I’ve been married to Eydie, founder and curator of Garden of Eydie for fifteen years. I have supported her journey to this place through her experiences with meditation, yoga, brain training, recipe testing, Optimum Health Institute, TrueNorth Health Center, and Canyon Ranch. Over the last decade, I have watched her disappear — well, not literally, but down about fifteen pounds from her peak weight (a real change based on her small frame). In the process, Garden of Eydie was born. But what happened to the woman I married, who graduated from the French Culinary Institute and who can whip up homemade sweet corn ravioli in a sage brown butter sauce, or homemade puff pastry for her French Apple Tart? I’m here to say that she still exists, but she is more energized, more beautiful, and more devoted to helping others than ever before. This is my version of the story of Garden of Eydie, and what it is like living there (even though I am not a complete convert).
Our story began in 2001 when our mutual friend, Ann, introduced me to Eydie. I was living in New York and Eydie was living in San Francisco. Ann knew Eydie from her days living in Dallas, where they worked together dressing Eydie for success. I was introduced to Ann in 2001 by a New York friend (that’s a story for another day). Ann told Eydie, “I’ve met your husband!” Ann told me, “I’d like to introduce you to a nice girl with beautiful blue eyes. She lives in San Francisco and is in the media business, like you.” On our first date, a visit to Napa Valley to taste wine and enjoy great food, I saw the very first elements of Garden of Eydie present themselves. We were having dinner at a well-known spot in wine country called, Brix Restaurant and Gardens, when Eydie got up from our table and went outside to walk through rows of herbs and veggies that the restaurant grew on site for its use. That was my first glimpse of the woman who, even then, loved the freshest possible produce.
Eydie and I dated long-distance for a few months, but it wasn’t until her company relocated her to New York that things really got started between us. I helped her find an apartment and learn her way around New York. I was one of her few friends there, so we spent plenty of time together and had a lot of fun. As she has said many times, I had my shirts in her closet before she even knew it…hummm. We were married a couple of years later.
The next milestone in the development of Garden of Eydie came after we relocated to Santa Monica, CA in 2005. With so many incredible farmers’ markets within a couple of miles of our home (Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Venice, and Santa Monica), we almost immediately began a semi-weekly tradition of farmers’ market shopping. Every Wednesday and Saturday, I’d drive Eydie and Auggie the Doggie to the downtown Santa Monica market so that she could hop out and grab as many fresh fruits and veggies as possible, before quickly returning to the car for a fast getaway. No need to go find a space in a multi-level parking garage (parking is a major challenge in our area) in order to shop more leisurely — that’s just not my Speedy Eydie. It was at the Santa Monica farmers’ market that Eydie met Jimmy. Jimmy sells potted veggies and herbs near the corner of Arizona and Third Street at the farmers’ market every week. Eydie naturally got to know Jimmy, and before long, they started to discuss the planting of the first (of what would eventually be three—each bigger and with more variety than the last) organic gardens in our front yard (and ultimately, in our backyard, too). So began the actual Garden of Eydie, long before any consideration of this virtual one. Each successive version included more space devoted to growing, and now raised beds to permit better watering and growing conditions. Dozens of lettuces, herbs, veggies, and fruit trees now live in Eydie’s Garden.
Eydie loves to cook — it’s one of the many benefits of knowing her. In the early days of our relationship, she would often make some of her favorite recipes: her mom’s noodle cakes, homemade pizza, and successive efforts perfecting the chocolate chip cookie for me! Dinnertime was quite an adventure; the way to a man’s heart is definitely through his stomach. While it wasn’t exactly a “bait and switch,” the Eydie of today is substantially different from the one that co-wrote a cookbook with her Mother called, “Just Add Butter!”
Meanwhile, I’m still the guy that loved her testing chocolate chip cookie alternatives and regularly enjoyed her perfectly marinated and hickory smoked Beef Tender (another favorite recipe created by her Mom). The advent of Garden of Eydie has presented its challenges for me.
First, our selection of restaurants for dining out has changed. Ironically, steakhouses are now a go-to, since they are typically able to provide a variety of steamed fresh vegetables for Eydie, while at the same time, satisfying my desire for red meat. When we eat at home, I’m served side dishes, which include some of the freshest, most flavorful veggies I’ve ever tasted…along with some “dead, decaying animal flesh,” as Eydie likes to refer to it, to suit my specific (clearly uninformed) needs. When we go to restaurants, I’m used to Eydie speaking with the chef or maître d’ prior to meals to confirm their ability to provide her with simply steamed veggies (without salt, oil or sugar), or working with a dinner host by asking if she can bring something delicious and healthy for the guests. What’s surprising is, everyone always enjoys Eydie’s plant-based meal addition. I can assure you that, after a while, it becomes the new normal.
