Coeliac and hungry for bread rolls? No problem

Gearóid Lynch’s coeliac diagnosis, like Novak Djokovic’s, was transformatory

Gearóid Lynch, chef-proprietor of The Olde Post Inn, in Butlersbridge, Co Cavan, has written his first cookery book, and it’s a book of gluten-free recipes. Photograph: Joanne Murphy

Gearóid Lynch, chef-proprietor of The Olde Post Inn, in Butlersbridge, Co Cavan, has written his first cookery book, and it’s a book of gluten-free recipes. Photograph: Joanne Murphy

 

There is a special merit in the experience and advice of people who have found themselves in a health crisis and have managed to come out the other side, wiser, stronger and healthier.

Take Gearóid Lynch, for example. Lynch, with his wife, Tara, is the chef-proprietor of The Olde Post Inn, in Butlersbridge, Co Cavan, one of the best restaurants in the country. I have been writing about his cooking ever since the couple moved back home in 2002, and opened the doors of their restaurant and country inn.

So we’ve known each other for quite a while. Which made my astonishment all the greater when I met Lynch last year on a visit to Butlersbridge. Instead of the fairly heavy dude I was used to talking to, I was confronted with an Iron Man bloke who exuded fitness: the man had the glow you get when you are spending time doing lake swimming, running marathons, training, and riding a bike for hours at a time.

Then he explained that he was in the middle of writing his first cookery book. But this wasn’t going to be the standard issue chef’s book; this was going to be a book of gluten-free recipes. Because he had – finally – been diagnosed as coeliac.

His health, his fitness, his alertness, was all due to the fact that he had transformed his diet. Like the tennis player Novak Djokovic, the diagnosis was transformatory.

Just how transformatory is made clear in the book’s introduction: “As a child I was in and out of hospital with cramps. I was always bloated and tired. It wasn’t unheard of for me to fall asleep in class, both as a child and as a teenager. For a long time this condition crippled every aspect of my life.”

And yet, even while dealing with the symptoms, Lynch achieved extraordinary things. He won the Euro-Toques Ireland Young Chef of the Year competition, the toughest test for a young professional cook. He worked with great chefs such as Kevin Thornton and John Howard. He opened his own restaurant while still at a young age.

“I had come to accept that feeling lethargic, bloated and suffering from daily stomach cramps and other unpleasant symptoms was normal. But there came a point when I could no longer blame the long working hours for my lack of energy or the feeling of being bloated on overindulging in the kitchen.”

Even with the diagnosis in the bag, the challenge of change was still enormous, he says.

“I remember pulling into a supermarket afterwards and there was absolutely nothing I could eat. There was only one option, and that was to get myself organised. And so the challenge began.”

My Gluten-Free Kitchen is the response to that challenge, and it’s an important book not just because it sets out a culinary template for coeliacs, but because it does something else equally important: it gives instructions for the foods coeliacs are likely to miss eating, and to crave at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Looking forward to a nice brunch of eggs Benedict? You’ll find the recipe on page 15. Fancy some battered fish and chips? That’s page 101. Hankering for some breads rolls that won’t make you feel ghastly? Go straight to page 12. Missing a nice, Tia Maria-laced tiramisu? No problem: the recipe is on page 196.

“Since being diagnosed with coeliac disease, there has not been one day that I have felt unwell,” he writes.

The book is testament to how food can be a pivotal part of the healing process, and shows how someone can go from suffering from a condition that “crippled every aspect of my life”, to being a fit triathlete dude who never has a day when he feels unwell. Utilising both his professional expertise, and his personal story, has allowed Gearóid Lynch to write an important book.

My Gluten-Free Kitchen is published by Gill Books.

John McKenna is editor at guides.ie

Read Pat Harrold’s Medical Matters column on his coeliac experience at irishtimes.com/health

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