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06 August 2006

"It's my birthday too, yeah."

8.6.66.

My entire life, I have been writing and saying that series of numbers. I have written it on applications and forms to be filled. I have repeated it like a mantra when people have asked. And last spring, when I was so deathly ill -- before my celiac diagnosis -- I must have responded to the question with those numbers at least one hundred and fifty times. "What is the date of your birth?"

8.6.66.

That makes today my 40th birthday. That's right. I am forty years old today.

Yay!

Seemingly, much of this culture doesn't shout a hallelujah about turning forty. In the past few weeks, I have seen more greeting cards than I would care to remember about how to lie and be perpetually 39. Why? What is wrong with growing older? It just means I have lived.

After surviving last spring, the terrible time of lethargy and pain, I celebrate every day. I celebrate the fact that I'm alive, and kicking, and dancing. Going gluten-free was not a punishment for me. It was liberation. Since that spring, I have been spinning with energy, and singing.

And what a year 39 has been. Writing this site, finding new friends, gliding on the happy sighs of a life fully alive for the first time in my life. A literary agent, a spot on the Food Network. And then, gloriously, the love of my life, a dream man who makes me sigh with happiness every day -- the Chef. How could life be better?

How could it be better? Well, I'm going to keep living it to find out.

Lately, I've been quiet on this site. I returned from Sitka and just dived right in. I'll write more soon about what I have been doing -- a trip to Tucson to meet the Chef's parents; a reorginization of the house; cavorting in the sunshine with friends and family -- next week. Promise. Mostly, I was busy writing, finishing the absolute last draft of my book proposal. (And now? It's done! it's done! All fifteen copies are sitting in my agent's office, waiting to be sent out to editors. Fingers crossed, everyone. I'm hoping that you'll be hearing about a food memoir/gluten-free cookbook soon.) After typing in tiny bursts throughout the day, for days in a row, I just needed a break. So I ate and played with the Chef and lived my life without writing about it for awhile.

But I have to return soon. I have been so moved by the barrage of emails I have been receiving from people all over the country, after they saw my spot on the Food Network. I have been overwhelmed and enlivened by every one of them. It's clear to me how many of us are out there, doing our best to eat gluten-free and make our way through the world. So many of you have written to say that my spot made you feel encouraged, and hopeful, about the possibility of gluten-free living moving into the mainstream. I'm honored that I could do anything to help. And if you have written to me, and I have not written back yet, just know that I will. I have been taking the time to write to every one who writes to me, because you have been pouring your personal stories into my inbox for me to read. Thank you.

I would like to share one of the most eloquent comments I have received lately, something that brought tears to my eyes:

"My wife Jessica was diagnosed with Celiac in 2005. Since then we have bounced around the supermarket trying to find products without gluten. Sadly as most of us know most things have gluten in it in some form or another.

The other day we were watching the Food Network and saw your plug on the Power of Food. My wife teared up and looked at me....to quote what she said..

"Honey..............See...Im normal"

My eyes swelled with tears and we both hugged one another and had a good laugh and cry. Thank you for your hard work and keep it up. There are those of us out there who truly appreciate the efforts you have gone through.

Thanks again."

My goodness, with experiences like these, how could I mind turning 40? Thank you, Daniel. I'm so happy that I could help.

So mostly, I greet the day with a Hallelujah. In the morning, I danced around the kitchen to "Birthday" by the Beatles, which the Chef called in and requested from our favorite radio show, Breakfast with the Beatles. Every year, from the time I was sixteen, I have listened to that song on my birthday, first thing in the morning, when I put it on myself. This year, for the first time, someone played it for me.

My dear friends Sharon and Gabe flew in for my birthday, from Los Angeles and New York City. Even though I have known Sharon for more than half my life now, we have not been together on my birthday since 1988. Gabe and I have been in separate places on my birthday for the past ten years. And of course, I have never celebrated a birthday with Danny, the Chef.

You see, this time last year, I sent out an email announcing my three-day, hell-of-a-bash, 40th birthday party. I called it, "To Hell with the Wedding Party." Since I couldn't seem to meet anyone who seemed my match, and I was so joyfully aware of lucky I am to be alive, I just decided to give up on that elusive search for the mate. Hell with it. Who needs a wedding to bring all my friends from around the world together?

