You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2014.

Summer is about moments, the minutes and hours that add up to a season.  The moments that add up to a life.

It’s long, lazy lunches with a good book and a glass—or two—of wine.

Buvette Lunch

It’s the freshest ingredients at their peak with flavors as intense as the colors of vegetable flesh.

Tomato Salad

It’s the sweetness of fruits, bursting with the intensity of juicy sensuousness.

Figs

It’s the vibrancy of flowers, so abundant everywhere, just daring you not to feel happy.

Sunflower

Summer is sunsets that descend later in the evening in a fiery blaze, giving way to cooler night breezes.

Sunset on the Hudson

May this week be filled with the beautiful moments of summer.

xo, with goodness and grace.

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Sometimes a day with a good friend is an excuse to get in the car and and discover things you haven’t seen before.

Like this, from the top of Bear Mountain in New York:

On Bear Mountain

I wish for you a week with people you love, discovering beauty all around you.

xo, with goodness and grace.

Here’s the thing about a vacation—your thinking mind turns to mush.  Fortunately, I think, for me.  I crossed paths with a psychic this week who confirmed this when she told me I think too much; I worry too much; I’m in my head too much.  Truer words have never been spoken.

She also told me my independent spirit is like much like a man, but that’s another blog for another time.

On my yearly staycation this week, I had a very welcome chance to decompress and turn down the volume in my head.  So what did I do?

I ate.  I mean, duh?

I love a restaurant that allows its patrons to take lunch at their own pace, and the lovely people at Buvette have it down to a science.  It was my regular spot throughout the week for long and delicious lunches at the most leisurely pace.  I want to move in there.

This Salade Nicoise will always make me linger just a little longer.

Buvette Salade Nicoise

I spent time with friends.  An evening spent with one of my dear friends meant cocktails, food and a thousand laughs.  A fun night always ends with the question, “Will you be a bridesmaid when I get married???” (Never mind that I’m not seriously dating anyone….or actually want to get married.)  Good friends are necessary.

I took long meandering walks through my city.  On the hottest day, I sat under a big tree, looked out on New York Harbor, and just enjoyed the breezes.

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I went to the beach. Nothing restores my sanity as quickly as sand underneath me.

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I also took the time to do something crazy that I’ve wanted to do for decades, but never quite mustered the courage: get a tattoo.  It’s a nod to all the signs of love I see everywhere—a small heart.  Actually it’s an outline of a one, so I can always remember the importance of walking through the world with an open heart.

It wasn’t until later that I realized how completely perfect the universe is and that it has a pretty cool sense of humor.  My tattoo artist’s name?  Beau.

Signs of love are everywhere.

May you find the space to turn down the volume in your head and savor these summer days.

xo, with goodness and grace.

“She ordered the burger without THE BUN.  I mean…I like the bun.”  

The she in this case was me.

I’d stopped in a restaurant for a quick bite to eat, and the server couldn’t have been more helpful when I told her I couldn’t have gluten.  We settled on my order, and then the aforementioned burger arrived, blanketed in cheddar cheese and strips of bacon and beautifully presented on a round wooden board.  The plate in front of me, my meal now felt like an event.

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And then as I took my first bite, I heard the judgement from the table next to me. I will admit it took some of the joy out of the moment.

People make judgements all the time.

“I’d like to have the chocolate crema catalana,” I said to the server during a meal out at a hot new restaurant.

“That’s good, because that’s all you can have on the menu,” he said, meaning to be funny.  I think.

Judgements and snarky comments—and so it goes along my now year-long journey of being gluten free.

I’d gone to a doctor friend for help with a medical issue I’d been dealing with, and since he was taking blood, he figured he’d test for a few other things.  As he gave me my results, unexpected words rolled off his tongue.  “…and you have a pretty serious gluten intolerance.”  I didn’t know what to think about it at the time—beyond shock at the thought of cutting out pizza and carbonara pasta and chocolate chip cookies—but I cut it out of my diet and hoped it would make a difference.

Suddenly, issues I’d been having—among them bloating and itchiness—began to dissipate.  I wasn’t fatigued as I’d gotten used to feeling, and I began to sleep better.  There is no better way to become a believer than to feel like a vibrant, energetic human being again.

Based on the reactions from both strangers and friends, not everyone is as easily swayed.

Disbelief:  “How come everyone suddenly has a gluten allergy? It’s just a made up thing!” 

Near hysteria: “You love food…what are you going to do? No, really, what are you going to do? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO???”

Annoyance: “Can’t you just not be gluten free today?”

Somehow, an encounter with someone who has a food allergy gives some people license feel annoyed and say whatever comes to mind.  I honestly believe most people do not mean to be rude— that they don’t realize they are being rude—much in the way of someone who touches the stomach of pregnant woman whom she does not know.  But, still.

If you know me well (or even, honestly, not very well), you know that food is important to me.  I have loved it for as long as I can remember.  It is more than just something to give me fuel and to keep me running through my day.  A good meal touches my soul.  It fills an emotional hunger like nothing else.

When I went gluten free, I was struck by how easily I let that change into my life. I didn’t delve into substitutes, mainly because I didn’t want the crutch.  I wanted to learn how to feed myself properly, with real food.  I wanted to get used to my new normal.  I had gotten used to feeling bad.  I’d even gotten used to looking terrible.

Now, there are lots of gluten-free options in the world.  And while there are an overabundance of horrible, tasteless choices, I’ve found a number of substitutes that make eating pleasurable, even fun.

Still, nothing remains the same.  There is much that I miss.

