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21 May 2006

being filmed for the Food Network

As a kid, I used to teach television cooking classes in my mind. Ten years old and infatuated with Julia Child — oh, how I loved that outrageous woman, her high-pitched voice, and her gangly goofiness — I sometimes left my place before the TV and walked into the kitchen to make myself a sandwich. Involuntarily, I imagined that a camera was trained on my hands as I spread margarine on Wonder Bread, and extracted orange slices of cheese product from their plastic wrappers. “This is how you make a grilled cheese sandwich,” I’d instruct, seriously, inside the confines of my mind. It was about this time that I began narrating all those activities, practicing to be a writer later, preparing for teaching.

A few years later, when I was an awkward pre-teen, with huge glasses, a ready grin, and the ability to read scripts quickly, I spent many an afternoon in a warehouse in Los Angeles. Surrounded by hundreds of other kids — who were surrounded by hovering parents, endlessly combing their hair to a dull sheen — I waited my turn for a one-minute audition. I haven’t talked about this here, but I was actually an actor in Hollywood when I was a kid. Oh, not big enough that any of you would recognize me from my roles, or seriously strange enough to warrant an E-channel “Where are They Now?” feature. Instead, my brother and I both had an agent, one of the leading ones in Los Angeles. The walls of her lobby were festooned with head shots of the Little House on the Prairie kids and the gleaming grins of the Brady Bunch. She sent us out on auditions for Norman Lear sitcoms, ABC Afterschool Specials, and educational films, the kind schoolchildren were forced to watch in cavernous cafeterias on rainy days. It was an endlessly fascinating experience, one that deserves another writing, later. But let’s just say that I was experienced enough with being on camera that I lost my self-consciousness and learned how to do my job.

This all came in handy when a seven-person camera crew showed up in my kitchen last week.

light in the kitchen

Last week, my childhood fantasy of teaching people how to cook on camera came true, for one day. A production company in Los Angeles has been asked by the Food Network to produce a show called The Power of Food. It will be a series of profiles of people whose lives have been changed by food. Has my life been changed by food? Oh yeah. And how.

It has been just over a year since I began this website. I didn’t mark the anniversary here, because I don’t feel like I hit my stride and started creating the kind of pieces I now think of as my standard until July. But I also didn’t have time to mark the anniversary, since life has become so fluid and expansive. I have always loved food. I have always been known for my passion for food. Somehow, food has always been inextricably part of my life. (In fact, one of my television roles was a part on the Rhoda show, where I played a girl named Amy Finkelstein, the girl who ate crayons.) But since I went gluten-free, and joyfully embraced my food fate, my life has grown larger and more passionate, hilarious and touching by turns. There have been countless dinner parties with friends. New friends who have become dear to me, whom I have met through their food websites. A free set of Le Creuset cookware. New foods I never imagined, their tastes tingling on my tongue in ecstasy. My passion for food photography. Writing opportunities. The IACP conference. A wonderful award for this blog. Friends who are chefs, and own gourmet kitchen stores, and lead chocolate tours of Paris. A sense of discovery, every day, about what awaits me next.

These are only some of the gifts of this year, a year guided by my passion for food. And there are some I have not shared here yet — gifts that have kept me from posting here as regularly as I once did — but I will share them, eventually. You’ll simply have to trust me: this has been the most extraordinary year of my life.

All because of food, glorious food.

So, a crew from Los Angeles flew up to film me. A wonderful director named Judy, an ebullient producer named Ingrid, and a hip, sophisticated director of photography named Patrick. And then there were four people from Seattle: Scott the sound guy; Jordan the assistant director of photography; Eddie the PA; and Cassy, all-around helpful person. They were all far more funny and real than I had imagined, based on my experiences as a child actor. We laughed and talked, which made the entire surreal experience far less bizarre.

