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26 April 2007

first words become a year full of conversations

do you want some coffee with your sugar

These are the first words I ever said to the Chef: “Do you want some coffee with your sugar?”

Really, I can’t believe I was such a snot.

Let me back up. Right around this time of year (or April 16, 2006, to be precise), the Chef first contacted me through the online dating service to which we were both subscribing. He winked at me. (This is pretty funny, considering that he is incapable of winking with his left eye, in real life. He tries. But he just ends up blinking both eyes, hard.)

I could have missed him.

You see, I had already canceled my subscription to that site. Six weeks of online dating had yielded only confused men, guys who didn’t make me laugh, and sad men who really needed a therapist instead. Fed up and ready to give up on dating entirely, I quit the site. “But you have five days left!” they said to me, in repeated emails. I didn’t care. Everyone they sent me seemed pale and strange. No more.

Curiosity got the best of me. Thank goodness for curiosity. The day before my subscription lapsed entirely, I went back to that email, just to check it, one more time, before I retired from dating. There were twenty or more emails and winks for me to peruse. I have to admit — I went through them with a certain smug satisfaction. “See? I was right. I don’t like any of these guys.”

His was the last one on the list. I swear. And when I saw his photograph, I paused. Something about him felt familiar. He looked warm and open. I hesitated — I was done! But always, I have hope. I clicked on his profile, and then I saw he was a chef.

And my first reaction? “Oh shit, now I have to meet him!”

He loves it when I tell this story.

We wrote back and forth, for ten days, talking about food and family. We couldn’t meet right away, because my best friend was visiting from LA. So we wrote. And he read this site. We made plans to meet for coffee.

That morning, I couldn’t shake the feeling of excitement in my gut. I tried to talk myself out of it — every other guy had been such a disappointment — but it kept bubbling up inside me.

It’s the same way I feel every night, when I drive toward the restaurant to see him, after a long day away from each other.

I arrived at the coffee shop early, to work on some writing. In fact, just before he walked in, I published this piece about helping my friend Sharon through her broken heart. (I know the date says April 23rd, but I post-dated it. I actually finished it just before my love arrived.) And so, I sat at a table, nursing a black coffee, writing.

When I saw him through the window, he looked so familiar.

He came in and stood in line for coffee. I caught his eye. I waved at him. And then I went back to my writing.

He loves my writing. Every time I read to him, he grows a little teary. He holds me and says, quietly, “You are such an amazing writer, sweet pea.”

Even then, I thought it a little odd that I felt so comfortable keeping him waiting. Shouldn’t I jump up and start conversation? It didn’t feel necessary, all that jumping and preening and pretending to know each other. I knew he’d come over, soon enough.

He walked toward me, and then he veered toward the bar to fix his coffee. At this point, I rose, to say the opening pleasantries. But by the time I had reached him, I saw the steady stream of sugar falling into his latte. And so, before I ever said hello to him, I slapped him on the arm and said, “Do you want some coffee with your sugar?”

I can’t believe it now.

But he loved it. He loves what a smart-ass I am.

At least half our days together now are spent laughing at some goony remark the other one has made. He has this breathy giggle, and I laugh like a hyena being choked when he sets me going. We hold each other, our backs arched, or my head falling toward his chest. That’s the best part of any day: laughing together in bed.

And now, those words sit in our sugar bowl, as a reminder every morning of the day we met.

We met this day, last year: April 26th. Today is our one-year anniversary.

As anyone who has read this site for more than five minutes knows, I adore the Chef. And he adores me. We are more than two people in love. We are lovers, we are each other’s best friends. We are partners, in everything in life. We are true companions.

This morning, we went back to that coffee shop, around the same time we had first met. He poured more sugar in his coffee and waited for me to poke him and make fun of him. We kissed each other. And then we sat across a small table from each other and talked about what this year has brought us.

This has been, without a doubt, the most spectacular year of my life. And for the Chef, as well. I could write about him all night, and never be done.

