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08 May 2007

edamame is gluten-free


The first time I ate edamame, I was 32 years old.

And the person who introduced me to the vegetables? A one-year-old.

Those of you have been reading this site for awhile might remember some veiled references to the CFP (Crazy Famous People). I worked with these people in New York for some months, and then lived with them in London for six months, working on a book with the woman I call Madame CFP.

It was a crazy time, never to be forgotten, and certainly never to be re-lived. I was hired as a last-minute replacement nanny (only for the weekend), and walked out the door at the end of the night as a book editor.

The first night I was there, there were glasses of champagne and movie producers hovering in the apartment. Mr. CFP donned his celebrity sunglasses again — even though it was fairly late into the evening — riffled his fingers goodbye at Madame, and then he slammed the door behind him.

I cannot tell you who they are. In fact, my book originally contained a chapter about my food experiences with with the CFP. But in the end, the legal department decided to cut it, and I agree with them. I'm glad that chapter is not in there, now.

There are a few reasons for this, besides the fact that I feel a little thrill, like I’m the food memoir version of Deep Throat, by protecting the anonymity of my sources. But in all my experiences with them during that year and a half, I realized they really could have been any celebrity. I met such excess all along the way, in their celebrity friends, and in the stories told to me by personal assistants and chefs, that I am convinced that fame and money can often lead to such extravagance and insanity. And when I lived with them in London, I had to sign a confidentiality agreement form, before I could put my bags down in my bedroom.

I cannot tell you who they are. They would sue me.

There were egregious excesses every day. Like the time that Ms. CFP purchased a $500 pair of shoes to wear to a dinner party, then attempted to return them, as though she had not worn them. When the assistant accidentally dropped that shoe box off the toppling pile of shoes for which she wanted her money back, then stepped on the box out of his own clumsy nervousness, she shouted at him so loudly that he cried and ran out of the room.

One day in December, the accountant called to demand that the CFPs decide where to spend their charity money for the year, right now, or else they would be in a higher tax bracket come January. So, they spent fifteen minutes perusing a list — the whales? Tibetan school children? Organic farms? — checked five off of it, and spent close to a million dollars before I could finish my lunch.

One afternoon, their little boy was allowed to spend ten minutes on his mother’s lap. He smiled and played, and vied for her attention with the magazine in her hands. To distract him, she let him flip the pages of the FAO Schwartz catalog on the desk. When he happened to reach the page with motorized kiddie cars, she lifted him off her lap and handed him back to the nanny. He cried and screamed, flapping his hands and throwing a temper tantrum, immediately. Not able to stand the sound of it, she looked at the nanny and said, “FAO Schwarz is eight blocks from here. Take him down there and buy him this.” An hour later, he walked into the apartment with a $4,000-dollar car.

Why did I stay when I was so obviously ambivalent about the life I was witnessing? Cashmere sweaters plopped into my hands when I started to visibly quibble with myself for staying. Bottles of expensive champagne were tucked into my arm at the end of every week to celebrate the work on the latest chapter. Since I had been a struggling writer longing to be published for most of my life, the repeated promise of a powerful literary agent, once the project was finished, lured me in. They paid me better than I had ever dreamed possible when I was a high school English teacher. Mostly, it was a great story — a grand adventure — and a taste sensation I had never experienced before.

Still, when I moved to Seattle and became a high school English teacher again, life in that penthouse apartment in New York — and the mansion in London — felt far, far away. The most I would say to my classes, if any of my students found out the story and asked, was true: “I’m very lucky. I lived in the middle of the rich and famous, the People magazine life. I had what so many people wanted. And I don’t want it. I’m not exaggerating when I say, I would much rather be here in this classroom, with you, than with those Crazy Famous People.” This always went over well. I think it made them trust me. We started working, as a team, immediately.

Because, the thing is — I told them the truth. After my experiences with the high life (caviar flown in from Russia that morning! juice out of gold-rimmed glasses! glittering parties out of The Great Gatsby and drunken guests crying at 4 am!), I wanted none of it anymore. The unhappiness of the CFP was only thinly masked by their riches.

And now, loving the Chef, and living the way we do (humbly, simply, focused on the best food), I can eat as well as I did there, minus the acrid taste of a bad relationship.

Everyone deserves good food. Everyone.

One of my favorite memories of my time with the CFP? Edamame. The baby son of the CFP — the one whom I babysat that first weekend in New York — ate edamame. The first day I looked after him, I put some shelled edamame in the microwave, as per instructions, and plopped the little sauce in front of him. To my surprise, he gobbled them up, delighted. When he finished, there were a few left over. I popped one in my mouth. Ummmm. A tender sweetness, a loving give, a texture like no other, and all that green.

I have not stopped eating them since.

Some afternoons, when I am sitting in front of the computer, writing, I grow hungry. I throw some shelled edamame beans in boiling water, for five minutes, drain them, and fleck them with sea salt. Steaming and alluring, those edamame remind me of the best moments of my time with the CFP. Everything teaches me, after all.

And best yet? A bag of all that goodness only cost $1.99 at Trader Joe’s.


At 7:04 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

omg. i am DYING to know. im taking your clues (1-2 kids, prob both boys), penthouse in nyc and mansion in london......its making me nutty! what other posts have you written about them? i have only been reading for 8 months!

p.s. i preordered your book! yay! and i dont even know anyone who is gluten free but it looked too good to pass up!

At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel like your experience is rare. Most people that I know that were exposed to a crazy wealthy lifestyle only hunger for more of it. Not many walk away wanting simplicity. Inspiring as always girlie!

At 3:44 AM, Blogger sweetpea said...

