Last year, on the last day of August, I woke up dreading the start of school. Weary and wary, I clicked onto my email after imbibing several cups of coffee. I really didn’t need the caffeine, it turns out, because what I found waiting for me in my email — and the stats counter of my website — woke me up, immediately. On Blog Day, 2005, dear Clotilde at Chocolate and Zucchini recommended me to her readers. They arrived at my humble little site, just barely two months old, in droves that day. I was honored and floored. In fact, I remember throwing my hand over my mouth in disbelief, then jumping up and down on this blue exercise ball I use for my office chair. “Me?!” I wanted to shout, like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas. “You chose me?”
A year later, I’m honored to say that readers are still coming by in droves. Maybe some of them are repeat readers from Clotilde’s site. Hundreds of other blogs have since listed me on their links list. There have been awards and recognitions beyond what I could have envisioned then. I have a literary agent now. And there is the Chef, who is far better than the love story in words I have been sharing here. But enough of you have been commenting on those stories here that I know it’s reading well and drawing people back. (So strange to think of my own life as a good story, but there we are.) Somehow, my little blog has become one of the recognized websites in the world. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m grateful.
Now that it is Blog Day, 2006, I would like to recognize some sites that have been catching my eyes. Literally, there are dozens I return to, again and again, many of which were birthed within the last year. Everyone should be reading Tea and Cookies, for example. And how could I not recognize the greatness of Shuna at Eggbeater? But if I start the list of blogs I love, I will be here all day. No one wants to read a post that long. (Believe me, I realize that I have written some longs posts in my time, but this one would top them all.)
And so, for the benefit of the swarms of you who have been coming to this site after seeing my spot on the Food Network, I would like to offer a slightly different view this year. This year, I am honoring Gluten-Free Blog Day.
To my knowledge, when I began this site in May of 2005, mine was the only gluten-free blog in existence. I’m sure I could be wrong, but believe me, I searched for friendly faces after my celiac diagnosis. A friend of mine who is a painter always says, “You must create what you wish you could experience.” And so, I did.
Now, however, I am happy to report that there are plenty of us out here, writing up our recipes and sharing our stories. Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are more and more recognized in this culture. I’m thrilled if my little segment on The Food Network has spawned even more awareness. (And from the letters I have been receiving,I gather that you are all happy it has too.) But I am certainly not the sole expert, or even an expert at all, on how to live gluten-free. We are not alone.
Karina consistently inspires me with her beautiful food and her awareness of the world. She is a painter, a poet, and a sensitive woman, who shares herself in pithy prose and gorgeous photographs. When she began her blog, Karina was living in a small town in New England. Now, she is living in northern New Mexico, and her writing and photography has grown even more expansive under that enormous sky.
She focuses mainly on vegetarian foods, made simply. And I have to sigh and say how much I agree with her tagline on the top of the blog: “Life is short. Make every day delicious.”
Ellen has a naturally curious attitude toward life, full of enthusiasms and eagerness to tackle her gluten-free lifestyle. After all, look at the way she declared herself in her blog title! As she takes gluten-free baking classes and makes gluten-free waffles from scratch, she shares herself with us. Clearly, as is true for all of us who are living gluten-free, Ellen is living a process of discovery. She is consistently cheerful and willing to try any food, as long as it doesn’t contain gluten. As well, her website offers a lengthy list of places to obtain celiac information and gluten-free food products.
This is a blog the way they once were: daily; in shorthand; and mostly meant for personal use. The couple from Southern California that runs this blog is clearly keeping this website as a record for themselves, of what they have eaten and how they have grown. However, for anyone who needs to eat gluten-free, this is an invaluable resource for food ideas.
I like their philosophy: “We eat well as a gluten-free household. With a few exceptions, our philosophy is that eating excellent foods that just happen to be gluten-free is a more satisfying approach than modifying baked goods to lackluster results. The cuisines of the world are full of more fabulous (and co-incidentally gluten-free) dishes than we could ever eat in a lifetime, anyway.”
How could I not love a blog with a name like that?
“Sheltie Girl,” as she calls herself, lives in New York state and has been living gluten-free since she was being treated for breast cancer. As is true for many of us, she was discouraged at first. As is true for a growing number of us, she decided to put that frustration into creation instead.
