I still remember the moment I started this site.
Ensconced in the little window nook of my Seattle apartment, I typed in www.blogspot.com. Months before, my brother — who always senses long before me what might be interesting on the web — had told me about a service where I could keep my writing online. What a strange concept. All my life I had been writing and typing. (I still prefer the clack-clunk of an old manual typewriter to the soft click-click of a computer keyboard.) However, even when I wrote for hours alone on the computer, I still printed out the finished draft at the end of every day, to see it in its physical form. What would it be like to type and type and then leave it in some ephemeral place, hanging in space? So I had been typing in this strange rush without completion, for months on end, in a mental exercise for myself. I wrote about little moments of enlightenment or funny stories about high school teaching and students who trusted me, just practice. It’s all practice. After being diagnosed with celiac, I kept writing there, about food and awakening and farmers’ markets. I had been sick, horribly sick, for months, and the doctors couldn’t find what was causing my painful fog. I wrote. It was my space. I didn’t think anything of it, since it was the daily click-click that kept my mind working through a hard time.
A few weeks after my diagnosis, I found out that one of my students had googled my name, found my personal practice space, and recognized the description of another student. It became a game, several of them huddling over the computer, to read what I had written, and decipher who they found there. They emailed each other — this was back in 2005, before the ubiquity of smartphones, before Snapchat or WhatsApp or whatever is popular right this moment — and sent it to other friends. It wasn’t until an administrator of the school called me into his office to say this was happening that I learned of it. Turns out one of the parents complained about the blog because I had not mentioned her son in my writing yet. They thought I was playing favorites. I hadn’t written anything scandalous, since I wrote about little moments of vulnerability and awakening. I never wrote a mean thing about a student. It was my private space. This was 2005, when people still believed that something they typed into space was theirs alone.
So at the end of May, a month after I had been diagnosed, I signed into blogspot to copy all that I had written in the previous blog and paste it into a Word document, then delete that original blog. And I typed in the name of a new space, a public space, a place where I knew people could be reading what I wrote. I named it gluten-free girl.
2005 was a long time ago now.
There are kids in middle school who weren’t born when I started this site. In 2005, Twitter had not been invented. Facebook was still an amateur application at Harvard. No one posted photos of themselves on Instagram. No one was trying to keep up with the Kardashians. We did not yet live in a culture of incessant chatter, immediate gratification, and the endless parade of what feels like “Look at me! Look at me!” When I began writing this site, I wrote personal essays because it is how I understood my world. It still is. I didn’t set out to start a brand or take part in the zeitgeist. I wrote.
I never imagined that thousands and thousands of people I had never met would be reading.
I am so grateful for all of it.
Even when the days are exhausting, and I can’t stomach learning another new asinine app that someone has tried to convince me is the key to continued success, I still laugh. How could I not? Who ever knew this could be a career?
I am so grateful for anyone who has been reading. That anyone wants to read my writing still amazes me. And I have been able to meet thousands of you over the course of this more-than-a-decade. Your kindness and gratitude blow me away.
I will never complain.
However, continuing to write gluten-free girl the way it began doesn’t feel right now.
Whenever we have a new dish or baked good we want to share, I write little glimpses into our lives, which gently lead to a recipe. When I began writing here, it’s the writing I wanted to do. As the audience grew, I felt like I needed to continue. And I’m so grateful that so many of you have cared about what I write, about our goofy story, about our darling children. My goodness, I’m grateful.
But I can’t do it anymore.
We love each other and our lives like crazy. But that’s the thing — somehow, through this unexpected zig-zag of these last 11 years, I have created a career that requires me to write about my life in little glimpses, in less-than-1200-words-every-Wednesday. Again, I’m so grateful that so many of you care. But it has worn on me, these past few years, that my family and our life has become a bit of a commodity. I’m not comfortable with it anymore.
Besides, this way of publishing here doesn’t match what we do.
For the last few years, Dan and I have been struggling with this disjunction. When he and I met in 2006, he brought his decades-long experience as a chef to my little personal writing site. And since then, I wrote and published a food memoir (the recipes are good because of his editing), then we created three cookbooks together. The first one, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, was cited by The New York Times as one of the best of the year. The second one, Gluten-Free Girl Everyday, won the prestigious James Beard award. The third, American Classics Reinvented, was honored with a nomination by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
When we met, I was a high school teacher and he was a chef. Now we are professional recipe developers.
We develop recipes for magazines and websites. We develop recipes for products that will go on grocery store shelves and in bakeries. (Feel free to hire us. We’d love to work with you.) We work on at least 8 recipes a week. And over that time, as we have honed our understanding of how to cook and bake gluten-free, this site is still grounded in how it began.