I miss being able to walk into any restaurant knowing that I can eat anything on the menu.   I miss stopping into any pizza place in the city and grabbing a slice to eat as I walked down the street.  I miss being free from wondering if the server knew what he was talking about or if he was just indifferent or if there was bread pureed in the sauce or if the bread that the guy at the salad place just dumped on top of my beautifully curated salad will contaminate the greens that came in contact with it. I miss my Sunday morning ritual of a coffee with half-and-half and a chocolate croissant.  I miss the comfort of a Sprinkles cupcake.

I miss the freedom to eat whatever I want, whenever I want.

After I was diagnosed with an intolerance or sensitivity or whatever word you’d like to call it, I went grocery shopping.  In the middle of an aisle at Whole Foods, I stood looking at all the things that I could no longer eat.  A single thought came into my head:  I must mourn this.

I did.  And I’ve been fine.  And, I have moments when it’s tough.

But, there have also been benefits, despite the challenges.

By watching other people dealing with their allergies, I’ve learned how to ask for what I need.  When you order in a restaurant, if with trepidation you apologetically say that you may have a slight gluten intolerance, you will have a wishy-washy and confused server.  If you go down the list of every item on the menu and ask, “does this have gluten in it?  Does that have gluten in it?”, they will not take you seriously.   If you don’t tell your server that you have a food issue, and your dish arrives breaded and fried and you pitch a fit, they will hate you.

But if you examine the menu and make an educated guess about what can work for you, then enlist the server as a partner, explaining simply about your gluten allergy and to let you know if you are going in the wrong direction with your order, they are usually happy to steer you in the right direction.

I’ve learned how to take care of myself, sometimes the hard (and itchy) way.

At a cooking class in my friend’s apartment, it was pasta night. The chef very thoughtfully brought a gluten-free recipe for me to work on, so I wouldn’t be left out of the evening. I was grateful.  My pasta was passable, though not swoon-worthy.  One of my friends made ricotta gnocchi.

Now, gnocchi is one of my most favorite foods in the world.  (My mouth waters thinking of the simply prepared gnocchi in tomato sauce I had sitting in an outdoor Roman cafe years ago.)  At the class, these looked pillowy and airy and completely delicious.  Gluten be damned, I resolved to taste them.

The chef eyed me with my fork in hand and gnocchi in mouth and said, “I can’t believe you’re eating gluten.”  There are moments you file away, the ones when someone says something that resonates so deep in your soul that you will always remember the way they looked at you when they said it.  And then you very quickly ignore it.

The next day, I was perfectly fine.  HA!  Maybe I just needed to stay away from gluten for a while.  Maybe I really can eat it every now and then.

The day after that, I was still feeling okay, but starting to become itchy all over.

Three days after the gluttonous bites, my neck was covered in painful eczema and I was an itchy mess.

I’ve learned to take care of myself.

I’ve also discovered the kindness of strangers.  Service industry folks are a great group of people who, for the most part, want to ensure that your needs have been met.  They will often very kindly go out of their way to be certain that you are not hurt by eating in their restaurant.  They are my greatest allies and I have the utmost respect for them.

I’ve learned to ask for help.

As I make my way through this new landscape, I find that I am writing less about food.  How can you write about something when the language for it is barely formed in your head?  When each day presents the question, ‘what am I able to eat today?’

In the meantime, I continue to experiment in the store and in the kitchen.

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I eat because without food I wouldn’t survive.  I eat in restaurants because it makes me happy.  I cook because I must, because it feeds more than just my belly.  It satisfies the deepest part my soul.

And that is grace.

I’d had one of those days where I felt lonely, as people sometimes do, and disconnected from so many things.  Those are the times where it’s easy to fall into the abyss of your mind and linger there, conjuring up an epic pity party of how you are all alone in the world and nothing will ever—ever!—be right.

Fast forward to the next day when I arrived at my SoulCycle class at 5:45 am and checked in at the front desk.

“Can I get you water or shoes?” one of the men behind the desk asked me.

“Nope, she’s good.  She’s my ‘I’m all set’ girl,” said his colleague.

Everyone at the front desk is familiar by now, but I realized we hadn’t exchanged pleasantries other than this standard question and answer.

“I’m pretty new here—I’m Max,” the first man said, reaching out to shake my hand.

Then, the rest of the staff behind the desk introduced themselves and I suddenly felt at home.  My energy shifted.

As class began, my heart sank a little when some of the bikes in front of me were empty, probably because of the impending holiday weekend.  When this happened, the instructors can see me sitting all the way in the back.  Sometimes I struggle to sync my legs up with the beat of the music, especially when it is too fast, and I’d rather pedal unseen and find my way without anyone to see me.  Or help me, I suppose.

If that isn’t a metaphor for my life, I don’t know what is.

On this particular morning, I felt good, strong and rested, even with the early hour.  I kept up with the class and felt happy.

Instructor Emily looked over at me tapping it back, as we do in SoulCycle, and said, “Fourth row—magical things are happening back there! Can you feel it?”

Yup, I could feel it.  Though, I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me or not.

As the class progressed, she got off her bike and walked around, speaking in her inspirational way.  She made her way towards the back row, looked at me and said, “Yeah!!!!”

She came over to me and put her hands over mine, resting them there for a few seconds.  Such a small thing changed my emotional chemistry and set me on the path of a better day.

Simple interactions, simple touches, simple encouragement, these are kindnesses that matter.  These things that make you feel cared for and supported.

Sometimes magic rises up and supports you when you need it most.  The trick is to be open to it.

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