Princess: A gluten-free meal made for a queen | AspenTimes.com

Princess: A gluten-free meal made for a queen

I may run around touting myself some kind of self-proclaimed princess, but every once in a while, I come across a real queen.

A queen is a strong woman who could easily kick my ass if she wanted to on many levels. She's someone who works a lot harder than I do to earn her status at the top of her game, whether it's on the mountain, in the yoga studio or in the kitchen.

I joke with Mawa that she's "ma queen" because her last name is McQueen. And she really is a queen. She could probably rule the world if she wanted to. But for now, she rules the kitchen.

So I had my baby shower Sunday at Mawa's Kitchen, but I'll get back to that in just a minute.

A baby shower can be a weird thing. I've been to so many baby showers, a lot of them at a time when all I wanted was a baby of my own and it was so not happening.

I remember once getting an invitation to a close friend's baby shower not long after I'd suffered a miscarriage. Needless to say, the last thing I wanted was to go to this joyous event when I was feeling like my body, heart and soul had been decimated, like a bomb had gone off and left nothing in its wake but dust and rubble. When I'd first heard the news of her pregnancy, I drank six beers in an hour and burst into tears. Not the kind of tears that slide down your cheeks but explosive sobs that wrench through your whole body with such acute pain it felt as though it might literally rip me apart.

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I woke up one day and realized I did not want to become so bitter and sad that I couldn't celebrate the joy of a close friend, of someone I cared about it. I decided then and there that I would fake it till I make it. I would buy a gift, I would show up, I would make a big fuss over her, and I would pretend to be happy when I was so sad that my bones ached.

The funny thing is, it worked. It was a turning point for me, a time when I began to heal and to change direction and to have the courage to make some of the more difficult choices that got me to where I am today.

So it was important to me to host a shower that was as much for my guests as it was for me: to celebrate this long, crazy journey I couldn't have made without all these strong women in my life I'm so lucky to be able to call my friends.

I met Mawa when I was on assignment for Aspen Peak. We immediately hit it off. Meeting characters like Mawa is what I love so much about Aspen. She's about as far from the Aspen stereotype (or any stereotype, for that matter) as you can get. She's a true original and is not afraid to share her opinion, which I so totally love.

When I told her we were planning my shower, she insisted we have it at her cooking school and private dining room at the Aspen Business Center that had just undergone a massive renovation. It was the perfect venue: a professional, full-service kitchen with amazing food. But it's also a place where we could make ourselves at home. It turns out, that's a pretty magical thing.

But what was really magical was the food. I've been to a lot of catered events in Aspen, and the food is always good. It has to be, right?

I trusted Mawa knew what she was doing, but I didn't expect to be blown away. I mean, how often are you truly blown away by a meal? More often than not, we're too concerned about our stupid first-world diet restrictions, between the gluten-free this and organic that. It's actually kind of ironic that Mawa, a girl who grew up in Ivory Coast with 11 siblings, a girl who had no shoes and slept on a dirt floor for much of her childhood, can make the best gluten-free cookies I've ever tasted. And that's after she made a huge production about how much she hates to bake.

But there it was, a dessert buffet of gluten-free chocolate cake, fresh berries and an assortment of homemade gluten-free cookies that had even the green-juice-cleansing yoga girls diving in for more. That topped off a meal that began with beef and black bean empanadas, cheese fondue, fresh spring rolls and marinated chicken skewers. This was the first indication that we had a "wow" factor going on. Every dish had one thing in common: There was something extra, some ingredient I couldn't identify that made everything taste extraordinary. My thought was, "This is something I can't make at home." And that's when you get what you pay for.

Then came the made-to-order crepes. Mine had chicken, pesto and Gruyere cheese — a trio of flavors that melted on my tongue like a kiss, the kind of bites that make you close your eyes and moan without feeling self-conscious.

Just in case you were wondering, we did pay full price for this meal. In fact, we paid more than Mawa asked for because we felt the value exceeded what she charged us. And how often does that happen in Aspen?

In addition to that, I got a pile of loot for the babes you wouldn't believe. And I got to share a wonderful, extra-special afternoon with my mom, my mother-in-law and all the special women in my life who have each in their own way led me to where I am today. I'm just so glad that Mawa has become one of them.

The Princess has T-minus eight weeks and counting until the arrival of the babes. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.