Instead, I will simply say this.

No one prepares you, in all the love stories and love songs and sappy poems and greeting cards, for what real love really is. Love is in the tiniest gestures and most fleeting of moments.

True love is feeling joyful because he is happy. I had no idea what fulfillment it would give me to see him bounding toward me, fully embodying his body, arms open and utterly alive. The Chef has come into himself this past year. When I met him, he was a smoker. He smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day, for sixteen years. (It’s a restaurant thing.) After we had fallen in love, and I knew that he was every love song come true for me, he quit. I told him, “I want to grow old with you. I want to have children with you.” And he stopped. It was hard, but he did it. It has been eight months since he had a cigarette. I am so proud of him.

He is my breath.

A few months in, when we were first engaged and fully giddy, I thought about what it might feel like to be here: one full year together. It felt monumental, then.

But today? In all the best ways, it feels utterly mundane. We marked it — all day long he has been calling me from the restaurant to say Happy Anniversary — but there is no celebration besides our being together. After all, if the luck stays with us, this will be the first of many years together.

Also, we celebrate every day. Every morning, when we first wake up, we turn toward each other and say, I love you. We have promised ourselves — we will always do this. And since last year, April 26th was on a Wednesday, we start every Wednesday (sometimes at 12:01 on Tuesday night) by saying “Happy Wednesday, Sweetheart.”

I love the way he feeds me. I love feeding him.

Tonight, I am making him the dinner I wrote about in the headline of my online profile: roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and flourless chocolate torte. He’ll help me do the dishes. There will be dancing in the kitchen.

And tomorrow morning, we will start the first day of year two.


At 7:54 PM, Blogger DiMerch said...

Bliss. I loved this. Thanks for sharing your story. You are pleasure to read. I'm glad I stumbled on your blog. I read it everyday.

At 8:00 PM, Blogger Nicola Hensel said...

I'm sitting in my little room looking out at the rain on a cool Autumn day in Australia- eating a bit of lunch (warm brown rice with fetta melting through it,big handful of parsley,mint and chives from the garden thrown in- I know you'll appreciate these details!) and checking in on one my favourite food/life writers. Lurking away as usual, I saw 'No comments yet' and a little voice said "Write now! De-lurk! Now!" So here I am, telling you I eat your words like nutrients. I'm following your story with great affection. I too found love like yours and your writing is somehow giving it back to me again,all washed and refreshed. On your shiny platter of joy I can see a reflection of myself and my dear John fourteen years ago. Finding The One is huge- wondrous and hilarious and right.We joined our families, his three, my two, and our 'beatnik brady bunch' (as son #4 recently called it) was completed with our own dual-tribe love child, Paris, born twelve years ago. The love has not stopped- just got richer, fatter, stronger. He still thanks me every other day for writing him The Letter. Where food is the great garden for you and the Chef, art is for us- and the intensity of us getting together blasted us into daring to make our living from our art- and we've been doing so ever since. I get such pleasure out of your writing about this time in your life because it reminds me of what a force love can be- thank you- and from my life I wave and applaud and cheer on yours.Big happy blessings to you and The Chef.

At 3:43 AM, Blogger mrs.naramor said...

Today is the four year anniversary of meeting my husband- we have been married three years-almost two kids (in June)- It is still that same feeling! We knew in the first couple moments too. I wish love like that for everyone. Looks like you found it!

At 5:01 AM, Blogger ChupieandJ'smama (Janeen) said...

Congratulations on one year down and best wishes for many, many more to come! Reading this, I can feel the love jumping off the screen at me. Your words describe that "in love" feeling beautifully.

At 5:21 AM, Blogger jasmine said...

I recently found your site (through a link from Tea -- you guys will have fun when she moves there) and just want to say that you give me hope in the quest for love. Thanks for sharing this adventure in love and food with us.

At 5:42 AM, Blogger Mrs. G.F. said...

