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 Dont 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