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12 June 2008

simple fruit salad

fruit salad

I used to spend hours in the kitchen, dancing to music and creating flavors underneath my hands.

I’m hoping to return to that state of being, loose and not focused on any particular goal, someday.

But for now, I’m growing pretty darned tired.

Little Bean arrives into this world in five weeks. That’s barely longer than a heartbeat, it feels to us. Besides the Chef working away at the restaurant, dancing in his kitchen, we also have a house to clean and organize, baby stuff to buy, a few more cooking classes to teach between us, and the three hundred projects that seem vital but will probably drop by the wayside. Oh, and write a cookbook. Little things.

This year has been quite the whirlwind. I’ve been spending time on planes, talking on the radio, cooking in front of people, reading beautiful emails, making appearances, and grinning through it all. That’s after we moved house, planned a wedding, danced in the backyard, and went to Italy for a honeymoon. Whew.

But now, Little Bean’s insistent kicks, increasing size, and incredible bulges in my belly have slowed me down. As much as I have wanted to slow down before this, nothing forced me to sit. LB has. I’m sitting on the couch as I type this, the laptop just below my prodigious belly. Luckily, I can still see the keyboard. Barely.

The Chef took a photograph of me yesterday, after I emerged from the shower, and showed it to me. “Look! You’re huge!”

Now, normally, this wouldn’t be most girls’ dream, to have the man they love call them huuuuuugge! But I looked at my enormous rounded belly and my eyes gaped. There was the full, ripe belly I always associate with pregnant women. Think of that photograph of Demi Moore when she was pregnant, naked on the cover of Vanity Fair. That’s what I look like now (well, not entirely. The bulge, yes.).Clearly, voluptuously pregnant, no doubt about it.

No wonder I have been so out of breath lately. This explains why I have to ask the Chef to help me tie my shoes.

I love this. I really do.

Sure, I’m tired when I wake up from a full night’s sleep (and those could be an extinct phenomenon soon). My body only feels light when I am floating in the pool, suspended in water the same way the baby is inside of me. My memory is more spotty than brindled cows on green hillsides.

But I feel as though I am in this protected space, curled up in the patch of sunlight on the worn wooden floor. When I walk down the street, slowly, people look at me knowingly, and smile. No one expects much from a pregnant woman about to give birth. And I’m learning not to expect so much of myself, either.

And so, the time in the kitchen is limited, these days.

But I’m still enjoying my food, thoroughly. And slowing down, focusing on simple foods, makes me taste everything more fully. Slowing down always allows me to truly taste my life.

I’m lucky to be this pregnant on the cusp of summer. Stone fruits are entering the market, finally. Strawberries are rumored to be in the market by this weekend. When the heat rises, no one wants to cook much anyway. And besides, my stomach has shrunk from a baby sitting astride it, kicking with tiny fists. It’s all about the snacks now.

I’m just focusing on the best ingredients, food in season, small portions, and sensory pleasure. When I think about it, that’s not a bad way to live all the rest of the days.

The Chef was so happy last night when I told him we had meatloaf and baked potatoes for dinner. The look on his face as he ate made my entire day. That meal took me about twelve minutes to prepare — about as long as I could stand. But we were happy, in bed, at 11:30 at night, chewing and savoring.

After Little Bean is born, and we survive the first few months, I know that elaborate cooking projects, hours in the kitchen, and dancing with new flavors will return. I love it so. We’ll just include Little Bean in the process.

But for now, the simpler the better. One bite of fruit salad can be enough to fill an entire afternoon with sunshine.

fruit salad II

Simple Summer Fruit Salad

I'll be playing with some variation on this theme for the rest of the summer, I'm sure. Ripe fruits, a dash of something citrus, the lovely fullness of vanilla bean, and some sort of surprising tang, like pomegranate molasses. Stir and mix, slowly, and feel free to add whatever feels right.

The other day, I found a can of coconut water at one of my favorite grocery stores, and so I brought it home. It's light, barely sweet, so refreshing when cold. When I poured a bit over the fruit, everything seemed to come together more completely. It's not necessary, by any means, but you might like to try it too.

I make a big bowl of this and then let it marinate in the refrigerator for days. Plopped atop thick yogurt, stirred into waffle batter, smooshed in smoothies, or eaten with a spoon — this fruit salad keeps me happy and Little Bean dancing, no matter how I eat it.