Don't you love your story??? I enjoyed reading it, thank you for sharing.

It reminds me of my story, with my Navy Boy, and how much I adore our story. And all those things that could have happened to make us not meet.

But we did..ten years ago, April 13th.

Happy Anniversary to you and Chef.

At 6:59 AM, Blogger lulabell said...

I read your blog everyday at work~ I love it... so funny to think you found love online... I tried the online dating off and on for about two years. However i found my honey during college studying under a big oak tree and knew then he would make me as happy as you are with the chef.

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Allergic Girl® said...

i love love stories and i love yours shuana, thank you.

At 7:36 AM, Blogger Jodi said...

Good Morning Shauna
Another wonderful love story for us to savor. I appreciate your stories of love because they do remind me of the one I am sharing with my Donald. He loves me when I don't want to be loved. We are best friends - something I didn't know was possible. When I see the wedding band on his finger I get teary eyed. We love to laugh and even when we are angry - we laugh. We still hold hands and snuggle when we are asleep. This is after 16 years. He lovingly tells me that he has no memory of life before me. I am a blessed woman
Enjoy your day. Jodi

At 7:46 AM, Blogger Samatakah said...

In the summer of 2001 I dared myself to meet ten people on Craigslist (ten so I could get it over with quickly). Huzzleban was Bachelor #8. I was a little late to our first date on July 30, and almost six years later, four of them married, I still want those twenty minutes back.

To quote Lyle Lovett:
You can't resist it
When it happens to you!

At 8:02 AM, Blogger Bengali Chick said...

Isn't that strange that he seemed familiar? I felt the same way when I read hubby's words before meeting him, there was something familiar about him.

I especially love all of your posts about your relationship and your beautiful love. Cheers to you and your Chef!

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Catherine said...

Happy anniversary to both of you, your story is an inspiration.

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

A year of love is a beautiful thing. I met my Tall, Dork and Handsome (no, that's not a typo) a year ago on the 22nd. Somehow, like you spotting your Chef in that email, I just knew he was the right one to try, especially after I saw that he drove a minivan. Like you, I'd given up on the idea of dating.

Sometimes the universe taps us on the shoulder. If we're paying attention, then magic happens.

I guess what I'm trying to say is congratulations. Your ongoing story never fails to warm my heart. Thanks.

At 3:57 PM, Blogger Ali and Evan said...

Oohhhh sigh. I love a good love story and I sure do love yours.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger terry said...

you must stop making me cry with each post! beautiful.

happy anniversary, shauna.

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Tea said...

Oh my dear, very best warmest wishes to the both of you. What love.

And to commenter Nicola--thank you for delurking! Your comment made me cry; what lovely words, I want to read YOUR blog:-)

At 5:42 PM, Blogger Michelle Ann said...

Congratulations! I like the small celebrations in life as well. Little moments and stolen glances...I love that you have still kept it special and almost childlike in your happiness.

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Les said...

What a beautiful post. I, too, have found my "true companion" and have been happily married for 18 1/2 years (together for over 20). It truly does get better with each and every passing year. We've had our rough times (loss of a child), but over all, it's been the absolute best. And, I had just about given up on "true love" after the demise of my first marriage (far too young at 19!).

We laugh. We share our evening beer or bourbon. We ask each other, after all these years, "Will you marry me?" We are each other's rock.

May you have decades of true bliss and joy with this man.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Shauna said...


Thank you for stumbling and reading. I'm so happy that you, and everyone else, is reading.


When this comment came into my email, I sat here and cried. I just love the way you describe your life and the gusto with which you live. Thank you. May your love continue to be surprising and wondrous.

Mrs. Naramor,

Happy anniversary to you too! There must be something magic about April 26th — I know several other people who share the same time. Keep going.


As a writer, I hope for my words to do that. To jump off the screen and feel real to you. Thank you.