This is why, if you live in Seattle, you might have seen me at the University District Farmers’ Market at 8:30 in the morning, raising my face the blue-skied day while Ingrid put makeup on me. Or when I walked through the market, pretending to saunter and act naturally with a transistor on the back of my pants, being followed by a boom mic. I talked with terrified farmers and bakers who were confused by the gluten content of spelt (yes, spelt has gluten; please don’t sell it as gluten-free), goat keepers who sell lovely local cheeses, and women who gather eggs on their farm and preach about the false advertising of “free-range” eggs. After awhile, I simply relaxed and enjoyed the warm spring morning at one of my favorite markets. Still, I had to laugh when two ten-year-old boys ran up to me, and said in loud voices, “Why are you being interviewed?” It was a pleasure to talk with an older woman who stopped me to ask the same question. When I told her about this website, her eyes grew wide. “Oh, thank you for doing that! I have a friend who cannot eat gluten, and I want to make her food. If I read your website, I’ll know what to serve my friend for dinner.” Moments like that cut right through the silliness and reminded me why I’m doing this all in the first place.

morel mushrooms

I don’t think I would have been able to do this if I hadn’t held in my mind that I was doing it to help other people. That honestly guides me in everything I do. I know that, when I was first diagnosed with celiac, I would have felt immensely better if I had been able to see someone on the Food Network talking about the joys of living gluten-free. I could have used a guide. So, I tried to be one instead. Who knows who will see this and feel recognized?

This thought allowed me to act at least somewhat naturally while I had have a camera trained on me as I took vegetables out of a bag. Usually, I do that alone. And when I cook, I’m normally in the kitchen by myself, dancing to music. But this time, as I slivered fresh leeks for a slow sautee, I had a massive camera three inches to my right, the cords behind it held by an assistant, a mic down my shirt, a transistor attached to the back of my jeans, and a boom mic operator to my left. And when I sit in my living room with people, they are not usually interviewing me on camera for an hour and a half, with various electrical and technological equipment strewn about the room.

Not my typical day.

And in the end, as exhausting and surreal as it all was, I did have a great time. To be honest, I’m a bit of a ham. An inveterate storyteller. And an experienced child actor grown up into a food writer. Given all that, how could I not love the chance to finally turn to the camera and talk about the joys of food?

Roast Chicken Juicy Enough for the Camera

roast chicken

Last year, when I started cooking seriously, I dreamed of making the perfect roast chicken. Simple yet elegant, roast chicken done right is a thing of beauty. I have ordered it in some of my favorite French restaurants around the world (and the Cuban/Chinese place down the street from me in New York) and have always been amazed. Crisp skin, juicy breast meat, a condensed chicken taste — nothing wasted, everything there. I crave it, constantly.

Earlier in the year, I wrote a post about the roast chicken my friend Francoise made for me. Later, I learned some tricks from Jamie Oliver, and shared those on this site. But I didn’t have the chance to perfect my roast chicken technique, because I was so busy trying new dishes. For months on end, I made something new every night, happily devouring as many tastes as I could, never stopping to double back and make something again.

Lately, though, I’ve been slowing down, just a bit. Slowing down enough to figure out how to test recipes more thoroughly and create some signature dishes. All spring long, for dinner parties and gatherings for two, I have been roasting chickens with lemons and fresh herbs on the vertical roaster. And I have to say, I’m pretty proud of this dish now. It is finally what I imagined. This spring, so many dreams have been coming true that I’m feeling a little dizzy. The succulent taste of this roast chicken grounds me in the midst of all this happy frenzy.

one vertical roaster
one roasting pan with two cups water at the bottom
one oven pre-heated to 425°

one whole roasting chicken, organic (tastes better), and as fresh as possible
one boiling hot lemon (see notes)

two tablespoons sea salt
zest one lemon
one teaspoon cracked black pepper
three tablespoons high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil

six cloves fresh garlic, peeled
six sprigs fresh rosemary
six sprigs fresh tarragon

Pour two cups of water into the bottom of your best roasting pan. Put the vertical roaster in the middle of the pan, upright.
Here a note about the vertical roaster: a friend of mine bought me mine, swearing it made the best roast chicken she had ever eaten. I was happy for the gift, but I was also dubious. This small, metal device seemed a bit like a gimmick. But she was right. The gaps between the metal slats allows hot steam from the bottom of the pan to circulate up through the chicken, making this one of the juiciest birds you will ever eat. Now, I cannot roast a chicken without it.

