The other night while having dinner at one of the Noog’s fancier restaurants, I was presented with the wine list, the evening’s menu and then the evening’s “gluten-free” menu. Just out of curiosity I glanced at and noticed it was roughly the same as the regular menu, only minus breadstuffs. OK, I get it.
I couldn’t help but think at the time that up until a couple of years ago I had no idea what the hell gluten was, and I doubt many of you did either. However, suddenly there’s a growing number of people dead set on keeping gluten away from their gut at all costs.
For those of you who don’t know what gluten is, it’s basically the “glue” that holds dough together. It’s the substance that gives dough it’s elasticity and what helps it rise when baking. In addition to bread loaves and the like, gluten can be commonly found in pizza crust. In fact, a local pizza joint is where I first heard of it. “Proud to offer gluten-free pizza” the sign said. When I did a little research and discovered gluten’s purpose, I figured a crust free of it must be like eating the toppings directly off of the pizza box.
Apparently for some, gluten has an adverse affect on the body. Common symptoms include bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, diarrhea, muscular disturbances and bone or joint pain. Of course, eating too much of anything will produce those same symptoms. Maybe pushing away from the feedbag a little sooner is one solution, but I’m no doctor.
I realize that some of you out there are honestly allergic to gluten. In fact, it’s less than 1 percent according to my trusted source, Wikipedia. The rest of you are just gluten intolerant.
Lactose intolerance is a much more commonly recognized affliction. Like gluten, if cheese and milk make you feel as big as a cow or as loose as a goose, then maybe you should avoid those products. But again, I’m not qualified to dole out medical advice.
Intolerance to certain foods and food allergies are as old as the concept of eating itself. I’m sure there was at least one kid in my elementary school growing up who was deathly allergic to peanuts. Regardless, I was still allowed to bring a peanut butter sandwich to school for lunch. It was that kid’s sole responsibility not to trade me his Twinkie for it.
Nowadays, if one kid at an elementary school has a nut allergy not only will the school not serve anything nut related, but his classmates aren’t allowed to bring anything to school with nuts in it just in case he forgets and trades his Fruit Roll Up for a Nutter Butter and winds up convulsing on the cafeteria floor.
Not to make light of a horrible, life-threatening allergy (because I love peanut butter), I just think these days we tend to take food-related issues a little too seriously. Like the whole vegan/vegetarian thing.
I understand that with all we know about how food interacts with our bodies that shoving red meat into it every day is probably not a good idea in the long run. But chicken, fish, eggs and cheese are legitimate, sort-of-healthy sources of protein—something the body needs plenty of. So, if you won’t eat any of that and you’re not eating beans and nuts like it’s your job, you’re probably not getting enough protein.
I know that some of the biggest, scariest animals of all time—including some dinosaurs—are vegan. Their diets consist of everything but their mates in the wild. No one really knows why some animals are vegans by nature while others are hardcore carnivores. And no one really knows why some of us choose to eat meat and some don’t. I blame pretentiousness.
Being vegan or even vegetarian just for the sake of being different or hip or whatever is just as predictably lame as wearing a wool toboggan cap off the back of your head. Evolution has trained our species to eat all kinds of other species—and like it. I’m sorry, but if I were a gluten-intolerant, lactose-intolerant, nut-allergic pretentious vegan I’d be dead by now—or at least very, very hungry.
Chuck Crowder is a local writer and man about town. His opinions are his own.