This is my dear friend, Sharon. If you’ve been reading this site for awhile, you’ve seen her face, and heard her name, a number of times. In fact, a few times she has appeared with me at readings and bakery meet-ups for my book, and people come up to her and say, “Oh my god, you’re Sharon!”
She actually really loves this. So if you see her on the street, be sure to say hello.
Sharon and I have been friends since 1983, when we met in the 400 quad, in front of the freshmen lockers, at Claremont High School. Her older sister and I had been friends before I moved to London for the year, and Erica knew that I had met Paul McCartney, on Oxford Street. (It was, at that point, the peak experience of my life. I turned red as a plum when I talked to him.) Sharon came forward, shyly, wearing enormous glasses, and asked to hear the story.
We have been best friends ever since.
There’s nothing like a friendship like this. After all, she and I have been close friends for 26 years, more than half our lives knowing the sound of each other’s voices. We have an entire dictionary of inside jokes together, and almost no one else in the world knows what the hell kenocken means. But if one of us says it, the other bursts out laughing. Snorting, even. We have been known to snort.
Sharon loves so many things. Besides me, this woman loves food. Oh my, how she loves food. She inhales food, makes little moans, smacks her lips, and often lifts her head to ask, “Could I have a vat of that?”
Here, she is trying the little doughnuts sold at Pike Place Market, which we eat every time we go there. Scratch that. We used to eat them. Now, I watch her eat them instead.
And that’s okay with me. Because this visit, my dearest oldest friend finally had the chance to meet my daughter. (Little Bean LOVED Sharon. We decided that Sharon is to Little Bean as catnip is to cat. She was often going crazy with laughter whenever Sharon walked into the room. Since this is the effect Sharon has had on me for 26 years, I often had tears in my eyes this week.)
Beyond that, we ate. In years past, I felt bad, a bit, that I couldn’t share in some of the food Sharon ate. This time, she loved everything we cooked, never felt deprived, never really even talked about it.
Living gluten-free can taste that good.
The first night she was here, we ate these smoked duck breast ravioli. Danny smoked the duck, made the filling with fresh ricotta and lovely spices, and wrapped it all in these gluten-free ravioli.
(This is actually my sideways shot of the set-up that Lara was doing for this shot in our book.)
Sharon couldn’t believe her luck, arriving on a day when we had a photo shoot for the book.
And there were crackers, with air pockets even. With sea salt and lots of taste. We ate these with goat cheese.
In the morning, omelets with the rest of the smoked duck breast filling.
Sharon was not complaining.
She and I gathered heirloom cherry tomatoes from the farm stand, plus basil that had just been picked. Fresh mozzarella, plus pickled figs and peppers.
Sharon plated this, arranging it all to look most pleasing. That wasn’t for the photograph. She just eats like that.
If you look at that, and tell me you feel sorry for Sharon that she had to eat gluten-free for a week, you need your head examined.
The next morning, after being up late talking and watching Top Chef, we ate poached eggs on English muffins, with Danny’s roasted potatoes, bacon, and goat cheese.
That was a good day.
No visit of Sharon’s would be complete without a trip to Pike Place Market, to look at the produce splayed out on the table.
I think sometimes she thinks I’m crazy, because I take so many photographs of my food. But look at that color leaping off the table at Frank’s produce stand.
Here, Sharon is showing me the doughnuts she bought. I could smell them.
I used to love that little doughnut stand. But now, with the years without gluten between me and them, I inhaled and smelled mostly grease. The longing is gone.
(Don’t worry, those of you who are gluten-free and now want doughnuts. They’re coming. Lara is writing a book about doughnuts, and she and I came up with a gluten-free doughnut recipe that will leave you reeling. Just look at it.)
Sharon said later she enjoyed this apple-rosemary bread we baked much more than she did the doughnuts. It was gone by the end of the day.
And after all that, we needed vegetables. In this case, zucchini sliced thin for carpaccio.
Ah, but a few days later was my father’s 65th birthday party (hi, Dad!). We brought the food: pizzas with sauteed chicken of the woods mushrooms, homemade pesto, and fresh mozzarella.
Everyone talked and laughed, and then called out how much they loved the pizza.
And pumpkin pie, with a gluten-free crust. My father’s favorite pie.
On one of her last night’s here, Sharon and I constructed a BLT from scratch. Danny made the bacon, we grew the lettuce, made homemade mayonnaise, and baked the bread. (okay, we bought the tomatoes.) You can read all about it here.
But suffice it to say that this was the first BLT I had eaten in nearly 5 years. Goodness (or goodless, for Sharon), that tasted sweet and salty, full of flavor, and a little teary for the fact I could share it with my friend.
Sharon loved it. She didn’t even talk about the fact it was gluten-free. It was just a great BLT to her.
The last morning, just before she drove away, we ate this for breakfast. Scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes with cheese, smoked tomato salsa.
“I don’t want to go,” Sharon wailed. I didn’t want her to leave.
A week with her, eating and laughing as we played with Little Bean, was one of the biggest gifts I have received this long, tumultuous year. We all had tears in our eyes as she drove away, even the little one.
There was no sacrifice on Sharon’s part to stay with us and eat gluten-free. We were simply together, eating and laughing.
And those of you who are new to this? And wonder if other people will accept you? Just remember this. It’s not the gluten that matters. It’s the food.
Your friends will love the food you feed them, and you will be closer for the communion of the meals you share together.