like sisters, really

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If you’re in New York City, take a trip to the East Village. In a tiny sliver of a storefront on the north side of East 10th Street is Jennifer’s Way Bakery. Go hungry.

I’ve been hearing about Jennifer Esposito’s valiant work for the celiac community for years. First known as an actress in Hollywood, Jennifer threw herself into the world of gluten-free food and advocacy for those with celiac when she was diagnosed with the illness. It took decades of terrible pain and suffering for Jennifer before she finally emerged healthy. And once she realized what drove her life, and how many other people are in pain needlessly, Jennifer decided to dedicate herself to making great food that heals, without gluten.

Hm. Sounds familiar. Danny and I know this story well, after all.

I loved reading Jennifer’s Way: My Journey with Celiac Disease–What Doctors Don’t Tell You and How You Can Learn to Live Again when it came out last year. It’s a brave, boldly honest account of how Jennifer suffered and how hard she had to fight to find her health. As she and I talked about at the bakery, it’s amazing to us how doctors will say to patients, “Just stop eating gluten and you’ll be fine.” That’s not enough, in most cases. Celiac is an autoimmune disorder. To heal, we have to listen to our own bodies and find the foods that work. More than that, as I have been realizing more deeply as I go into this process — now nearly a decade after being diagnosed — that I need to have less stress and more joy, far fewer things on the to-do list and a good sleep schedule, regular exercise and a daily meditation practice to keep healing my body.

Just eating a crappy processed food product that happens to be without gluten is not a healing practice.

Jennifer’s bakery is a haven for those who want to heal and taste great food. And for both Jennifer and me, healing means consciously, happily splurging on a chocolate cupcake once in awhile. (That was Lucy’s favorite. When I was processing these photos, she walked by and pointed to the ding-dong-like cupcake. “That one!” she said. “I really like that one.”) Jennifer’s baked goods are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, refined-sugar-free, nut-free, and organic. The fact that they taste good with that long list is a testament to Jennifer’s drive and passion for baking.

And I mean good. Jennifer’s breads, including a yeast-free bread, are some of the best gluten-free breads I’ve yet tasted. She and I talked about hydration levels, chia seeds, the use of vinegar, sorghum flour, and the best way to bake gluten-free bagels. We talked so fast, our hands flying in the air, trading ideas and laughing that Danny said to me when we left the bakery: “It’s like you two are sisters.”

We are, of course. We’re celiac sisters.

If you’re in New York, go to Jennifer’s Way Bakery. It’s an astonishing little place, run by an equally astonishing strong woman.

Jennifer’s Way Bakery
263 E. 10th St.
New York, NY 10009

Jennifer's Way III

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Jennifer's Way VI

jennifer's collage

15 comments on “like sisters, really

  1. Mel @ The cook's notebook

    Have just added this to my list of fabulous places to visit when I’m in NYC later this year. I’ve always been a huge fan of Jennifer-the-actress, not realising until recently how she struggled with her health. Now I’m also a huge fan of Jennifer-the-advocate-for-good-health.

  2. Stephanie

    I can’t wait to be back in NYC so I can go here! Might be worth a trip.
    Also, sorry to nitpick, but please fix the “and for both Jennifer and I” error! Should be “Jennifer and me.” 🙂

  3. Grace

    For people who can’t make it to NYC, check out Jennifer’s website (linked in the article)! She sees many of her baked goods online as well as a variety of flours and mixes – including an all-purpose GF flour mix. Her bagels look great! I look forward to ordering.

  4. Connie

    Shauna, “less stress and more joy, far fewer things on the to-do list and a good sleep schedule, regular exercise and a daily meditation process to keep healing my body” is not unique to those with celiac disease, but to every human being!

  5. Jami

    Thanks for sharing your personal experience with Jennifer’s Way! Can’t wait for our next trip to NYC to visit, but I’m going to order something shipped in the meantime. 😉

  6. lori

    Jennifer’s book changed my life forever. I will never be the same and i am gluten intolerant not celiac but now i have great respect and revelation for what you all go through!

  7. Jen

    Oh my god, that’s a ding dong in that picture! I didn’t know that I missed them until I saw one that I could eat. 🙂

  8. Kathleen

    One of the things I love most about your writing, Shauna, is that your genuine love and concern for people shines through. You have such a huge heart. It’s clear that Jennifer does, too. You both allowed those years of serious illness and trials to teach you and help you grow. That’s the part of your story that always draws me in.

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