Set a small pot of water on high heat. When it has come to boil, drop a whole lemon (skin rinsed off, with a tiny slit cut in the skin to prevent it from bursting) into the water and let it heat for five minutes.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the sea salt, lemon zest, and black pepper together. (If you want a more exotic-tasting chicken, you could add some smoked paprika here as well.) When they are ground into a paste, add the olive oil and stir it into the paste.

Hopefully, your fresh, organic chicken is already fairly clean, but double check to make sure. Remove the internal organs and do with them what you want. Impale the chicken on the vertical roaster — there’s really no other way to say it — and let it sit upright. Smear the salty, lemony olive-oil paste all over the skin, under the wings, and along the legs, until the entire chicken is smothered in the paste. Tuck the fresh herbs between the skin and flesh along the breast. At the last moment, throw the garlic cloves into the cavity of the chicken, then slide the hot lemon in. (If it’s large, you might have to cut it in half and put both halves in.) Because the lemon is already hot before you begin cooking, it releases its juices into the chicken immediately, making it extraordinarily juicy.

Put the chicken into the oven, with one rack on the lowest setting. Cook it at 425 for about fifteen to twenty minutes, or until you can smell the warmth of roasting chicken, and the skin has started to brown. Turn the oven down to 350° and let the chicken cook for another forty-five minutes or so, or until a good meat thermometer inserted into the breast reads at least 165°.

Pull the chicken from the oven and let it rest in the roasting pan for ten minutes before you begin carving. You’ll be amazed, when you make the first cut along the drumstick, at the amount of juice that comes pouring forth from the flesh.

Bon Appetit.


At 7:05 AM, Blogger Fran said...

What a wonderful experience!

At 7:43 AM, Blogger Ilva said...

Shauna, I wish I could see that program but alas...I'm so happy for you, just shows that often life is what you make it to be! Surf on!

At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is SO exciting. When will the program air?

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What news! Congratulations a million times over. I wish I could watch it here, but maybe you'll record it and share it with me when I'm in Seattle this summer?

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations Shauna! Soooo proud of you for following your heart and reaping the rewards, richly deserved.

At 1:20 PM, Blogger Cory said...

I'm so glad I found your site. I have Celiac and I appreciate all the info and links. Thank you.

At 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats - being featured on a food show has gotta be better than eating crayons :)

At 6:59 PM, Blogger Alanna Kellogg said...

What a "great guide"! What happens now?

At 7:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You rock Shauna! I hope you'll let us know when the show is airing. I'd love to see it.
Keep up the good work. I've been missing your posts but I do realize you're quite the busy one.


At 8:21 PM, Blogger Joe said...

How absolutely fantastic! I can't imagine how exciting that must have been!

At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent! And it's always a pleasure to read your posts!

At 3:37 AM, Blogger Peggy said...

Shauna, that's wonderful! Please let us know when the show airs. I can't wait to see it. (And I can't wait to try the roast chicken!)

At 7:28 AM, Blogger Freckle Face Girl said...

Congrats! I am very excited for you.

At 7:46 AM, Blogger Kate Croft said...

I'm so excited for you! J and I were discussing what my schtick would be if I were on food TV recently...and we decided that it would probably be "spilling hot grease on yourself and swearing." Ah well.

At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the shoot, and a great first year!

Thanks for the great education on gluten, it's inspired me both in my home kitchen and in the product development I do in my "day job".

At 11:11 AM, Blogger Ruth Daniels said...

Congratulations - and what an awesome experience.

Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.

At 8:35 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

Fran --

Thanks! It was an incredible experience. I'm still giggling.


Thank you for support. Actually, they told me the segment will eventually be on the Food Network website as well, so you will be able to see it in Italy!

Beastmomma --

I'm not sure when it will air. I know the production company was going to finish editing it by the end of June. As soon as I know, I'll be sure to tell everyone here!

Melissa --

Oh, I'm certain to have it recorded on multiple tapes and dvds. And yes! Come visit this summer and we'll cook and laugh.