Well, it turns out, I had to change the name of the party. Now, it's just a hell of a bash. It has been a beautiful weekend so far. Gabe, Sharon, Monica, and I went to Dan's restaurant on Friday night, where he has debuted his new Spanish menu for the month. We laughed on the patio, in the twillight air, then leaned down together over the food. And then we moaned, all of us, and stopped talking, so we could eat. Prawns with scallions and a garlic almond-puree (pictured above). Pork tenderloin stuffed with chorizo sausage, brined for days in cloves and sugar, then roasted, accompanied by saffron risotto and an organic heirloom tomato sauce. Lamb chops dusted with cumin and coriander, alongside roasted eggplant and a cucumber yogurt sauce. Braised black and white beans with a warm bacon vinaigrette and fried sage leaves. Chocolate mousse with amaretto. Ay god. I couldn't imagine a more beautiful birthday celebration, my dearest friends in the world with me, and the man I love more dearly than I ever imagined making us this food.

And this morning, there have been flowers, Beatles songs, and a breakfast of roasted red potatoes, wilted spinach, poached eggs, and perfectly sauteed bacon. (No fire alarms set off in my kitchen.) Much laughter. Soon, we are all heading to Discovery Park, where friends, family, and former students will fill an enormous green field with laughter and stories.

Of course, there will be plenty of great, gluten-free food.

8.6.06. Forty? Fabulous.


stay tuned to this spot for the recipe for a summery watermelon salad, perfect for a birthday picnic.

51 Comments:

At 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blessed be and happy 40!

 
At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Angela said...

Happy birthday, Shauna !!!

I´m nearly my forty´s too and I was diagnosed of celiac disease 19 months ago. I think we´re lucky because we know what to do to be healthy and plenty of life. All we need to do is a gluten-free diet, that´s all !!!

I´ve just discovered your blog and I´ve read some of your stories. I like the way you explain the things.

From Mallorca (Spain)

Angela

 
At 3:13 PM, Blogger marshamlow said...

Happy Birthday, Shauna. You have brought so much joy and enthusiasm into my life, both from your wonderful recipes and your inpiring attitude. I wish you all the best and many happy returns. Good things for good people, all is right in the world.

 
At 4:29 PM, Blogger Momma Pajama said...

Happy Birthday, Shauna! I just found you and am enjoying your blog. I am been wheat, dairy and sulfites (dried fruit & wine) now for 1-1/2 years, and I love to bake, so after I read your archives, I'll try to pass you some of my favorites if you don't write about them. Happy, happy 40! I just had mine in April!
Paula (edmonds)

 
At 4:45 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Happy Birthday to you Shauna!

 
At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Dearest Shauna!! Your life & outlook sound a bit like heaven! You ARE the change so needed in this world!
xoxo
Sherry

 
At 5:23 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to to you, Happy birthday, dear Shauna, Happy Birthday to you!

What a wonderful year you have had. I, too, felt liberated by the knowledge that my severe problem could be handled by simply eliminating gluten from my diet. Imagine if all the people being diagnosed with a horrible ailment could be told the problem was with one ingredient they would have to eliminate from their diet to have good health again (versus surgery, chemotherapy, etc.) I feel lucky that it was something so easy to handle. Okay, okay...not THAT easy! But manageable, for sure.

I wish you a spectacular 40th year on this planet.

Kathy

 
At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Tammy said...

Happy Birthday Shauna!!

 
At 8:53 PM, Blogger Peggy said...

Happy birthday to my gluten-free twin! Hope the coming year brings you twice as many blessings as this year has!

 
At 9:12 PM, Anonymous Shannon said...

Happy Birthday, Shauna! What a wonderful day for you to spend at Discovery Park, too. I hope you had a great birthday in the sunshine!

 
At 9:41 PM, Blogger funwithyourfood said...

well Happy birthday to you! I just saw your bit on the food network. Congratulations- what a success for you :)

I'm going to start creeping around your site now and learning about your gluten free life.

I have a cousin who happens to be allergic to glueten too.

Talk with you later-

Teddy

 
At 11:01 PM, Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

Thanks to you living, surviving and writing of 40 years I have someone quite special to pass on gluten-free questions to.

Hippo Birdy Two Ewes!

Keep On Keepin On, show us how it goes sister!

Thank you for being an inspiration to us all. xo

 
At 12:47 AM, Blogger Pille said...

Happy birthday to you, Shauna! Looking forward to your future posts (and that watermelon salad). So glad to read that everything looks so bright for you - may that last for another zillion years!

 
At 12:55 AM, Blogger Zarah Maria said...

Happy Birthday Shauna! I hope there'll be AT LEAST 40 more (that we get to share, too)!:-)

 
At 3:49 AM, Blogger Michèle said...

Happy Birthday Shauna, and congrats on a fabulous year. It sounds like it couldn't have been any better and I hope the next is just as great!

 
At 4:12 AM, Blogger ASMO said...

Fabulous, indeed!

Although I am gluten-free too, what keeps me coming back to your blog are the positive and life-affirming vibes that fill the space. Thank you for this inspiration and a very happy birthday.