When I teach baking classes or make appearances, a few people always say, “Oh, how are your wonderful kids?” But after a few minutes, we start talking about the real stuff: hydration, how to make a sourdough starter, which flours to use, how to convert beloved family recipes to be gluten-free, how to deal with relatives at Thanksgiving who denigrate the fact you have to be gluten-free. We talk in grams and the happiness of knowing how to play with food and not be afraid.
That’s all I want to write about here. It’s what really matters to most of you.
Dan and I know our stuff now. We’re always learning. Always learning. But we know our stuff. And this is what we do. Now, we’d rather share the specifics of gluten-free baking and how to make gravy with a gluten-free flour than talk about our lives anymore. We’d rather talk with you than talk about ourselves.
Welcome to the new gluten-free girl.
Starting next Wednesday, you can expect a new kind of site. We’re going to be doing gluten-free girl cooking and baking school. I want the work we do here to match the work we do in classes and our professional recipe development work.
We’re going to guide you through gluten-free cooking and baking.
Next Wednesday, we’re going to start with how to make a gluten-free muffin mix. Now that we have 2 kids, I don’t have the time to make a muffin from scratch, playing with 6 or 7 different flours. Hungry kids? Thank goodness I took 30 minutes a few Saturdays ago to make up 10 bags of the dry ingredients, then wrote the rest of the recipe on the label. Even the little guy can help me bake now.
The next week, we’ll share our recipe for lemon almond poppyseed muffins, using that mix. I’ve learned a few tricks about these muffins after baking them a dozen times in the last few weeks.
The week after that, Dan will share everything he has learned about gluten-free gravy, including how to make a gluten-free roux. The next week we’ll share a recipe for a specific gravy, using those techniques. Sausage gravy? Or mushroom gravy? Or another? You tell us. We want you involved.
Think about this as a group gluten-free cooking project. Gather ingredients. Order some flour. Let’s play together.
Of course, there is so much food to enjoy that is naturally gluten-free. For years, we reveled in radishes and rutabagas, offering recipes here for fascinating foods that are not typical of the American diet. Mostly, we love vegetables. But slowly, over time, I realized that people come to a gluten-free site for foods that use flour. As one woman in her 80s told me in a baking class, “I can make a pot roast by myself. But I have no idea how to make a sponge cake without wheat flour.” Fair enough.
This is why we launched Feeding Our People, our recipe subscription service.
If you are a subscriber, we send you an email newsletter with three recipes each week.
The first is a big batch of something a chef might make as part of a restaurant dish: Thai yellow curry sauce, cucumber-cilantro vinaigrette, arugula chimichurri, or a honey vanilla-bean syrup.
And then we share two simpler dishes to use up that interesting batch food. Think roasted winter root vegetables with yellow curry sauce, a quinoa-black bean salad with kale with cucumber-cilantro vinaigrette, roasted tofu with arugula chimichurri, and pears poached with honey vanilla-bean syrup.
This is real food, food meant to make weeknight meals easier.
Every recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined-sugar-free. We never talk about lack, however. Feeding Our People is a service for people who truly love to cook and talk about cooking.
There’s an active Facebook community with live videos, our recommendations for ingredients and other recipes, and great conversations.
We’d love to have you part of Feeding Our People.
We have been working on this transition for awhile, finding the words to say what we want, then testing and practicing and making more and more food. We are ready.
There will be videos in the future. For now, there’s our Craftsy gluten-free baking class. There will definitely be new adaptations of old recipes. It’s possible that, over time, a lot of the old posts might disappear. There will be a redesign. This will become more of a website — a permanent resource — than a quirky unfolding narrative.
I have a feeling that many of you will be pleased.
Join in. We’re doing live videos of each week’s recipes on the gluten-free girl Facebook page every Wednesday. We’ll have a hashtag for the cooking project of the week, because we want to see what you are making. (I still love Instagram. And I’ll still have photos of the kids there occasionally too.) Let’s cook and bake together.
Thank you for reading, these past 11 years. Even though we are changing trajectory now — and this site someday might look very different — I am still so grateful.
I never could have imagined any of this the day I started this site in 2005.
P.S. The irony of writing an enormously long personal essay to announce that I’m not really doing that here anymore is not lost on me. I’m still a writer. I need to take my personal writing away from immediate commercial work, however. I’ve been working on a book of personal essays for the past year. I might even have a new site for my writing, but I won’t share it for awhile. I’ll let you know soon, if you are interested.