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Friday, October 19, 2007
Meeting the Gluten-Free Girl in NYC (part 1)
"The more you live in food, the more ideas rise and you can start to trust your instincts"
~Shauna James Ahern, 10/15/07

On Monday night, I had the wonderful opportunity to finally meet Shauna James Ahern, the Gluten-Free Girl herself. I was so thrilled that I signed up for the cooking and book signing event at Whole Foods and it came on a particularly crappy day at work. I made sure to get to Whole Foods Bowery nice and early to get an upfront seat. I was really impressed with this Whole Foods, it is clean and HUGE. I didn't look around too much since I was waiting for the class, but plan on going back soon.

I have been a fan of Shauna's blog for a long time and I knew how excited she was about her newly published book and her NYC visit. Allergic Girl had put Shauna in contact with me a few weeks earlier and I was flattered to help out someone that I admired so much. When I first got to see Shauna and Danny (her husband aka as "The Chef") in the Whole Foods classroom kitchen, I felt like I was watching a behind-the-scenes episode of a Food Network program. They were buzzing around the kitchen getting stuff ready for the class.

When we got into the classroom at 7pm, we were each greeted with a copy of Shauna's new book Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back...And How You Can Too and a nice plate of crackers, veggies, and hummus. I made sure to get a front and center seat to enjoy the class and the commentary.

Shauna started the evening by introducing herself, The Chef, and her dear friends Meri and Sharon. It was so cool to see these people in person after we have heard so much about in the past few years from Shauna's blog. It was also refreshing to see how truly down to earth Shauna and Danny are. Shauna had to laugh when she said "It's weird to be in a room of people you don't know, but who have seen your wedding photos." This comment alone made me think that Shauna was really excited to be in NYC and also thrilled to have these fans and see them all with her book in front of them. After Shauna's introductions, she had us go around the room and introduce ourselves. I thought this was a really nice touch. My biggest thrill was after I introduced myself, Shauna gave me and the meetups a shout-out. I was so touched by the attention she paid to the individuals, and especially the time she took to recognize me on a night that was for her. It was nice to meet fellow celiacs, food bloggers, and caterers interested in learning more about gluten-free cooking for their clients. These introductions made me feel like I was in a room of friends rather than a room of strangers. It was wonderful to hear how excited the others were to be there and know that I wasn't the only one feeling that way in the room.

After introductions, Danny and Shauna started making chicken thighs braised in pomegranate molasses. Shauna used Alwadi pomegranate molasses, which of course were gluten-free. We learned what braising really meant and throughout the demo, Shauna and Danny urged us all to slow down in the kitchen and when eating food. I wondered if others in the room were thinking like a true NYer "When do we really have time to slow down?" I know that during the week I am never home and usually pop leftovers in the microwave before settling in front of the tv. My most enjoyable cooking experiences are Sunday afternoons. I start cooking at 3pm and make about three dishes for the week. I blast the radio, read cookbooks, and just enjoy the time I have in the kitchen. If I had more time to slow down, I would. But for now, I will use my Sundays to enjoy my food and my cooking time.

Our next dish was penne pasta with smoked salmon, dill, capers, and fresh horseradish. I was a bit nervous about this dish since I don't eat salmon, capers, or horseradish... but I did eat it because I was in the front row and I didn't want to insult anyone. There was nothing wrong with the dish, but I found the capers a bit salty for me. I was great that I tried something new that night in the presence of someone that I truly admire.

The last dish was fig cookies. This dish spread a bit on the baking sheet, but Shauna and Danny just rolled with it and said "it happens." I love that attitude they both have. Here we are in a professional kitchen with a chef and an author. There is no "cut" that a director can shout and Shauna just kept right on with the flow of the conversation. She continued to ask us questions, talk to us like old friends, and kept a smile on her face the whole time. Another thing I noticed throughout the evening and especially with the "fig incident" was the amazing love Shauna has for Danny and vice versa. Her eyes are truly lit up with love and awe for the Chef. The Chef is a quiet, shy man who seems equally thrilled with life and is clearly proud of his new wife. One of my favorite parts of Shauna's blog is her love story with The Chef. Her love just jumps off the blog and into your heart (or if you are like me then with tears of happiness.) It was wonderful and inspiring to see the chemistry between these two people who are clearly so in love with each other.

After an evening of food, conversation, cooking tips, sneak-peaks at upcoming projects, and more, we got to line up and get our books autographed by Shauna. It was great to wait on line and have others come and introduce themselves to me. We "knew" each other through the meetup website and emails, but had never met face-to-face. It is amazing how the internet brought everyone in that room together that Monday night. When I finally met Shauna (I was the last in line) she didn't greet me with a handshake, but with an enormous hug and thank you with the same from The Chef. Again, I was touched by her kindness and her unpretentious attitude towards her class, her new book, and her life in general. Shauna truly appreciates everything that comes to her and it is quite obvious from how she presents herself that she is thankful for everything. I spent about ten minutes chatting with Shauna and Danny and was thrilled to meet someone I admire so much. Not only did Shauna sign my book, but we chatted like friends. She asked about my grandmother, we spoke about her weekend events in Central Park, and just spoke about life in general. For someone I had just met, I was totally at ease around Shauna. I couldn't help but leave Whole Foods that night with a huge smile on my face.

I want to personally thank Shauna for being such a wonderful and uplifting advocate for the Celiac community. I think we need many more people like this that can represent us in such a positive way. Shauna, you made my evening one of the best in a long time and I thank you for all you have done and all you plan to do. Good luck with your book and enjoy the ride! YES!

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Blogger David Marc Fischer said...

Beautiful post, Erin!

Blogger Allergic Girl® said...

what a lovely post erin, so glad you enjoyed and thank you again for the shout out, it wa smy pleasure to make the easy intro.

Blogger Lynn Barry said...

How fabulous that you got to meet SHAUNA and the CHEF! HUGS

Blogger Carrie said...

Great post Erin! I'm so excited you got to spend the evening with Shauna! I bet you had a fantastic time!! Thanks for sharing details of the cooking event! I wondered what it would be like! Good for you for being willing to try foods that you don't normally eat!

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