by Shauna James Ahern
I've been following Shauna's blog for a few months now; I don't know why I hadn't thought to read her book sooner, seeing as how it's been out for a few years now, but a patron brought it back to the library last week and so I snatched it up.
I love to read people's stories about food and food discovery. There is passion and devotion in Shauna's words. Her book leaves me with a warm-and-fuzzy feeling, and a new motivation to cook more often. Anyone who buys into the adages "food is fuel [only]" or "food should not make you happy," I cannot endorse. Food is happiness! I'm not saying it should be used to fill voids in your life or whatever; I'm not advocating bingeing or gluttony. However, food can bring great joy; and that is what I got out of Shauna's book.
There are a few small details about the book which I don't like. For one thing, it seems like, at least once each page appears the sentence "after my diagnosis" or "once I went gluten-free" or "since I've been living with celiac disease," etc. I get it. The book is about how Shauna lives her life gluten-free after being diagnosed with celiac disease. You don't need to mention it on every page, we're with you, we know what the book is about.
Also, and this is getting picky (that's how you can tell a book is good: it's only the little pet peeve kinds of mistakes that stick out), sometimes she writes ambiguously about "her island" off the coast of Washington state, and other times she names it: Vashon Island. It's as if she and her editor were debating whether to use its name or not and settled for half and half. If the first time she mentioned her home on Vashon Island she named it, then I wouldn't care. But instead she first called it "my island" or "the island" or something, which then bothered me. But, again, this is a little thing.
Shauna's gourmet expertise is intimidating and maybe a little off-putting at times. I can't buy organic and local and fresh all the time. I'm not willing to give up all of my childhood treats (which are gluten-free). And baking? Gluten-free baking is incredibly intimidating and discouraging (all those different flours...), to be honest. I'm fortunate enough to have a gluten-free store/bakery in town, and I'll leave the baking to them. At this point in life, I am comfortable with my fried-rice, gluten-free pasta dishes, and coconut rice pudding (I'm probably eating too much rice). I'm taking baby-steps, and that's ok with me. However, her chapter, "Feeling Comfortable in the Kitchen" sets her on a more relatable, human level and makes me feel better. Clearly I am not yet comfortable in the kitchen. But the lasting impression from this book is a sense encouragement and a little gentle nudging to get off my butt and get into the kitchen and play.
Being gluten-free is not easy, and this book taught me a lot. (I had no idea blue cheese was made from bread mold!) Her recipes sound fabulous (I like the sound of her roasted cauliflower and roasted asparagus: baby steps.). The best part is that you know how much thought, experimentation, and dedication went into her recipes her book, and her life. It's inspiring, and makes me want to make changes in my own life to create the life I want to live.