A month ago I posted a ramble expressing my thoughts about the sweeping trend of people going gluten free. Here’s what I wrote:
“I do not think we will see the end of this gluten free hysteria until fundamental economic inequality and spiritual impoverishment is addressed. The target may change, but collective hatred and refusal will endure until we each possess the ability for self-determination. We have such little control of our lives and we are so unhappy it makes sense that we find pleasure in refusal. But we cannot refuse our history as a civilization without great consequence.”
From this little blurb sprung a geyser of emotion, thought and conversation. What I meant by my rant was this: that the problem is not gluten. The problem is an economic system that delivers us an approximation of food. I go to the grocery store and I don’t see food there. I see fillings. Being filled and being fed are two very different things.
As a baker my goal is to feed your entire body: physical, emotional and spiritual. That is what authentic nourishment is. You can feel the vitality of what you are putting into your mouth transfer to the very cells of your body. A good loaf of bread will permeate through your stomach to your heart. We need to move away from an obsession with isolating a single ingredient as a problem and look towards reviving local food systems and agriculture.
We’ve lost how to make and grow the basics of all food and in doing so we have removed all connection and nutrition. Go back a few generations and none of this existed. We really need to pull the reigns in, it’s not hard, just grow as much as you can, cook everything from scratch, ask yourself where have these ingredients come from. Tara Mills of My South Coast Kitchen Garden
I was upset to learn I had offended both friends and followers with my words. There is so much tension right now around the subject I knew even the phrase “gluten free” was going to cause a stir. My use of the word control hit the biggest nerve. I did not mean to say HEY YOU! You’re outta control, but rather that we live under intense financial pressures which restrict our ability to have basic control over the very things that affect our everyday lives. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I think many people experience fear daily around how they will adequately provide for themselves and their families.
There never seems to be enough, no matter how much we have. What cuts across class lines is a fundamental anxiety. We don’t know how it’s all going to work out. There are hardly any real jobs anymore. Retirement isn’t likely for my entire generation and those still to come. And along with the crumbling of our financial foundations our impact on the planet has launched us into unprecedented times marked deeply by widespread illness and severe weather. The good news is that we don’t have to wait to be saved. We can do it together and we can do it now. We cannot let this crucial conversation on the quality of our food (wheat) dissolve into a uninformed identity squabble. What we need to resist is being sold our new world with a food trend.
In a time where so many things are bigger than us and we feel a sense of being out of control of our own lives, what we put in our bodies is a form of control. But we need to be sure that what we are controlling is not merely a way to self-control but that we are seeking a truth about foods and their processes that will truly feed our souls. Been seeing a lot of “spiritual poverty” as you put it at the market these days. There’s a sense of distress from people asking about gluten free that is alarming.Monica Balderas Segovia Welsh of Chicken Bridge Bakery
My theory is that we are so disconnected and out of control of our food system that most of us have eating disordered tendencies–we try to take control by obsessing over specific foods that we deem as “bad.” The latest “bad” food is anything containing gluten. It is the current magic bullet for a deeply eating disordered society. Megan Scott of The Joy of Cooking
General diet management & industrial processes are the area where we should be focusing. The gluten misdirection is not only misguided and not helping the food crisis, but it’s harming the foundation of our food system from the beginning of time. The proponents behind the movement use false, simplistic theories to make millions due to perceived positive results that have proven to have nothing to do with gluten itself. JD McLelland of The Grain Divide
When customers ask me if I have anything gluten free what I really hear, underneath the question, is a person asking me if I have something they can eat that won’t harm them. I am glad they are asking questions. I understand their sense of distrust. Although I do not make gluten free goods, this is a jumping point for a whole conversation about grain, fermentation, agriculture and nutrition. It gives me an opportunity to explain where the wheat is from, how it was milled, the way in which I make the bread and how it was baked. These interactions are the foundation of a real food education.
It boils down to time. Do you have time to hear the story of each ingredient in your meal? What role does food actually play in your life? Slowing down the pace of our lives (or at least setting the phone aside when we eat) contributes to a culture where cooking isn’t an inconvenience or contest for the best food photography. As long as we have bodies we must take care of them. Meal inspiration, technical knowledge and sharing our efforts at the table radiate from a core principle: intimacy. I believe intimacy is the missing ingredient we are all hungry for. True, honest relationship with our sustenance requires touch and dare I say it: love.
Grains play a much bigger role in humanity than the common American may ever fathom. We need to put energy behind rebuilding the processes and quality practices and ingredients to restore nutrition to the common grain byproduct…not get lost in false theories and the idea of eliminating the foundation of food. JD McLelland of The Grain Divide