Today I’m reviewing the Living Gluten-Free Answer Book by Suzanne Bowland. This book promises “Practical Answers to 275 of Your Most Pressing Questions.” It was published by SourceBooks, Inc in 2008. Examples of questions it answers are:
“What should you do if you think you are gluten-intolerant?”
“What causes gluten-intolerance and celiac disease?”
“What are some strategies for eating gluten-free at restaurants?”
“How can you decypher food labels and medications?”
“If a food package says ‘wheat-free,’ is it gluten-free?” (No.)
“Could her lipstick be making you sick?” (Yes.)
The first four chapters of the book deal mostly with the basics, such as defining gluten intolerance and celiac disease, the symptoms of celiac disease, ways your life is going to change, what gluten is and how you can avoid it, and the possible consequences of not avoiding gluten if you have celiac disease.
Chapters five through nine build on the basics. Chapter five is about how to make your kitchen gluten-free. Six talks about different kinds of food you might find in a kitchen, like mixes, grains, pastas, frozen dinners, snack foods, or breads. Chapter seven reviews the grains, flours, and starches in more detail. So amaranth, buckwheat, Indian ricegrass, Job’s tears, millet, quinoa, ragi, sorghum, teff, the different kinds of rice flour, tapioca flour, potato flour, xanthan gum, and guar gum. It also has information about the differences between some of the flours and starches. Chapter eight is about shopping for gluten-free items. Among the topics of this chapter are where to buy flours, pricing of gluten-free items, and how to get a store to carry your gluten-free items. Chapter nine is about some non-food items you wouldn’t think about, like medicines, toothpaste, lip gloss, and other bathroom items.
I don’t want to keep going chapter by chapter, but the rest of the book includes such topics as tips for traveling, dining out, cooking, children, social events, health and nutrition, and developing coping strategies to deal with cravings or disappointments.
Finally, there are two appendices. Appendix A has tips and substitution solutions for gluten-free cooking and baking. Appendix B is an extensive directory of gluten-free businesses.
That’s a lot of ground to cover. Suzanne Bowland’s writing is pleasing and easy to read. It is the sort of reference book you might find yourself reading just for entertainment. I’ll very often pick it up to get an answer to a specific question and then find myself reading the next section. But at its heart it really is a reference book. At the end of the book is a whopping twenty-six page index, so if an answer to your question is in the book, you should be able to find it without a problem.
My one complaint with the book is that sometimes the author spends too much time answering a question that to me seems simple. For example, a question like, “Is something that is wheat free also automatically gluten-free?” seems pretty straight-forward to me, but Bowland takes a page to answer it, and she also seems to complicate the matter by talking about oat contamination. This bothered me until I realized that the book is written so that each question is answered as fully as possible in its own section. That way, a person who wants to know about one thing can look it up and get a complete answer without having to read the whole book.
While I still think it may be that this book goes into too much detail about some questions, it is very thorough, and as I said, it is an interesting read. Bowland’s writing is easy to understand and compelling. There’s something for everyone, and all the information is organized and indexed in a fashion that makes it very easy to find an answer to any question you may have. I think it would make a great addition to anyone’s gluten-free library.
We want to know: Do you have a favorite book for the gluten-free diet? How about a favorite cookbook? Let us know!
Overall rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same price! But it’s a book so… Yeah.
The Living Gluten-Free Answer Book – Suzanne Bowland – 2008
ISBN-10: 1402210590 – See this book on Amazon