 
At 8:30 AM, Anonymous gaile said...

Happy Birthday Shauna! You're an inspiration to us all. I hope this is the start of the best decade yet, and filled with unexpected blessings!

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger s'kat said...

Aww, happy birthday, Shauna! I can't wait to see what beautiful turn your life takes next.

*grin*

 
At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Suze said...

Happy Birthday, Shauna! My own birthday is day after tomorrow -- though am old enough to be your MOM! ;-) So happy to see so many good things happening to you. Wish we could toast 'em both (the b-days) and slam down some really great GF chocolate cake made by The Chef. :-) :-)

 
At 2:26 PM, Blogger Angela said...

Congratulations on such a wonderful year - Happy Birthday, Shauna!

Angela

 
At 2:51 PM, Blogger cookiecrumb said...

How happy! I hardly even need to send you my happy wishes; you're wallowing in the stuff.
Shauna, is it true? Life begins at 40? (Let's see... I'm trying to remember that far back.)
xxx

 
At 6:36 PM, Blogger kitchenmage said...

Happy day Shauna, and a gorgeous one too!

 
At 6:43 PM, Blogger Food Allergy Queen said...

Hi Shauna, I just stumbled across your site today, and just missed your birthday! Happy happy, from someone just north of 40 as well.

I haven't had the energy to keep up my own food allergy blog, but you're inspiring me to do so again (after I figure out how to add the links). I am also allergic to gluten, though am not a celiac. And because I'm allergic to so many weird things that cut across all categories, I'm working on a cookbook as well, but as you know all that experimentation is exhausting.

Anyhow, just wanted to say thanks for sharing your exuberance and I hope to try and find your Food Network piece.

Kishari

 
At 4:40 AM, Anonymous Samantha said...

Happy birthday!

I just wanted to say thank you for starting this blog. I saw the site on Food Network and I had to tell my mother about it (she has celiac's). She's not very good about following her diet and I worry about her, so this blog is a great support for her and a good peace of mind for me and my family. Thank you!

 
At 7:37 AM, Blogger lucette said...

Happy 40th! I'm with you--I was happy to say I was 40, and I'm happy now to be 57. Things since 40 have mostly just gotten better and better.

 
At 10:12 AM, Anonymous stephanie e from ohio said...

Happy Birthday!!! This year is my 40th, too, and I was diagnosed gluten-intolerant almost the same time last year as your celiac diagnosis. I, too, am thankful for my better life, and the other day I was thinking that the 40s are going to be just fine.

As always, I am so happy for you, and so happy you do what you do, because you always brighten my day.

 
At 10:24 AM, Blogger hereandthere123 said...

Happy Birthday! And congratulations on your wonderful year.

You're a source of inspiration!

Yay Shauna!

3-15-69. Three more years for me. ;D

My grandmother used to do numerology. She would have had a field day with your numbers.

Great blog! Keep up the super work!

 
At 2:04 PM, Blogger Tea said...

Happy, happy birthday, my dear! What a wonderful thing to get to watch you flower into health and (greater) happiness. It is a joy, truly. Thank you for sharing your passion and adventures with us. May they continue to grow and unfold. Here's to many, many more!

 
At 3:44 PM, Blogger Frances said...

Happy Birthday!

You may be interested to know, in the way of another story of someone who lives gluten-free, that my grandfather was diagnosed with celiac disease shortly after his 80th birthday. It was either the cause or the effect of a surgery he had which involved the removal of most of his small intestine.
Our family reunion this summer was the first time that I'd seen him since he was diagnosed. We all made the effort to cook gluten-free for him. I made two batches of cookies (one from your ginger cookie recipe, the other a modification of one in Cooking Light,) your banana bread recipe (amazing, bytheby), and a cherry pie. Due to his other health problems (including high cholesterol and heart troubles,) I could not use your pie crust recipe, and was instead obliged to create my own.
It is, I must say, much simpler than yours, and (thankfully) worked right off the bat.
Thank you so much for your inspiration
Yours &c.
Frances

(p.s.:
[Gluten Free Stirred Pastry]
1/4 C milk
1/3 C oil
1 C sorghum flour
small amount almond flour (optional)
1 T sugar

1. Stir milk and oil vigorously until emulsified.
2. Stir in flours
3. Press into pie pan.)

 
At 4:28 PM, Anonymous the pragmatic chef™ said...

Happy 40th, Shauna! Many, many more, friend. I'm glad you're so happy, you deserve it!

 
At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Joy said...

