on June 7th 2016
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Clarkson Potter
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: New York
“When Paul Graham was suddenly diagnosed with a serious wheat allergy at the age of thirty-six, he was forced to say goodbye to traditional pasta, pizza, sandwiches, and more. Gone, too, were some of his favorite hobbies, including brewing beer with a buddy and gorging on his wife’s homemade breads. Struggling to understand why he and so many others had become allergic to wheat, barley, rye, oats, and other dietary staples, Graham researched the production of modern wheat and learned that not only has the grain been altered from ancestral varieties but it’s also commonly added to thousands of processed foods. In writing that is effortless and engaging, Paul explores why incidence of the disease is on the rise while also grappling with an identity crisis—given that all his favorite pastimes involved wheat in some form.”
This is an unflinchingly honest account of what it is like to give up one of the things that you enjoy most in life. Paul Graham loves to eat. He loved bread in all its forms. He loved beer. Suddenly he found out that those foods were behind a sudden illness that caused him to lose 25 pounds and end up hospitalized.
The honesty of the writing can certain come across as whiny, especially for those of us who have had restrictive diets by choice or necessity for long enough to have moved past the first stages of grief. He laments what it means now to travel without being able to eat anything and everything on a menu. Eventually he learns to move past that and see that there is life after allergies.
“But the most sensitive have also come to know something that “normal” eaters do not often have occasion to consider: to have anyone make food for you is an implicit extension of trust. The more serious the consequences, the greater the confidence one puts in the cook.”
Yes! I can be a nervous wreck when we go to new restaurants. Honestly, I only implicitly trust food that I make myself for the husband because of his allergy. The author laments people disrupting the orderliness of buffets so he can’t be sure anything is safe for him. I can relate totally.
He discusses the privilege that he has as a fairly well off person with the skills and time to cook from scratch in order to accommodate his new diet. He wonders how people how have to survive on prepared food do it. The answer seems to be – not well according to the research. He points out the irony that the foods that were once considered only good enough for poor people are now the rare grains and ingredients that cost more than wheat.
I’d recommend this book for any food lover or person interested in knowing what it is like to live with food allergies.