Faced at age 36 with the sudden onset of celiac disease, a professor realizes that his days of brewing beer and eating his wife’s homemade bread are over.
In his first book, Graham (English/St. Lawrence Univ.) takes a mostly humorous approach to his adventures in adjusting to life without wheat, oats, and barley. At first, he and his wife, who gave up all gluten in solidarity with him, sampled some beers that tasted “of vegetal funk, like old lettuce” and baked some truly inedible loaves that “fell apart in chunks, like pieces of a dried-out plaster wall.” Eventually, with the help of the ever scientific America’s Test Kitchen, Graham found a few recipes for what almost tasted like bread. Brewing beer proved to be far more difficult, but he has made do with brews like Omission Pale Ale and Glutenberg. The book detours briefly into Graham’s health crisis, the history of wheat, and the mystery surrounding what appears to be a rapid increase in the number of cases of celiac disease. For the most part, however, the author stays focused on his experience, whether he’s mourning the loss of the luxury of turning a chef loose to make a meal for him, bemoaning the tastelessness of most of the gluten-free offerings at the supermarket, indulging in “gluten-voyeurism” by watching the Food Channel’s Guy Fieri pig out on diner fare, or realizing how much he hates millet (“dry, gritty, and less flavorful than any other grain I had ever tasted”). Graham’s awareness that, since his health improved radically once he changed his diet, he was left suffering what should probably be considered a “first-world problem” goes a long way toward increasing reader sympathy, and his mouthwatering evocations of homemade tortillas and buckwheat crepes make it clear that he still finds plenty to enjoy in and out of the kitchen.
An enjoyable memoir for wheat-free foodies and others limited in their gastronomical choices.