Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Reading: Gluten-Free Girl

I finished reading this book, Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found Food That Loves Me Back . . . And How You Can Too, over a month ago. It comes from one of the first websites I happened across a few years ago when I really started getting interested in blogs. The blog and the book are by a woman named Shauna James Ahern. She was diagnosed with celiac disease when she was in her mid-thirties and writes that learning to eat gluten free revolutionized her life.

Always a cook, Ms. Ahern really pulled out all the stops once she was diagnosed with celiac disease and had to learn to eat in an entirely different way. That is how her very popular blog Gluten-free Girl began. She would spend hours in the kitchen each night cooking and baking delicious, succulent, yummy food that was free from gluten and that made her fall in love with food all over again. Then she photographed and wrote about it on her blog.

In the space of three years, Shauna's health improved dramatically as she ate gluten-free, her blog became well-known, she changed jobs, she was given her first book deal, she met a man who is a chef and who she refers to as "Chef" on her website, she married Chef, and now she is expecting her first child at the age of 41. It has been quite a ride for her and she has blogged about it all.

I find Shauna's blog writing is thick with descriptions of tantalizing, amazing food. Sometimes I get hungry just reading her words. She is also a romantic in her writing--which isn't a bad thing, it just wears a bit thin at times for me when everything she does is inspiring and beautiful and chock full of meaning.

Her book is a bit different than the blog. She doesn't just compile a bunch of her blog entries into a book which is what other bloggers have essentially done with their book deals. Shauna instead writes a sort of "food history" of her life: what she typically ate growing up (white bread and packaged foods), how her food tastes changed as a young adult (she experimented with all kinds cuisines: ethnic, vegetarian, organic, etc.), how certain foods ultimately made her very, very ill (the symptoms of celiac disease), and how she experienced her own food revolution when she cooked and ate gluten-free. I really enjoyed this part of the book as opposed to some of her other reviewers who found this part a bit tedious. In fact, I was so inspired by Shauna's writing that I wrote a food history of my own.

Shauna also delves deeply into the challenges of eating gluten-free: the shopping, the investigating, the limitations, and the triumphs. I think what I like best about her book though is her attitude. She does not feel deprived by eating gluten-free. In fact, she feels like it is a great blessing because it has given her her health again.

So, pick it up and give it a perusal the next time you are at the bookstore. You might find her journey as interesting as I did.

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