1 mango, cored and sliced
1 pint strawberries, tops removed
1 pint raspberries
4 large ripe plums, cored and diced
4 large apricots, cored and diced
1 vanilla bean
2 limes, juiced and zested
1/4 cup coconut water
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (or grape must syrup or good balsamic vinegar)
3 tablespoons sugar (vanilla sugar, if you have it)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup crème fraiche

Wash all the fruit. Cut the mango and strawberries into half-inch cubes. Put the cut fruit into your favorite bowl. Add the raspberries, plums, and apricots.

Pour in the coconut water and stir it in with the fruit.

With a small, sharp knife, cut down the center of the vanilla bean, then peel back the skin. Scrape the gritty innards into the bowl. Toss well.

Add the lime juice, lime zest, pomegranate molasses, sugar, and nutmeg to the fruit. Stir gently.

For the fullest taste, allow the fruit salad to marinate in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Dollop each serving with a large spoonful of crème fraiche and serve.

Feeds 4.


At 4:34 PM, Anonymous daphna said...

That sounds great! How does coconut water compare to coconut milk?

At 4:58 PM, Anonymous La Niña said...

Yo Mama-
You know I'm on a rose kick. I think rose water would be a delicious addition to that fruit salad. I had some with strawberries the other night...

I'm making more rose water this weekend, and I will give you some! Stop and smell the roses...

Life is sweet.

At 5:29 PM, Blogger Anita said...

It makes me indescribably happy to know that you and Chef are making a baby, because you are so obviously suited to the tasks at hand: pregnancy, motherhood, nurturing... all of it.

The future is in very good hands indeed. Thank you for adding your love and enthusiasm to the gene pool! :D

At 6:08 PM, Blogger amanda said...

On the other side of the earth where I am, the days are growing shorter and my breath hangs in the air on my 6am walks with my dog... and sadly, your post has made me dream of fresh berries and peaches!

Enjoy these last few precious weeks of your pregancy - it must be a very exciting (albeit exhausting) time.

At 7:16 PM, Blogger Shirley said...

Shauna--You sound so good, so happy ... I love that! I have a couple of pics of me with my big belly right before our son was born. They still make me smile widely and fill me with the memories. The fruit salad looks divine. I had not heard of coconut water, but it sounds just right for fruit salad. I love, love coconut. Best to you, Chef, and LB!

At 7:25 PM, Blogger Tiffany said...

What a perfect summertime indulgence (it sure feels like one, doesn't it?!)

At 7:39 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

are you registered anywhere if your fans want to get the little bean a gift?

At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shauna,

I can SO relate to your lovely phrase "my memory is more spotty than brindled cows on green hillsides." When I was pregnant with her brother, my six-year-old daughter said, "my mom doesn't think very well with another person inside her!" Ha!

I think you're still thinking, cooking, writing and teaching beautifully! Thank you for the class last Sunday, this delish seasonal fruit salad and all the wonderful support you provide/d to those newly diagnosed in the class and here on the blog.


At 2:20 AM, Blogger Wendy said...

You make me smile as I think of the number of meals I've cooked with my daughters (4 years apart) riding in a backpack. They both make frequent use of the bowls, utensils, pots and pans in their play. I love seeing them do the things they see me do in the kitchen (minus the getting distracted and burning something...).

At 2:21 AM, Blogger Mouse said...

Shauna, I came across your site towards the end of last year after following some *signs* ...... I love how you write, how you fully exist within each moment, especially with food .... and you've also helped me to find enthusiasm again for getting back into the kitchen ....... so a huge thank you!

Enjoy these last few weeks, for they are the last that will be just you & the Chef as a couple, a pair ..... and then there will be 3 .... and life will change again ...... sending lots of good wishes that this time goes very smoothly for you.

x Mouse

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Clean ClutterFree Simple said...

The smell of fruit salad is intoxicating...

At 8:52 AM, Blogger Allison said...

Cuddling your baby hands-free with a sling will make your time in the kitchen sooo much easier with Little Bean. I used a Maya Wrap with my little guy from the time he was a wee sprout and he and I were much happier than if he was sitting alone in his bouncy seat. His bright eyes would follow my hands as I stirred, chopped (his hands were tucked inside the sling and were not even remotely close to where I worked) washed etc. I'd hold ingredients up for him to smell and tell him what they were and he'd give it a big, serious sniff. Very Cute! Now he's three he's a fine helper and knows his way around the kitchen better than most adults I know. ;-)

An added benefit of the sling is that when we'd get into early evening 'happy hour', when the baby's tired and overstimulated from the day and needs closeness but momma needs to get dinner ready, I'd pop him in the sling and let him nurse and drowse while I went right on with what I needed to do. Happy baby=Happy family. :-)

There's an organization called Nine In Nine Out which is dedicated to helping parents learn how to wear their baby and which carrier is the best. The strappy, buckly ones which hold the baby by their crotch are not that comfortable for baby or momma, but the pouchy, slingy ones are fab and cozy for all.