O.K., if you had not lived with the CFP in London, I would swear your writing about my brother! Half the fun of those edamame beans are pulling the pods out of the shells with your teeth. As for the Coltilde event, I would love to come. However, she is not my favorite blogger. I am saving for a trip to get my copy of her book (my favorite blogger that is) signed and have dinner in this really hip looking spot that has a GF menu. Hmmm, wonder where that might be . . .

At 7:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yummy edamame!! My own GFG LOVES the stuff & I must admit, I crave it nightly - it's better than popcorn could ever hope to be!!

Kudos to you for realizing that the crazy-rich life is just that - crazy....I've had nothing & I've had wealth --- as long as I've got my adoring husband & my children, I could never be in poverty & will take 'just enough' any day!!

Inspiring - as always!!

At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh yeah --- what happened to that remarkable basil post?!?!

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Gursk said...

What a great story! I've been reading your blog on & off for about a year now....whenever I have some time.

I got a good laugh thinking about the absurdity of the rich & famous. It blows me away. I'm just way too frugal/cheap for that. Even if I were loaded - I'd still be the penny pinching gal that I am.

I definitely have issues with gluten/wheat....but not a Celiac by any means. But since I have found out I haven't baked a single thing, for 2 yrs. now. I'm afraid of it tasting so horrible that I'll have to throw it away. I was raised as a butter, sugar, flour girl thru & thru.

The other problem is dairy. I'm lactose intolerant and I just torture myself by eating cheese, ice cream and a cookie here and there. My stomach screams and I swear I won't eat dairy or wheat/gluten again. Til tomorrow.
I went off of it all for 8 months and just slowly fell off the wagon.

I have all the ingredients I need in my cupboard (for about a year now) and just am AFRAID to do it. Most things I pick up at Wholefoods (breads/bagels/baked goods) are such a colassol let down. That said, I cannot wait for your book to come out!


At 7:55 AM, Blogger Petroglifa said...

Mmm edamame...
I'm trying to find it in my town but it's impossible. I first ate it last month in a bar in Japan. The waiter served it to us with the beer we ordered. It's so good and so healthy!

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Rachael Narins said...

What I love about your blog is that I always have a gut/emotional reaction to what you write about. The power of your words. Incredible. And good.

That said, I am biting my tongue on this one, since my reaction is not polite...and I still think that is a good thing. You made me react. Puts you a thousand years ahead of most bloggers. :-)

Oh, and

At 12:57 PM, Blogger Mrs. G.F. said...

Edamame is yummy..I love that stuff.

Thanks for reminding about them.

Funny how you can forget about different foods!

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Specific Diets said...

thanks for the entertaining post,
I have been guessing who you might have lived with, and I dare say it was the Beckham's since they are known for their extravegance...or was it crazier Tom Cruise and Nicole LOL anyway, I'm so glad to hear that you could walk away with that with your feet firmly planted on the ground. I don't blame you for the lure, but it just doesn't make sense, especially when children are involved..they say to over indulge a child is a form of child abuse..sheese look at the Hilton sisters..what a family..nope I'm glad to be living a simple, clean GF life, and a devoted mommy. thanks for the reminder.

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I think I need to go buy some edamame and give it another try.. I saw some at the local health food store (and maybe the grocery store too, I can't remember). My first experience with it was a couple of weeks ago at a Japanese street festival. I got them in the shell, and didn't realize I needed to take them OUT of the shell. No wonder they seemed stringy and really tough. Besides that, I'm not sure they were all that well prepared.

At 11:52 PM, Blogger Mrs Badcrumble said...

mmmm yum edamame, I used to go to a Japanese restaurant just to eat these and then I found out they stock them at supermarkets- duh! They are so addictive that I have to buy small bags because I always eat the whole lot in one sitting! Great story by the way, not knowing who you are talking about makes it all the more interesting.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger La Tea Dah said...

Excellent post! Very well written --- with words that go to the very core of life's meaning. I know your high school students are very blessed by your influence and instruction. Our young people need more of people like you!


At 9:25 PM, Blogger SteamyKitchen said...

I think I'm CPP
crazy poor people...

At 8:42 AM, Blogger Heather said...

What a terrific photograph--the colors really pop!!

At 6:59 PM, Blogger Shauna said...


Oh heavens, I really can’t tell! I’m legally obligated to not write their name, publicly. But if you come to a booksigning and ask, I’ll whisper it in your ear.

Bengali Chick,

I think it probably is rare. It arrived at the right time in my life, and I was so saturated with it that I couldn’t help but be horrified. I wouldn’t trade my life now for it, for any money.


Who is your brother? Thank you for what you wrote. I can’t wait to see you at a booksigning!

Peyton’s Mom,

As always, I am inspired by you!


Oh, please get back into the kitchen! Throw things around, make mistakes, celebrate your worst gluten-free bread. After awhile of thinking like that, it all starts to come together. Truly. I don’t want you to go without baking!


Do you have a Trader Joe’s? A Whole Foods? An international district? I hate to think of anyone going without edamame.


Well now I want to know your reaction, polite or not! Will you email it to me?

Slacker Mom,

Isn’t it? I’m glad I could remind you about edamame.


You said it well: the simple, clean life. That’s all I want now.


Oh no! I think a lot of people make that mistake at first. Oh, believe me, the beans inside are much better than the shells.

Mrs. Badcrumble,

Now that’s a name! I agree. I could eat edamame all evening.

La tea dah,

Thank you. Even though I am no longer a teacher in a high school classroom, I like to think that I am still teaching, somehow. And those former students? I’m still in contact with many of them, and some of them are coming to the wedding!

Steamy kitchen,



Thank you so much, my dear.

At 2:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

loved your post and totally relate. a good dose of the inside life of cfp can totally bring us back to the simple things in life, like a good hot bowl of edamame :),

look forward to your book for sure!


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