What brings you to my page? Was it the compelling topic? The incredible photos? The witty blog name? I’ve wondered that when I look at my reader stats, and I find myself distracted by the urgency of getting more readers by being more creative, more witty, or more controversial. But in the end, when I stare at my (blank) blogging text box, I realize that I can only write about what I know, what I’ve eaten, where I’ve gone, or who I follow. That’s probably why you’re even on my page to begin with.
As I look over my blog roll to see which bloggers and writers I read, and I find myself wondering, why do I follow this person? Some of the answers are obvious: the writers and bloggers are friends who share pictures and stories to keep us in touch, despite distances. One dear, dear friend (and guest blogger) is moving to the United Kingdom. Another had spent time in Austria. Other blogs are interesting to me. Who doesn’t like to read about today’s grammar tip? Other blogs, the food-centric ones, are on my list because I like what the writer does with food or about food. Some of them are there because I look up to the writers as professionals, like the Gluten Free Girl.
The Seattle Woman Magazine released their April edition this week, and I picked it up when I was at a Foodportunist meeting at Muse Coffee in Queen Anne. In this handy magazine, I found the food blogger who kick-started my exploration into restaurants that serve gluten-free food in Seattle: the Gluten Free Girl, Shauna James Ahern.
Two years ago, she had been interviewed in Seattle Woman about the gluten-free diet, and last year, she gave an interview for KUOW. That’s actually how I had found her – I saw a headline about gluten-free eating in Seattle, and picked up the magazine. Then I started following her and listening/reading public spots she has done. In both interviews, and on her website, Shauna writes with a grace and command that is rare among self-made writers. She is candid about the health concerns about gluten allergies and intolerances and about the recent food trend of eating gluten-free food to lose weight. She also creates delicious gluten-free recipes that are easy to follow and that don’t force you to purchase expensive mixes (though I do, because I spend far less time in the kitchen these days).
When I read her interview two years ago, my world opened up. I realized that we didn’t have to scratch-make every item Joshua ate, and we could bravely, calmly, and clearly explain his food allergy to servers and waitstaff and politely request minor modifications to dishes. Being a food service person, I have always been a little sensitive to customers who request complicated modifications to our menus, and I was reluctant to become “that person.” But with her suggestions and encouraging writing, I felt that I could start enjoying restaurants again.
I had the exciting privilege to volunteer at a Dog Mountain Farm dinner last summer in which Shauna and Danny were the guest chefs. Although she was busy preparing food for dozens of guests, she took a moment to show me her camera, to show me how to take pictures with my little Cybershot camera, and how to enjoy food thoroughly. It was probably a very small meeting for her, but it meant a great deal to me.
So, I was really happy to see that she was receiving recognition again for her work as a food blogger and as a writer with a food allergy. Her efforts in both areas have allowed for the public to gain a clearer, less trend-focused perspective on food allergies, and they allowed those with food allergies to go outside their comfort zones and help others understand their needs. As a food blogger, Shauna writes beautifully and takes excellent pictures. I usually have to be careful to avoid drooling on my laptop.
Another distinct characteristic about Shauna is that she is slow to react in anger. One thing that will gain you notoriety is drawing bad press to yourself or your business. Sometimes, issues will push hot buttons for us, and we want to strike out quickly. However, as Shauna has demonstrated, we need to be sure that we have gathered the facts truly and carefully. We need to be sure that the parties to whom we are react or against whom we are responding are actually the guilty parties and that their wrongs are based on malice rather than ignorance. I have found that most of the time, it is because those parties misspoke or did not themselves have all of the information. She has probably averted more disasters that way.
Congratulations, Shauna James Ahern and Chef Danny Ahern, for your recognition in the Seattle Woman Magazine.