Ethical Eating

Gluten Intolerant? Master Baker Tries Hookworm Cure

A couple of years ago, Mark Bittman wrote about a recipe for no-knead bread from maverick baker Jim Leahy of Sullivan Street Bakery. Suddenly everyone from Martha Stewart to the Amateur Gourmet were making it, and home bakers from Oregon to South Florida were following along. Because of this incredibly easy recipe, it's now no longer hit or miss for an amateur baker to make a beautiful loaf.

With pizza such a thing right now, it's not surprising there's been much anticipation for the release of the Jim Leahy cookbook, My Pizza: The Easy, No-Knead Way to Make Spectacular Pizza at Home, based on the beautiful pies he bakes at Co. in Manhattan. Eater posted a stunning photo essay from the book paired with a Josh Ozersky video. Former Village Voice critic Lauren Shockey posted a Q&A with Lahey on making pizza at home.

His talking points with Shockey are quite interesting:
1) The margherita pizza is the most popular pizza in his restaurant and remains the test of what is a good pie.
2) Many of his recipes are inspired by pasta.
3) Chicken breast in any form does not belong on pies.

But the most noteworthy news is that Lahey acknowledged he had a wheat allergy -- awfully inconvenient for a baker. And right now, he's in the final stages of infecting himself with hookworm as a cure for wheat intolerance.

Lahey said the process involves "placing mail-order

larvae on his skin under a bandage and waiting for them to burrow into

his body and modify his immune system."

When Shockey asked him why he did it, he said, "The reason I did this is because I hate taking medicine. As a 45-year-old

guy, I had aches and pains in my joints, and I had a history of asthma,

which is considered to be autoimmune. It's not a wheat allergy, but I'm

kind of allergic to inhaling wheat, and I wanted to kind of see if I

could find a therapy that could make my body happy."

Hookworms? Radiolab's show Parasites: Are They Evil or Are They Awesome? reported that people living in developing countries are 50 percent less likely to have asthma and allergies. "We have cleaned ourselves too much," says a doctor on the episode of the show, citing the hygiene hypothesis as a reason behind the proliferation of some illnesses such as gluten intolerance or asthma.

On the show, guest Jasper Lawrence reported suffering from asthma so intensely that he was often hospitalized. Desperation took him online, where he learned of hookworm as a means of eradicating allergies.

He decided to visit Cameroon one winter to stroll around in latrines to infect himself. It works, and his asthma has disappeared, he claimed.

Lawrence started a cottage business selling hookworms in 2009. A year later, he was visited by the FDA, since infecting one's self with hookworms, then selling them, is not an FDA-approved thing to do.

Lawrence ended up moving and stopped shipping hookworms within the U.S. Despite Lawrence's exile, one of the country's most celebrated bakers is in the process of testing the hookworm cure.

Will it work? "Either I'm really smart or a jackass," he told Shockey. Chances are, we'll soon find out.

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart