A gifted food writer details his battle with Crohn’s disease.
Winner of the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Feature Essay, Reiner expands his gripping article that first appeared in Esquire in 2009. With the spirit and edge of a seasoned sports announcer calling a fight, the author graphically depicts both the cumulative effects of two decades of living at the mercy of chronic illness and the staggering play-by-play of a recent life-threatening episode when his guts literally exploded. This self-described “glutton in a greyhound’s body” first experienced Crohn’s disease—a crippling autoimmune disorder typically causing severe intestinal inflammation—at a young age, when gorging on a bag of dried apricots brought on an attack of diarrhea that proved the harbinger of later flare-ups as an adult, culminating in the memoir’s springboard, a small bowel obstruction that ruptured his ileum and spilled bacteria into his gut, causing mind-numbing pain and peritonitis. The resulting surgery left Reiner with an internal wound that wouldn’t heal, forcing physicians to recommend he be NPO (nil per os, or absolutely “nothing by mouth”) for three months. In an age when you-are-what’s-eating-you memoirs line the shelves, Reiner’s self-pitiless account stands out for the irony of a foodie being unable to eat, the sheer magnitude of the torment endured, the courage to stare down unrelenting pain, the honest introspection into how suffering made the author insufferable and rocked his family and, above all, his refreshingly snide attitude toward his disease. Reiner’s heart-wrenching description of coveting even the smallest bit of food when he could not eat is as memorable as his behavioral observations when sick and in recovery: “After the patient’s recovery, sympathy is as welcome as genital warts. It sounds like pity, and pity is the last thing you want to hear. Pity is a reminder that you were sick, and a sorry confirmation that people still think of you as sick.”
An inspiring, incredible tale.