The Times is really excited about their gluten-free recipes, which they claim are actually flavorful. Maybe they are! I’ve had Babycakes and that shit is delicious. But oh man this gluten-free craze is the worst.
Don’t get me wrong: Some number of people have legitimate gluten allergies or intolerances (I actually suspect I am slightly gluten intolerant? And also lactose-intolerant? Whatever I eat cheese and pasta anyway and just deal with getting really sick every single day) and can become extremely ill if they consume gluten. That sucks! I am sorry for you people. And lots of people try to eat gluten-free food because it just makes them feel better or they like it. Great. But “I’m allergic to gluten” seems to be the new cover for women who are basically just seeking to limit their food intake, and is almost never mentioned in any articles covering the trend of gluten-free eating. For example, the Times says:
Gluten-free baked goods have become tastier as demand for them has risen. More Americans — about 6 percent of the population, according to the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland — have found that gluten, in wheat, barley and rye, causes health problems. What had been a niche market has become mainstream.
Notice the phrasing — “causes health problems.” Not that they’re allergic to it or even sensitive. Celiac Disease is a real thing, and it sucks. But only about 1% of Americans have it. And it’s unfortunate that a legitimate intolerance to certain foods is being used as an excuse to just not eat bread (it also makes everyone more skeptical of people who claim gluten allergies).
Obviously I can’t blame women — and it seems to usually be women, as I’ve met like one dude in my life who says he’s gluten-intolerant — who claim to have gluten sensitivities for using that as a convenient excuse not to eat. There is immense social pressure to go out and eat a lot, but also to not look like you eat a lot. “I’m gluten intolerant” is, in many circles, a much more acceptable reason to forgo bread or pasta than “I’m trying to stay skinny” or “I’m on a diet.” And that is very fucked. But we should maybe be casting a bit of a jaundiced eye on the gluten-free fad. It can be great, for folks who can’t consume gluten products without getting very sick; it’s also great insofar as it makes us more creative with the food we eat, and less reliant on the same old ingredients and recipes.
But it’s not great that it’s an acceptable cover for eating issues. It’s on the same footing as veganism and other dietary restrictions — great when done right, really less great in that a whole lot of people use it as a way to avoid eating.