It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a celiac man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
However little known the appetite or baking ability of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
Someone, after all, must take on the hard but fulfilling task of baking her way through that fortune, one bag of superfine rice flour at a time.
So begins PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND GLUTEN, the classic novel reimagined to include something scarier than ballroom dancing and zombies alike.
When Mr. Bingley moves into the neighborhood, he doesn’t know quite what he’s getting himself into. He quickly learns he has entered a zone of intensely elevated celiac prevalence, brought on no doubt by many years of marrying one’s cousin and so forth.
Just as quickly, the news spreads that a likely young bachelor has let Netherfield Park. The gritty gifted cupcakes begin pouring in, as do the invitations with postscripts appended in the beautiful script that comes naturally to those women who have spent years practicing, all to the effect of, The buffet will have hummus.
Bingley good-naturedly agrees to attend, and brings along his friend, Darcy, with whom he pleads, hovering by the refreshments table in the grand tradition of non-dancers at balls, “Come, Darcy, I must have you try a bite of this.”
“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest anything gluten-free, unless I am particularly acquainted with the brand. With such a spread as this it would be insupportable. If there were any traditional baked goods, I might consider it, but alas, there is not a cracker or pudding in the room it would not be a punishment to eat.”
Having overheard all, Elizabeth Bennet—snarky before her time and with a measured but abiding pride in her own talent for recipe development, which though passable is widely understood, even by Elizabeth herself, to be inferior to her sister Jane’s—writes Darcy off as the worst kind of gluten-eating boor: too proud of his own lack of immune response to gluten, too prejudiced to try the teacakes at which Elizabeth has slaved away, combining four different recipes and throwing out three batches before she got them just right.
“I could easily forgive his pride,” Elizabeth sniffs, “if he had not mortified mine.”
You may think this story over before it has even begun, but there are twists and turns to come as Jane Bennet and Bingley fall in love over millet scones and buckwheat biscuits, then are driven apart by Darcy’s cynical remarks about their future children’s double genetic risk and the Bennet family’s inappropriate dinnertime discussion of matters gastrointestinal. After a suitable amount of mutual anguish, the two come together again as the beautiful and gluten-free always do.
In between, there’s a spot of trouble for Lydia, the youngest Bennet daughter, involving one Mr. Wickham, a roguish character who never truly intended to keep his kitchen cross-contamination-free. Darcy, it seems, has known all along that Wickham’s promises were as thin as the paper towels he wouldn’t actually use to wipe up his own crumbs. It is Darcy who alerts the family, though sadly not before a glutening catastrophe to which he refers in only the most euphemistic of terms; this is, after all, a novel of manners.
Darcy’s aid in this matter, and then in reuniting Jane with Bingley, endears him somewhat to Elizabeth, but what seals the deal is a letter he sends her with, enclosed, his recent positive biopsy results. It is revealed that his excessive pride was born of his fear that he himself may all too soon be forced to sup on sandwiches insupportable by their fragile bread, and piecrusts made of grains his family would scorn as peasants’ fare. Furthermore, it was persistent gluten exposure that caused his irritability and dour physiognomy.
The twin barriers of Darcy’s gluten eating and terrible personality now removed, there is nothing to stop Elizabeth from wedding him immediately, which she so does. As in the original, they all live happily ever after, except for Lydia.
So what do you think? Will Keira Knightley agree to take the lead?
Text adapted from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, now in the public domain. Wheat image from jayneandd at the Flickr Creative Commons. Book cover image stolen shamelessly from Penguin—they can afford it.