Saying goodbye to the 40's and hello to my 50's on Thursday.
How I spent my last decade:
Travelled to Tahiti; Cancun; Helsinki; Tallen, Estonia; London, England and Grenoble,France.
Started Scuba diving.
Moved to Arizona, bought a house.
Started strength training and yoga.
Did a metric century bike ride (65 miles)!
Lost a lot of wieght, dropping about 60 pounds.
Acquired two pests (feline variety).
And 3 months ago went GF.

Hope you enjoy your next decade!

 
At 7:24 PM, Anonymous berett said...

after reading this deluge of joyful wishes and heart felt warmth, it doesn't seem like there's a lot i can add! i guess it just goes to show what an amazing force of....well, amazement you are! we'll miss you at camp this year, but hopefully both adrienne and i will be adding our beaming faces to those watching your wedding.

happy birthday, shauna dearest. hope this year is as wonderful as your last!

 
At 11:48 PM, Anonymous Kimberly said...

A belated happy birthday, Shauna.

May the next year be as wonderful for you as the last one.

 
At 8:50 AM, Blogger Rachael said...

Happy birthday you sweet girl. The happiest.

Much love,
Rachael

 
At 9:36 AM, Blogger Christan = ) said...

Glad to see you made it home safely!! Happy Belated Birthday!! I just love to read about your happiness!! May there always be happy years for you and your Chef!!

 
At 3:45 PM, Blogger Erica said...

Happy (belated) birthday!

 
At 5:58 PM, Blogger Tay Arrow Sherman said...

I can not believe you're 40. You look 25. Thanks for the GF tips!

 
At 5:59 PM, Blogger Tay Arrow Sherman said...

I can not believe you're 40. You look 25. Thanks for the GF tips!

 
At 7:06 PM, Blogger Jeanne said...

Happy birthday! The best is yet to come! I'm 42 and loving it!

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger Bicyclemark said...

excessively late.. but here's my happy bday all the same!

 
At 6:48 PM, Blogger Melinda said...

Shauna, I'm so glad to find you. I have some very young Celiac friends (all below 10...some below 6) and as you know, resources are not as well known as they could be.
Rock on, girl. I'm plus 40 myself and you just stop caring about what others are thinking then!!
Happy Birthday, from across the country.

 
At 1:40 PM, Anonymous beastmomma said...

Happy Birthday Shauna!! I loved your spot on the food network also. You are such an inspiration to so many. Thank you for living well and sharing wtih all of us.

 
At 9:21 AM, Blogger moo said...

Happy birthday Shauna!!!

The prawns look divine. Really.

 
At 2:56 PM, Blogger Lola said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHAUNA!!!
Thank you so much for everything you do! My young daughter is allergic to wheat, dairy, and soy.. so we are gluten free (i am nursing her) and you make my life a whole lot easier! You are simply the greatest!
Hope your birthday was the best!
Take care
Stay well!

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger Britt said...

Hello Ms. James - I was watching the Food Netwrok and saw your spot and thought "hey I know that person" and realized it was my highschool teacher from Vashon. I just wanted to wish you all the success in the world.

Brittney Beck (class of 1995)
Tacoma, WA

 
At 7:24 AM, Blogger Woman Partially Unglued said...

Just found you, I'm a fellow celiac in NC. Great blog.

 
At 7:43 AM, Blogger Crystal said...

I am creeping up on my 41st birthday and have loved being 40. I am looking forward to being "in my fourties"!
My 17 year old daughter is in the process of being diagnosed with Celiac disease and I am coming to terms with the strong possibility that I have it too.
Its great to find an anwer to the puzzle, but looking at the offerings of our local supermarket has been discouraging.
I am so glad to have stumbled on your blog this morning and to find all the wonderful resources you have listed.
Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you from the bottom of my heart! I will be eagerly awaiting news of your book release!
Crystal

 
At 12:32 AM, Anonymous carlo!53 said...

Happy bday to you! The shrimp with the almond-garlic puree looks really great. Is that what your having for your bday party? Wish I was there to try it out.

 
At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Vicki said...

My 25 year old son just discovered he has Celiac disease. Like you it was a long road to finding out why he felt so bad. I saw a clip on the Food Network and hope we will be seeing Gluten Free Programs. As we are searching for new recipes and new ways to cook his old favorites. Thank you for bringing attention to this way of life and hopefully grocery stores and restuarants will offer more Gluten Free items on their shelves and menus. thanks again, Vicki

 
At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Diane said...

Happy birthday, and what a wonderful recent post on finding the love of your life!

I too am an 8/6 birthday gal, and just turned 42 this year - so we are similar. I am hoping for a year half as good as ours.

Blessings...

 
At 6:07 PM, Blogger Randi said...

Mine is 12/2/66. The big 40 this year. Happy bday to you.

 

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