing of this movement.

  13. Morgan

    My husband (also a chef) now wants the shirt that Danny is wearing in that first picture : ) Any idea where he got it?

  14. colleen lewis

    Little Danny Ahern!!!Last time I saw you was back in the 70s when my brother Danny and I went to school with your sis Kathy!!!You went to school with my youngest bro Dylan!The funniest thing I remember about you was your insistence on peeing on car tires-you were a hilarious little kid!!!Love your site and so very happy for you both!!!Much success and thanks so much for sharing!!!!

  15. Sarah || Celiac in the City

    A trip full of memories, new experiences, and too much talking — thanks for taking us along on the ride! As for the Midwest? Can I sweet talk you into Milwaukee? I bet Boswell Books (local bookstore) would love to have you — and I organized monthly GF Get Together events, so I’d LOVE to be part of it. (or if Milwaukee isn’t on the list — I bet I could get Jenn Sutherland in on planning with me to have you in Chicago.) Happy to help in ANY way! Just let me know.

  16. Sarah G.

    I’m hoping you’re trip to the south will include HOUSTON! If it does and you need a contact, I’m happy to call/email around to find a meeting location or whatever you might need.

  17. Melissa Lillie

    Please come to Asheville NC. We will welcome you with open arms and great local produce. We have 12 bones BBQ(where Obama loves to eat while he is here), beautiful mountains and an appalachian culture. We have many, many local restaurants and lots of people here who love local food. Posana is our 100% gluten free restaurant but lots of places here boast gluten free on their menus. I would love to meet you. Did I mention our beautiful mountains??

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