Certified Gluten Enriched
By Harris Golden
My recent visit to the Natural Products Expo West 2011 has been for me the straw that broke the camel’s back. Oh! I’m sorry. Straw, camel, that’s old hat. I’ll start over. My recent visit to the Natural Products Expo West 2011 was the tipping point.
I really need to say something about food fads that turn us into automatons chasing one food after another. Either we “must not” eat this or we “have to” eat that. Sometimes the hysteria can be fatal for an entire food industry (Google: Cranberry Scare of 1959).The following is a list of food products that in the past have been labeled “No Good For You!”: beef, pork, chicken (especially dark meat), dairy products, pasta, soy, spinach, eggs, peanuts, butter, sugar, salt, coconuts, and the list goes on and on. Oh! I almost forgot the beverages: can’t drink soda, tap water, milk, all alcoholic beverages, coffee, and tea. We’re pretty much guaranteed that at least one or two of these products listed will soon be back in favor. Perhaps it will be coffee? No doubt, it dehydrates and over-stimulates. Or will it be salt? Watch that high blood pressure!
Want to know the latest food fad? GLUTEN Everywhere I turned at the Natural Products Expo a sign was proclaiming “Gluten Free”. There was a plethora of gluten-free cookbooks, gluten-free breads, muffins, pastries, pastas, and pizzas. There’s an entire new industry that certifies food companies so they can proudly display their influential signage: “Certified Gluten-Free”. There was even a gluten-free soft pretzel at the expo that tasted like a box of cornstarch. That pretzel was my tipping point. It should be. After all, I make pretzels for a living.
I must admit making pretzels is a twisted business, but they’re delicious and good for us as long as we’re not eating pretzels for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every pretzel contains a dosage of gluten - a healthy, natural, vegetarian based protein found in such grains as wheat, oats, barley, and rye. That stuff was always soooo good for us. Also, gluten gives us the magnificent chew in finely baked breads and rolls, and gives rise to the “al dente” in perfectly cooked pasta. Gluten is GREAT! What happened?
So how did gluten ascend to the top of the hit list? Not unlike being allergic to peanuts, dairy products, and other foods, a very small percentage of the populace has a disorder called Celiac disease whereby they can’t digest gluten. For those people, avoiding gluten is not a fad. It actually stops the disease. There are no typical signs for the disease, and most people who possess it have general complaints such as abdominal pain, bloating, depression, skin rash, and the list goes on. As a result, Celiac disease is not easy to self-diagnose. All of the symptoms can be found from a host of other disorders including overeating, indigestion, and stress. At present, gluten is the culprit for just about every eating disorder, real or imagined, as it can sell books and put new products on the market. Mmm…I guess that’s not so bad - stimulating the economy. There’s also something else about gluten that wins hands down compared to the old culprits: meat, dairy, and eggs. Gluten is “New”. It’s a word many people never heard. It draws attention and is a perfect bogeyman. No doubt, in time, this mania shall pass. Then there will be another victim - perhaps hot dogs? Sorry Oscar Meyer. I do love a juicy hot dog with mustard, sauerkraut, and grilled onions, but you know you’re always vulnerable to CHOLESTEROL. If it was my choice to pick out the next public food enemy number one, I would simply change the word from gluten to glutton.
I truly sympathize with those who have severe food allergies. It can be very difficult to be on a restrictive diet, especially when trying to dine out. But, for the millions of allergy free “Joe Eaters”, here are some mouth-watering, words of wisdom: “In all things not too much,” said Socrates, and likewise, Aristotle spoke of the “Golden Mean.” What these great philosophers were saying over two thousand years ago holds true today. If we stay within the bounds of extremes, chances are we will stay out of trouble. Work, play, exercise, relax, and enjoy all the pleasures of the palate…including pretzels, of course. After all, pretzels are “Certified Gluten Enriched”.