So many gluten-free cookbooks have the word “diet” slinking around somewhere on the cover. Presumably to catch the eye of those who might not have celiac disease but actually (really?) enjoy constantly running from one restrictive eating treadmill to another. A doctor-prescribed limited diet is not something anyone who truly loves and respects food would wish upon themselves. But in The Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef cookbook released a few days ago, that four letter word is noticeably absent.
This half cookbook, half personal essay charmer from 44-year-old Shauna James Ahern (her online alter identity is the “gluten-free girl”) and her wheat-averse-by-marriage husband, Daniel Ahern, is bookshelf proof that people who actually do have the disease, can and do love food — and cooking — as much as the rest of us. Food that's made from real ingredients, not those gluten/dairy/corn/soy/everything-free bread mixes lining grocery store shelves these days that no one really wants to try. Really.
Shauna has told their girl-met-a-chef story often, and you'll hear it again here. That they met online, that Daniel has been a professional chef for more than twenty years, that their discovery gluten would no longer be a part of their life led to an entirely new, eye-opening discovery.
It is a heart-warming story (Daniel stopped using all gluten at work so Shauna could taste whatever new dish he'd created that day at the restaurant) but also a real-life one (Shauna cooks most of their meals at home). And yes, the book is filled with the expected flour substitutes. The bread doughs, brownies, cakes, cookies require various potato starch, almond flour, oat flour and other wheat substitutes.
But mainly, this is a cookbook filled with recipes that anyone looking for a bit of kitchen inspiration might tackle. Pan roasted rib-eye with potato-artichoke gratin; English pea, fava bean and prosciutto risotto; or halibut with millet, carrot-fennel salad and golden raisin sauce, with a little of that real-life love story tucked in between: how they love to host potlucks, how they hit the Seattle farmers markets, butchers, seafood and spice shops together almost daily (on Daniel's restaurant budget to pick up whatever he'll be cooking that evening), how they spend their days apart but share dinner together late each night after Daniel's shift ends. Dinner at home. Cooked by Shauna. That happens to be gluten-free.