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In Memory of Bread
Cover of In Memory of Bread
In Memory of Bread
A Memoir
Borrow Borrow
The funny, poignant memoir of one man's struggle to come to terms with his celiac diagnosis, forcing him to reexamine his relationship with food.
When Paul Graham was suddenly diagnosed with celiac disease 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.
The funny, poignant memoir of one man's struggle to come to terms with his celiac diagnosis, forcing him to reexamine his relationship with food.
When Paul Graham was suddenly diagnosed with celiac disease 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.
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover chapter 1.

    Last Meals

    A winter several years ago will forever be the time when I discovered the intense yet simple pleasures of great homemade bread.

    As with most transformative experiences, the timing was everything. My wife started baking in January, after one of our friends introduced her to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Its basic recipe, as Artisan devotees know, makes baking bread with a chewy crumb and shattering crust tantalizingly easy: you mix up a mess of dough, let it age in the fridge, and pull out handfuls to shape, let rise, and bake whenever the urge for a fresh loaf strikes. I often stepped inside—­from walking the dog or carrying firewood, leaving behind a blanched sky and snow that literally blew sideways—­to hot bread waiting on the wire rack. The windows were steamed over; the whole house bloomed with heat. What I felt was beyond anticipation or joy—­it was a sense of wealth and gratitude that humans have known for a long, long time. I couldn't have contrived this feeling if I tried, and it had everything to do with the smell and taste of baked grains against northern New York's cold, sparse background.

    As she explored the cookbook, Bec made whole-­wheat loaves, white loaves, cheddar cheese bread, dinner rolls, cinnamon buns, and my favorite, limpa, a Swedish rye seasoned with orange peel, star anise, cumin, and sugar. At first she baked one or two a week. I tore off chunks while they still steamed from the oven. In the afternoons, I made a cup of tea with toast and chose a jar from "The Vault," a hutch in our dining room stacked with homemade preserves like brandied melon jam and crab-­apple jelly. Every summer and into the fall, Bec puts up seasonal fruits and vegetables she gets from the market and our farm share, and (in the case of the crab apples, anyway) that we forage on the college campus where I teach English. By most estimates, you only have a year or two to eat that stuff. I was doing my part in the race against spoilage.

    Sometimes, I ate a loaf in a day.

    Once or twice, I may have eaten almost two loaves in a day—­most of ours, and then most of our friends' when we went over to their place for dinner, where the talk, which always turned to food, inevitably gravitated to our helplessness around this bread.

    Geography was a factor in our raptures. We live in a rural place, and at the time the sole good nearby bakery was attached to our local food co-­op. We had been enjoying the co-­op's loaves for years, but the Artisan bread was even better, and more fun. We loved the ingenious substitution for the steam jets in professional ovens, which involved pouring a cup of boiling water into a preheated sauté pan, creating a dramatic hiss. When we took the bread out and it hit the cooler air, we bent close to the counter and listened as the crust tightened with a series of crackles. But most of all, we loved the sweet, comforting smell of bread baking away as the temperature dropped and we turned local root vegetables into soups and stews.

    If we and our friends were conscious of the symbolism of "breaking bread" at these meals, nobody ever mentioned it. And yet, I think if you'd asked any of us whether the experience would have been diminished without my friend David's triumphant soda bread, or without my friends Sarah and Mere's perfect airy, white loaves, or without whatever fifty-­times-­better-­than-­supermarket bread anyone else had made, we would have said, Yes, of course. Now I know that to be the truth. You can have fellowship over any meal, but sharing bread seems to deliver an especially high emotional...
About the Author-
  • PAUL GRAHAM is an associate professor of English at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York and his essays have appeared twice in the Best Food Writing anthology (2012 and 2013). Graham lives with his wife and two German shepherds in rural New York on the Canadian border.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine In his late thirties, Graham was diagnosed with autoimmune celiac disease--an allergy to gluten, one of the most common ingredients in the American diet. Here he describes his adventures and misadventures in attempting to understand and cope with that challenge. MacLeod Andrews's narration is warm, calm, and skillful as he navigates Graham's sadness at saying farewell to the familiar aromas and textures of all things gluten. However, the author's tone sounds at once entitled and condescending. Those negatives cannot be fully overcome by Andrews's thoughtful, precise performance. The discussion provides valuable information on this autoimmune disease, but one must make an effort to overlook the author's attitude of privilege. W.A.G. � AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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In Memory of Bread
A Memoir
Paul Graham
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