Luisa --

Thank you, my dear. I do feel blessed. Your words about following my heart mean so much to me.

Cory --

I'm so glad the site is helping. That's why I'm here.

Another Outspoken Female --

Oh yes, it has to be better. Actually, I didn't have to eat the crayons on the Rhoda show. I was simply referred to that way. BUT, I'm sure crayons have gluten in them, anyway.

AK --

Thank you for your kind words. What happens now? Gosh, with the kind of this year this has been, who knows?

Tammy --

I've been missing posting as often as well. It's the last two weeks of the school year, and that definitely keeps me jumping. There's another reason too, but I'll explain that in a few days...

Joe --

It was exciting! You would have loved it.

Flo --

Thank you. I'm so happy you enjoy reading them. I've been enjoying writing them for over a year now.

Peggy --

Ah, old friend. Good to see you back. I'll definitely let everyone know when it airs. I'll be jumping up and down!

Steph --

Thank you!

Kate --

Now that would be a good schtick. I'd watch that. Of course, mine really should be called spilling leeks on the floor and slipping on them.

Pragmatic Chef --

I'm so thrilled that I could help. And by doing that, help all the people who eat your fine food!

Ruth --

Oh, thank you. I'm always happy to share with you.

At 9:48 PM, Blogger Bonnie said...

Congratulations! I'm so excited for you!

At 10:36 PM, Blogger Marshamlow said...

You have always been such an inspiration to me, the recipes are awesome, but it is your attitude that is divine. Congratulations! I am so excited for you.

PS-I really loved the orange marmalade-Salmon recipe!

At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! What a happy tale. Congratulations! Kudos to the Food Network for featuring your inspirational story.

2 questions came to mind. 1. Are crayons gluten-free? 2. Is the Cuban-Chinese place you mentioned La Caridad on the Upper West Side? I love that place!

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Helen said...

Oh Shauna,

It must be a dream come true (literally :) I just couldn't stop smiling while reading your post. Please give us heads up when the show comes out. I wouldn't miss it for the world!


At 1:17 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I am so happy for you! Congrats! I know many food lovers have dreamt of a moment on the food network! So wonderful to know someone did it!
Rock on.

At 5:18 PM, Blogger Paula said...

Congrats! What a wonderful experience. I am so excited for you and to see the show. Please let us know when it will be airing.

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome, Shauna! Congrats on all your achievements!


At 11:37 AM, Blogger Lauri said...

OOH! Im so excited for you! Keep us posted when its going to be on!
i was just diagnosed in feb, and your site was one of the first helpful sites that i came across, i was then inspired to start my own blog with recipes too! Thanks a bunch!

At 12:25 PM, Blogger Christan = ) said...

I'm happy to see Food Network has come to their senses and chosen to feature the absolute best Gluten-Free Girl!! Hopefully they will do more than one episode.
I love reading your site and look forward to hearing more about your glorious adventures with food. Best wishes, Christan = )

At 4:59 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

Great news! I am happy for you!

At 8:44 PM, Blogger terry said...

this thrills me to no end! i keep thinking i need to write to the food network to suggest they do something about the gluten-free lifestyle, and now my wish has come true!

well, actually, a regular show featuring gluten-free food would be my REAL wish-come true, but this is a fabulous start.

can't wait to see the piece. and i'm so glad to have tripped over your blog!

At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers Shauna! This is certainly going to be one heck of an adventurous year for you. And it couldn't be happening to a better woman!


At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just recently discovered the world of food blogging, and I just stumbled across your website yesterday. (I've done so much clicking, I'm not sure who brought me here!) There are a few blog writers who make me want to go back and read every post, and you are one of them.

It takes just a few posts to get a sense of who you are, which would probably compel me to read the blog even if I wasn't interested in the food. It makes me glad that you teach, because I feel sure that you're fantastic at it.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Colaptes auratus said...

I want to add my happy voice to the chorus of congratulations! The busier you get, the less likely it seems we might finally meet somewhere in our town by the Sound, and yet I cannot feel wistful amongst such excitement flowing through your life. I'll just keep rooting.