Also, if you can do a belly cast it's really amazing to see once the baby's born. My son was nearly 10 lbs and I was astoundingly big! We did one at 37 weeks and he loves to see me hold up the cast to my body now and to marvel that it was him inside me. ;-)

Gluten free in B-ham, AL

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Rosiecat said...

Shauna, your comment about people not expecting much out of pregnant women made me laugh because I can hardly think of a bigger task than creating and nurturing new life. You've got so much going on inside your body right now! I'm glad you are listening to your body and slowing down; your body probably knows what is best for you and LB.

And to echo Daphna's question, I am also curious about the difference between coconut water and coconut milk. Anybody?

Damn, I want to run home and make a fruit salad RIGHT THIS INSTANT!

At 1:25 PM, Blogger EatPlayLove said...

I've been wanting to give Pomegranate Molasses a try, sounds delicious. Oh how splendid is ripe summer fruit.

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Sho said...


You don't need to stand the entire time you are cooking. I used my kitchen ladder as a stool when I was pregnant. Yes, I sat and chopped. I even sat in front of the stove and cooked. I even sat in front of the dishwasher and sink.

I even used it after my second one, which was a C-section. However, my recovery from a regular birth, with my son, was a lot more difficult than recovering from a C-section. I think that was when my celiac was triggered, and the pain just lingered. Even the labor pains were a lot worse.

Eventually, I hope you post your birth story to this site.


At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think coconut water is the liquid from the center of the coconut where as coconut milk is pureed coconut meat?.

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Cate said...

I can't believe you only have five weeks to go! It seems like it went so fast, but I know it didn't. I can't wait to hear all the details. :)

At 8:32 PM, Anonymous gretchen said...

OOOhh. A belly cast. What a great idea. Mine, from when I was 6 months pregnant with my twins (HUGE, graces our front hall. It's wonderful. My sister (also g-f)does them for people, as a side business. She also paints and decorates them beautifully if you want. She might come visit from Eugene in the next few weeks. Let me know if you're interested.

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Shauna said...

Thank you, everyone, for these kind comments. (Anita, you made me cry.) This does feel like a protected space, these last few weeks before we meet Little Bean. Sometimes I grow frustrated at my inability to complete all my projects. Most of the time I simply sigh into surrender.

Allison, thanks for the suggestion on the Maya wrap. I love the idea of holding the baby close, especially because LB is scrunched tight inside of me now -- with rib kicks to prove it. We actually bought a sling a couple of weeks ago, a cross between the traditional cloth sling and the Maya. We tried all of them on, but when the Chef put this one on and imagined our little one inside, he burst into tears. That's the one.

for those of you wondering about coconut water. It's also called coconut juice, and it's the liquid that swims in the center of coconuts. Particularly, as I understand, the immature ones. People all over the world drink this as street food -- straw in the coconut directly. Coconut milk is the meat of the coconut, pulverized and turned into a liquid. I just learned this too. So much fun, learning about food. (Anonymous, you had this right.)

Gretchen, a belly cast sounds incredible. We're actually doing photographs on Monday, together, with our good friend Mark. I think that might be the record we'll keep. But let me know when your sister comes into town.

Stephanie, that is such a sweet question. You want to give a gift to Little Bean? We are bowled over by all this love.

We thought about this a long time, and decided that the only place we would publish Little Bean's Amazon registry is here, in the comments section, quietly.

So you can go to Look under Little Bean Ahern.

And if someone wants to send a present to us directly (as some of you already have!), you can send them to Little Bean care of the Chef's restaurant:

Impromptu Bistro
4235 E. Madison Street
Seattle, WA 98112

Thank you to everyone.

And (of course), I'm with Nina. Life is sweet. Enjoy the spring/summer any way you can.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger madeleine said...

this sounds wonderful, however, how does one cut up a mango...I have been stymied in the past (like the mangled mess I made of it last weekend!)

At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I survived pregnancy on gf pancakes, milk, eggs and chicken. I had no energy to cook. I began to miss flavors other than fresh fruit. I found that I actually had more time too cook and play and experiment in life and in the kitchen after she arrived. I just brought her with me, in a sling or in a bouncy seat on the kitchen floor and I sang to her as I created big bold flavors again. And then there's always nap time... I still use it to bake and spread out across the kitchen and dining room. She's nearly 3 and now she wants to cook like Mommy. You sound so incredibly happy and at peace. Enjoy these last weeks.. they will change who you are forever.

