Published by Clarkson Potter on June 7, 2016
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Blogging for Books for review consideration.
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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. His honest, unflinching, and at times humorous journey towards health and acceptance makes an inspiring read.
In Memory of Bread is Paul Graham’s farewell to gluten, and wow, this is one robust memoir. Graham covers his journey to his celiac disease diagnosis, the drastic changes he had to make in his everyday life, the social and emotional importance of bread throughout history, and above all, a love of food.
Graham gets to the heart and science of life without gluten. It’s obvious he really loves the entire food experience: buying local whenever possible, food prep, cooking, sharing great meals with family and friends. Graham used to brew beer with a friend and enjoy his wife’s homemade Artisan breads on a regular basis—going gluten-free was a huge lifestyle change.
For a while, Graham searched out gluten-free replacements of the foods he loved most (he took his quest for a decent beer very seriously!) but eventually he comes to place more of an emphasis on real, whole foods. He shares the great, confusing science experiment that is gluten-free baking—failures and all.
I’ve been eating gluten-free (not by choice) for three months now. My mom was diagnosed with celiac back in 1990 (which Graham accurately calls the “the truly dark days of gluten-free eating”) so I pretty much grew up knowing all about the difficulties of getting diagnosed, as well as how to avoid gluten and cross-contamination. Even with that knowledge, In Memory of Bread never once bored me. Graham’s conversational writing style combined with the depth and varied angles at which he looked at his topics was thoroughly interesting to read.
This review is dedicated to my mom, who had to figure out this gluten-free thing from a tiny town in Maine, before the internet! I’m passing this book along to her.