At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shauna - I know I'm a bit late but I'm so excited for you, it's wonderful news! I wish I could watch the programme.

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Dana said...

Shauna- Congrats on the exciting adventure on TV! And I LOVE the green wall.

At 8:21 PM, Blogger Helene said...

Congratulations! I was diagnosed with Celiac disease 5 years ago and it has been incredibly difficult for me in my job (pastry and catering), living with a non Celiac husband, but I manage.
I devored all your archives when I came across your blog last Thanksgiving.
Excellent job!

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

The chciken was delicious.

At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I just saw you, and now I am trying to find the link on but am having NO luck... HELP!!

At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Shauna...just saw the FN promo with you in the kitchen...very exciting! Congratulations...

At 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was diagnosed with celiac disease 8 days ago. I've been living on apples, glumly watching my favorite shows on the Food Network and struggling to see the "bright side" of this new journey. This morning, I turned on the TV as your commercial aired and was bowled over by your enthusiasm as you spoke about living gluten-free. And now I'm here, re-energized by all the resources you've made available to lost newbies like myself, and incredibly grateful for your determination to "joyfully embrace your food fate."

Thank you, Shauna.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Dawn said...

That chicken sounds great. I've never used a vertical roater, but now I'll have to keep my eye out for one!

At 10:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just saw your segment air on Food Network (12:17am cst), so I decided to check out your site. I thought the segment was very well done and tasteful, and you have some excellent pictures of your dishes on your site.

At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just saw the ad on the Food Network for your show! It grabbed my attention with the word GLUTEN. My husband and I were riveted! I have been hoping that they would do something for us in the gluten-free cooking world. I can't wait to see the whole thing!

At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see your show - I am a celiac and trying to cook good food has been so frustrating. Do you know when it will air? Sue

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Kathy G said...

Hi! I was just watching "Good Eats" and saw you, so looked you up! I was so excited to see this on TV! Wow! How exciting for us Celiacs. Great blog, too! I'll have to add you to my favorites. I'm GF as well, and my blog talks about that, as well as a lot of other things.

At 6:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was wonderful seeing TV finally showing a "silly yak"... we discovered 6 years ago my daughter was a celiac and she has always felt like she was an oddball in the world, it is wonderful to see it brought out to the public!!

At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I read this, I have 15 minutes to wait for my roasted chicken on a vertical roaster to come out of the oven! We have been using this secret for years, after attempting to duplicate the roasted chickens we bought from the markets in Provence. Next time I will try your paste. I usually use olive oil on it, and then sprinkle a special mixture of dried herbs, with slivers of garlic under the skin, and a lemon inside.

Now that we run a gf bed and breakfast, we don't serve chicken but are perfecting our bread products.

At 7:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shauna, we just saw your ad while watching a segment on the food network, you caught my sons eye, he was diagnosed with celiac 9 months ago.... we would love to see a program on celiac, I have adapted many of the recipes I have gotten from the food network programs. Thanks again, Chris
Grand Rapids, MI

At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I missed your show on the Food Network. How can I find it on my computer. I have been cooking gluten free for over 10 years and need a new spark.


At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My girlfriend's a celiac what do i do...
My girlfriend has been sick for 19 years, just yesterday she was diagnosed with celiac disease. Like most she has been living on apples and salad. please give me as manny cheap!!! recipies as you can, and when is your next show...?

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Anita (Married... with dinner) said...

I finally saw the video! It was so cool to see you in action instead of still photos :),1971,FOOD_9819_51445,00.html

At 11:11 PM, Blogger Katherine Gray said...

Congrats on your FN appearance and your recent marriage! (Here via Eggbeater.) Much of my family is celiac and we eat almost gluten-free in our house + dairy free.

Your chicken recipe sounds a lot like one I use (from Cook's Illustrated, perhaps?) and I love it. Juicy and delicious. Can't wait to try more of your recipes and read more of your lovely writing.

At 9:56 AM, Blogger cindylou said...

I too have celiac and have found for bagels that any by Kinnickinick(Sp) from Canada is wonderful. They are chewy and even my non gluten friends like them!!


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