“I have been so disappointed in the gluten-free bakery items that I have found to purchase, or some of the gluten free cookbooks that I checked out from the library. In frustration, I decided to try out my own recipes and my blog my adventure. As I find new products to purchase, I will include our family’s taste test results here too.”
Check back for more of her eating adventures.
Finally, I could not complete this list without mentioning Brendon. He and his Dear Wife (DW on the blog) clearly eat well. I love Brendon’s emphasis on farmers’ markets, eating local, and eating in season — those are passions dear to my heart as well. He has a voracious appetite for life, and I’m certain that everyone reading will enjoy his discoveries.
That’s five. There are — wonderfully — more than five other gluten-free blogs in the world. I couldn’t include them all. However, if you live in New York, in particular, I would like to recommend David Marc Fisher’s blog, Gluten-Free NYC, as well as the fabulous stylings of the Celiac Chicks. Those girls have been publishing their website for nearly three years now, far longer than me. Their site has never really read as a personal blog, however. It’s far more professional than that. I have been relying on it all along.
And just under the wire, before I posted this, I received an email from a new blogger named Elwood City, who has just begun publishing a blog called Gluten-Free Gastronome. She is on a mission to learn how to bake, using only Jowar flour (or sorghum flour, as it is more commonly known). Now there is something I never tried.
That’s what I love about this gluten-free web world. It is spacious enough for everyone.
A QUICK GLUTEN-FREE PIZZA
I have to admit, I am spoiled rotten around here. The Chef takes care of breakfast every morning, in lavish attention to detail and taste sensations. At night, after we drive home from his restaurant together, he breaks out the most interesting food in the fridge and makes up dinner on the spot. Every time, that meal astounds me.
So, I am not doing nearly as much cooking these days as I did this time last year. Luckily, there are still lunches, and late afternoons to make soups and try out new recipes. Every day, I am still in the kitchen, concocting and playing, listening to music and dancing in front of the stove.
However, it has been unseasonably warm this summer in Seattle. Even I find myself rarely wanting to cook in the hottest part of the day. Mostly, when I am my own, writing, I make elaborate salads, or I nibble from the fridge. Even, sometimes, I throw together food that arrived in packages. (I know. I am aghast as well.)
If I am going to eat packaged, gluten-free food, I still want it to be the best. And so, for the late-summer pizza you see pictured above, I used a pizza crust from Whole Foods. As much as I may disdain chains, I cherish the fact that Whole Foods has created an entire gluten-free bakeshop and supplies the nation’s stores with wholesome gluten-free goods for us to buy. Of course, given that supply is limited and demands enormous, the prices are exorbitant. However, once in awhile, I splurge. These pizza crusts are worth it. They are flaky and chewy, with a good crunch when they are almost burnt.
Amy’s Foods rock. That’s as bluntly as I can put it. After a childhood of eating overly salty tv dinners, I never thought I would recommend frozen foods on a gourmet, gluten-free food blog. However, the frozen foods from Amy’s Kitchen taste much better than the ones I ate in childhood. Even before I realized I had celiac, I ate these when I was in a rush. And in the first few months after I was diagnosed, I relied on them. They have an entire line of foods marked gluten-free, as well as a section on celiac disease on their website. For those of us who have to eat gluten-free, this is packaged food without any guilt.
And so, rather than a recipe, per se, I offer here a gluten-free late lunch, based on the tastes of late summer. It satisfied me.
One gluten-free pizza crust from Whole Foods
One-quarter cup of Amy’s puttanesca pasta sauce
A handful of heirloom tomatoes, picked at the peak of season and sliced
Fresh mozzarella cheese, enough to cover the pizza crust
A drizzle of good olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. After fifteen minutes, throw in the pizza crust for a few moments, bare and baking. Pull it out when it starts to brown.
Spoon the pasta sauce on top, letting it soak in a bit to the browned crust. Try a few more spoonfuls. Layer the thick slices of fresh mozzarella on top, in concentric circles, or any pattern you want. Dollop on the fresh chevre. Drizzle on the olive oil, liberally. Perhaps you might want some salt and pepper. At the last moment, layer on sprigs of whole thyme.
Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and you just can’t stand it any longer. (That will probably be between eight and ten minutes. Stand by the oven to watch it.)
Eat, contentedly. Savor it. Slowly.