Awareness Advocates of the Month: Michael Perlman
From August 2008
Michael Perlman is not your average 16 year old. Sure, he swims and he has a job. But in his spare time, he cooks, experimenting with gluten-free recipes so his sister, who has celiac disease, could have something delicious to eat. And he has compiled these recipes into a book, Cookies for Breakfast: A Teen’s Not so Bad Guide to Wheat and Gluten-Free Baking, and is donating a portion of the proceeds to NFCA. How many teens do you know that do that?
Michael’s story is anything but typical. When he was 8 1/2, his sister Jordan, who is 3 years older, was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and then later with celiac disease. This diagnosis had little effect on Michael’s life except that the glutinous goodies he enjoyed were no longer as readily available in his house. Instead, there were gluten-free replacements that Michael found to be not nearly as tasty.
Michael’s mother, Leslie, who had long baked wedding cakes as a hobby, turned her attention to
experimenting with alternative flours in an effort to bake something gluten-free and delicious. Although Jordan had little culinary inclinations, Michael was eager to help. The turning point for Michael came when he was 12. He spent the summer interning at Galileo restaurant in Washington DC. While working there, he learned the art of baking, as he was tasked with making the cookies that were delivered with the bill. At that point, his desire to create yummy gluten-free goodies that his whole family could enjoy took over.
Michael and Leslie began working on their gluten-free baking in earnest. By Michael’s own admission, many of these early attempts wound up in the trash. But when something really worked, they were quick to write it down. Eventually, they had developed dozens of recipes that were easy to make and tasted pretty good as well. In fact, the cake recipe is so good that Michael and his mother made a cake for a friend’s birthday celebration, did not tell anyone in attendance it was gluten-free until the end of the party, and no one knew the difference!
Soon the time came for Jordan to leave for college and the Perlman’s no longer had to accommodate her diet. But Michael couldn’t let all his hard work go to waste. So he sat down and spent a few months putting his book together. He figured that they could take their years of experimenting with gluten-free recipes and do some good with it. His family decided to self-publish the book and got it printed.
Michael says that there are two goals for the book. The first is to give people with celiac great alternative recipes, of which there are many in the book. Michael’s favorites are the peanut butter cookies and the birthday/wedding cake. The second goal is to raise awareness of celiac disease and diabetes. Every time Michael gets written up in any publication (The Washington Post ran an article on June 25 that was picked up by other papers nationally), more people learn about celiac disease. Anytime anyone picks up his book, they learn about celiac disease. As Michael himself said, any little bit of publicity helps.
But Michael is not only using the book to raise awareness of celiac disease. He is also donating a portion of the profits to NFCA! In fact, when you purchase his book and mention NFCA, all profits from that book are donated to us. You can purchase the book at www.cookiesforbreakfastcookbook.com or by clicking on this link. Please enter NFCA on your order or in the memo section of your check.
This is not the end of Michael’s story by any means. Since the book was printed, he has developed several new recipes. He has not decided whether he will write a second book or he if he will start a gluten-free `recipe blog. But either way, he intends to continue to raise awareness and strive to help those with celiac disease. As I said, Michael Perlman is not your average sixteen year old.