Keep hoping. I was 39 when I met the Chef. I was no one's idea of a success story with relationships! But there he was, and everything changed. It's worth waiting for the one who will feed you well.

Slacker Mom,

I do love our story. I revel in it. But I love the daily life between us even more. Happy anniversary to you, just a few weeks late.


What an idyllic image! Finding your love under an oak tree. Fantastic.

Allergic girl,

Thank you, my dear. I have read love stories all my life, and I am astonished to find myself in the middle of such a one.


You made me cry too! The idea of being married 16 years and still snuggling, and holding hands, when you are asleep? That sounds right to me. I have no doubt that the Chef and I will be doing the same, because we are going to work for it. Thank you for sharing.


That's an incredible story! I love the detail about the 20 minutes. Wow. Which Lyle Lovett song is that? I have a feeling I need to hear it right now.

Bengali Chick,

Everyone I know who has a good love says the same, how easy it was, how comfortable it felt, how familiar he or she seemed. I don't question it anymore. (I wish I could tell my younger self that now. I'd save her a lot of time!)


Thank you, my dear. We're so happy to help anyone feel inspired. Both of us were lonely without the other.


I love Tall, Dork, and Handsome.

Ali and Evan,

I'm so glad, because I'm simply going to have to keep writing about it!


I can't help it! Those tears have to be good for something, right?


I agree, my dear. Wow.

And we are so happy that you are part of our lives now.

Michelle Ann,

Childlike is the right word. We are continually amazed by life. It feels good to be like that, instead of jaded.


Your story inspires me. How you could survive the death of a child and still go on, and love each other more? You are amazing.

At 8:43 PM, Blogger Samatakah said...

**Which Lyle Lovett song is that? I have a feeling I need to hear it right now.**

It's called "You Can't Resist It" and it's on "Live in Texas" from 1999. This album also has one of my favorite songs (not sung by Lyle): "Wild Women Don't Get The Blues."

More of the lyrics he wrote about me even though Lyle and I have never met:

"She was old enough
To know better
And she was strong enough
To be true
And she was hard enough
To know whether
He was smart enough
To know what to do

And you can't resist it
When it happens to you
No you can't resist it
When it happens to you "

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Happy meeting day! That's pretty awesome how you just knew...and how everything worked. I really like that y'all (as you say) are best friends. I think that will help things last more than being "in love." What great memories you have and beautiful words you use to describe it all. Thanks for sharing with us.

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shauna -

Count me in as another single gal whose luck in love is about as low as you can get! I love going back and reading your "Meet the Chef" and "Yes" posts. You've managed to put into words exactly what I've been looking for in a partner. Whenever I start to feel down about love, I'm going to re-read those posts. Like, you, I face a medical challenge that impacts my ability to live my life exactly as I'd like to, and I know it's going to take a special person to put up with and stick with me. Like yours, it's not the worst thing in the world, but it's not exactly something that can be totally ignored either. The fact that you found someone who will "protect" you, give me hope that there is someone who will love me like that out there. I just hope one day I find him...

Take care, and Happy Anniversary to you and your Chef!


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

...tearfully, I read this...I just sent my true love back to Iraq...he, too, is my best friend...there is something to be said for that...never grow complacent - always keep the sponteneity alive - hold to that spark that ignites in the pit of your soul when you hear him exhale knowing he'll wake him always............

At 11:50 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

My first posting, but your latest entry was so compelling, I not only had to tell you that, but also that I forwarded it to my 24 and 25 yr old daughters (one with celiac/ one a vegan) telling them "what I wish for you both is to embrace her joy & to have it resonate with you because you too will know whereof she speaks"...may you & the chef celebrate all the days of your lives ( not just the Wednesdays) & live happily ever after! I love happy endings- and happy "beginnings"!! You are a gift to the cyber world.

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Lynn Barry said...

Congrats with hugs and love.

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

Shauna, you always make me smile !!! Congratulations to you and Danny and many, many happy years ahead !!

At 6:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Shauna,
i stumbled upon your blog while searching for gluten-free sites as a result of my escalating stomach pains. and i found an inspiration! your site. it is beautiful.

i've not left a comment for about a fortnight, but today i tried cooking an egg in the style of your recent egg post. SOOOOO good! i had 2.

have a gorgeous day. thank you for sharing your life with us lucky readers!

At 7:08 AM, Blogger Vanessa said...

Oh! Thank you for sharing. What a romantic and heartwarming story... and from reading the other comments I can see it's touched others as well. Congrats to your anniversary, I can see from reading your blog how much you care for Chef. Makes me think again about internet dating! :)

At 5:08 AM, Blogger madre-terra said...

My husband always likes to tease me about the love stories I collect and retell. One of my first questions to couples is "How did you meet?"
Michael and I met in October of 1986 and we got married (eloped even) in August of 1987. This August is our 20th anniversary. I am so amazed that 20 yrs. has passed. I'm 45 and I've now almost spent half my life with my husband. It awes me (in a good way).
A few weeks ago we were scrambling and booking our summer art show schedule. As you know we are from the San Juan Islands but we are here in NY dealing with a difficult battle around my mother-in-law's estate. So, as last year, we are here for the summer.
All the shows got booked and I was writing them into the calender. I put on it... Aug. 17th setting up for a show in Stockbridge, MA. "Why is that date familiar to me?" Oh, jeepers it's our 20th anniversary.
That evening I tell Michael and we bust a gut. Just like the time when we were in the ER with me having a severe yeast infection and the doctor hovering over me telling that since I was pregnant he was prescribing a different drug than normal. Oh there was silence. The doctor says, "What? You don't know that you're pregnant?". Michael and I laughed so hard that I fell off my chair.
It's not the ideal. But art shows are our life and to be somewhere doing what we love is a great celebration. We'll book a nice hotel most likely and try to fit in some sightseeing in the Berkshires.
The big celebration will wait for Lopez.
Thanks for sharing your story. Nothing like a good 'how you met' love story.
Blessed be!

At 12:11 PM, Blogger stacy anne said...

aww. this story makes me happy.

was it you're on? i've been on that for about 4 months and also am thinking about giving up.. everyone is so.. blah. :(

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Miss Bliss said...

Shauna- I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blogs (I read them everyday) and have recommended your site (and your book) to all my friends. I love how you intertwine love of food and love of life. Pretty much, your blogs shout out that you relish life and live it with gusto and that is my aim.

I too met my love online. Never thought I'd try it (and I was only on for 3 days! Talk about a near miss), and I can see us in your stories about you and the Chef!

I really like what Bstirling said about the universe tapping us on the shoulder and if we're paying attention, that's when the magic happens.

By the way, April 26 is a magical day indeed. It's my birthday!


At 10:32 AM, Blogger Robin said...

Your love story is so inspiring. It gives people hope...Congratulations on the first of many years together!

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Liz said...

I just wanted to leave a quick comment to thank you for GF blog inspiration. My husband is celiac, so I teamed up with his sister, a fellow celiac, to start our own GF blog. It's been fun watching your experience change over time and reading your tips for celiacs along the way.

At 11:15 PM, Blogger treforia said...

wow I just found this by accident googling 'gluten free' and there it was. And I read the post .... and it is just beautiful. Absolutely serene and at peace and in love, absolutely where I want to be. It's like it's speaking to the heart of me. I'll be back every day! And I'll have to go hunt your book down ...

At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats on 1yr. I'm a celiac and I just want to say that it's be difficult finding a woman who is doesn't look at the gluten free thing as a turn off. I think women tend to have it easier than men. God bless you'all though. One year huh? Since I've been diagnosed, about four years ago, I haven't been able to retain a women. It's not macho to have such a restricted diet. Anyway, I found a free website called but it was just started. So, there isn't anyone on it yet. I'll have to read your book. :) L8


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