I have also enjoyed supporting my Eydie through the process of creating this Garden of Eydie site; working on the technical side of things (all the things I love to do!), so that she has time to cook, write, and create her magic. Sometimes I even stop at the grocery store to pick up an item she needs for her recipe testing; though I must confess, the search to find the perfect potato can be traumatic! I have photographed our family dinners and many meals during our travels and at local restaurants. I even ordered the customized phone number for the project, (310) 39-EYDIE (393-9343). But the vision for Garden of Eydie is all Eydie (you can’t make this stuff up!) and her group of amazing associates.
It has not all been so effortless. I admit that during the development of the site, Eydie has been spending much more time creating GOE recipes and content, which has decreased the time she has available to host dinner parties for our friends and cook for me. I have become accustomed to bringing home half of my business lunches to enjoy again for dinner, and stopping for a sandwich or Chinese take-out on my way home (not exactly what Eydie suggests, but she has helped me as well). She often calls me on her way home from the store, offering to pick up a salad or soup (or more reluctantly, a slice or two of pizza for me). It’s not exactly French Culinary Institute food, but I’ve adjusted. In all fairness, for major family events (Thanksgiving, etc.), Eydie does go back in time to remake family favorites, like grilled smoked turkey (remember, she grew up in Texas), biscuits, noodle kugel (my favorite), stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and other traditional holiday treats. However, these days, they are complemented by abundant Garden of Eydie side dishes like green beans, sweet potatoes, salads without oil dressings, and her favorite, steamed veggies.
I have also been directly involved in the selection of some of the best recipes. Eydie and her team came up with the idea of indicating when a particular dish tasted just as good to me as one made in a traditional fashion. These became known as “Test-Ed,” meaning that I had tasted the recipe and liked it enough to consider it like “real food.” In other words, even though it might be vegan, it tastes as good as the conventionally produced item of the same name. For example, Ashley developed a “Test-Ed” oatmeal cinnamon cookie with nuts that is still crispy and sweet like a “real” cookie but without using any bad sugar or white flour.
This testing process actually got its start over many years while Eydie was a senior recipe tester for the website, Leite’s Culinaria. Eydie has been testing recipes every month since we lived in New York, though this has admittingly fallen by the wayside in the wake of Garden of Eydie. The object of Leite’s Culinaria testing is to make each dish exactly as the particular recipe described, and rate the result; the goal being to identify any flaws in the way the recipe is written. Sometimes an ingredient or step is missing, or the quantities are off. We then made a game of rating each dish on a one-to-ten scale, with eight and above considered a “testers’ choice.” On occasion, we would take the test recipes to friends’ homes or our corner Whole Foods in order to expand the “focus group.” Everyone happily tasted and rated the dishes. We even took several items to Lakers games at The Staples Center, where the tasting would occur in a behind the scenes place called the Chairman’s Room, prior to games we attended. Steve Carell, Jeanie Buss, and other Hollywood luminaries “played the game!”
While I’ve helped in whatever ways I could, my most valuable contribution has been providing Eydie with encouragement and support in getting this project to launch. Her passion level is high, but there were many times when she would question whether this could translate to her writing and inspire her audience. Then, she would practice what she’ll be teaching — it’s all about attitude! She sometimes misses the ability to just go to lunch with her friends like she used to do before the deadlines and massive time demands forced-out many of those opportunities. “What if no one is actually interested?” (Your reading of this post shows that not to be a real issue). “What if my content isn’t good enough?” These are just examples of concerns Eydie expressed along the way. She would say, “I’m not really a great writer — I’m more of an oral presenter of exciting ideas.” (We will soon be turning our attention to creating more video segments to address that last issue). In the end, I just had to remind her that her whole life has lead up to creating Garden of Eydie. All of her experiences—cheerleading, learning to cook and entertain with her Mother, her career in radio and sales management, meeting an Indian Guru, taking brain training, attending meditation retreats, healing her own health issues through food (and so much more)—have all brought her to this moment. She has been training her entire life for this and her authentic desire to help people live happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives provides the basis upon which Garden of Eydie rests.
I hope you find this work to be informative and inspirational (I know that Eydie wishes for nothing more than that). Our eighteen-year and counting journey together has led us to this point. We welcome your feedback and suggestions for improvement so that this can become a go-to resource for enhancing and extending your life. I assure you that even for a carnivore (though, I’m really now more of an omnivore), there are benefits to be found in Garden of Eydie.