At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I’m hoping to return to that state of being, loose and not focused on any particular goal, someday."

Maybe when Bean is in college. :)

Unfortunately, I'm not joking. As a 38 year old mom of two (2 and 4 years old), trust me on this. Your life will turn upside down. Wonderfully, beautifully, stressfully upside down, and you won't know what hit you. But it's a wonderful ride.


At 8:30 AM, Blogger Zoomie said...

I'm sending you a blog award today, "You Make My Day"and I hope you enjoy it as much as I love reading about your joyous life!

At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Liz said...

I love reading your thoughts on pregnancy. My son is 17 months tomorrow. My wish for you is that you have a healthy content little person.

I want you to go to cvs in the baby wipe aisle,next to the orajel,and grab a bottle of Hylands teething tablets. They've saved our lives. :).
If he cries a lot they also make Colic tablets.

Just wanted to share my 2 favorite things. Good luck!

How to open a Coconut girl

At 11:33 AM, Blogger Vincci said...

Only five weeks! That's so exciting! I hope we'll all have a chance to meet Little Bean :)

At 1:22 PM, Blogger chicklet said...

OMG that looks soooooo good.

At 8:06 PM, Anonymous chicagomama said...

I like to puree the mango and toss it in my fruit salad - I think I will add the combo of rose water and vanilla with lemon zest next time. Yummy. Thanks for the inspiration. I read few blogs, but always this one.

At 5:33 AM, Anonymous Ann said...

Beautiful salad... I'm imagining the fragrance and salivating!

I have to tell you that every time I read about your pregancy I get a little teary. I so loved having my babies... and now the youngest is looking at colleges. I envy you the journey you're embarked upon. You have so much joy ahead of you.

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Stephanie said...

Love this post! I'm so happy about summer--the sun and the berries! Ahhh....

With the stone fruits, have you ever tried a few drops of orange flower water? It turns a plate of cut apricots into a plate of honeysuckle in seconds!

On coconut water v. coconut milk: Coconut water is the juice from the middle. When you find cans of it, (and the best way to drink it), it's from a green coconut. The "meat" at this stage is more of a jelly, and the cans often have soft coconut milk pieces cut up into them. Coconut Milk is the liquidy fat that is extracted from the shredded fresh coconut. I spent time in Western Samoa; every family had a bench tricked out for scraping a coconut, and a ring of coconut fiber for squeezing! Yum!

Shauna, enjoy this time, and I ditto the suggestion to make a cast of your belly. It's amazing to look at when you bring the baby home!

At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Niki said...

I entertained six people for five days without a single slip up thanks to you and all your great recipes. I felt great and had a good visit, all the time in the kitchen produced delicious meals without gluten yet satisfied all. Your site has been such help and inspiration. Thank you! The end of a pregnancy is tiring but I hope that even after Little Bean's arrival (so exciting) it won't prevent you from sharing your words of inspiration. Your site is such a happy place to visit.

At 1:59 PM, Blogger Lillbet said...

Haven't read your blog in forever- life has been busy- but a new friend has a gluten allergy and so I thought of your blog. How wonderful to read about the new turns your life has taken! Congratulations again. :)

At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"After Little Bean is born, and we survive the first few months, I know that elaborate cooking projects, hours in the kitchen, and dancing with new flavors will return."

Good on ye, girl! I don't want to be the one who bursts your bubble, but Life will never be the same again after the little bean arrives. Time will never be the same. For many first-time mommies, they're lucky if their hair sees a brush or their face a wash cloth for days on end. And if the little bean weighs a ton, you won't be carrying him around for hours on end while tethered to the stove.
No matter, I love your optimism and inate joy. The best of luck to all three of you!

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Jacki said...

5 weeks! I am wishing you luck!

At 12:57 PM, Blogger Katrina said...

Once bean is mobile, it may be wise to keep him/her out of the kitchen. In the blink of an eye, bean will grab a hot pot, a knife, a handful of pepper...not good. Let bean sit in the high chair, munching on something while you might be able to get a pot of water on the stove. There is no lingering in the kitchen with children, especially babies and toddlers. it's just not safe.

At 11:15 PM, Blogger Anabel said...

It's so much fun to cook with young children! They love to "help" with real food. I'm so excited to see posts about your cooking with the Bean. When I started cooking with my daughter, I started getting properly sized tools for her... Montessori Services or the Michael Olaf catalouge have great tools for small people.

Good luck with the birth!


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