Gluten-free is easy in Seattle

I figure it’s time for another gluten-free post, because even today, many years after getting gluten out of daily diets has improved the lives of so many people, there are still throngs out there who believe gluten-free is nothing more than a fad. These may, ostensibly, be the same people who still believe the Earth is flat.

A Chinese restaurant here in Seattle has a gluten-free menu, from which you can order dishes that have gluten. They won’t bother to tell you that until they bring out the flour pancakes to accompany your mu shu, and only if you ask.
“Are these flour pancakes?” You ask, because they look and smell like flour.
“Yes, they are.”
“But I ordered from the gluten-free menu,” you say.
“Yes, that’s right. If you don’t want gluten, just don’t eat the pancakes.”
“But they’re on the gluten-free menu, and you served them to a gluten-free person. Do you have others that are actually gluten-free?” You ask.
“Oh, um, no. And by the way, the hoisin sauce also contains gluten.”
“The sauce from the gluten-free menu?” You ask.
“Yes, so if you don’t want gluten in that either, then you would just not eat it,” the waiter says.
“Okay. Why do you have a gluten-free menu if it contains glutenous items?”
“Well, it’s just a choice for people,” the waiter says innocently.

They have no idea what celiac is. Gluten sensitivity? Same thing. Never heard of it. Gluten-free, Seattle style, is purely a diet choice, not a requirement.

I tell people how eliminating gluten saw me no longer suffer from asthma. I tell them how I instantly dropped ten pounds without even trying. They say it’s a fluke.

They might ask how it’s possible, but as soon as I mention the villi, part of the digestive tract, as soon as I start talking about the inside of the body, they get squeamish or lose interest.

They ask what happens if I eat gluten? I get digestive issues. Inside the body again? Oh, don’t want to know about that. Technically, the digestive system begins at the teeth and ends at, well, the end. Yet, people have no problem talking about their teeth.

There are those who get it. Great companies have been founded on gluten-free. One company, Olivia Superfree, has a whole line of delicious baked goods – pies, bread, cupcakes, pizza crusts, brownies – which taste better than their glutenous counterparts.

Another gluten-free bakery has cropped up: nuflours. I tried their lemon bar at a quick cafe stop during a bike ride, and was reminded of my grandmother’s favorite holiday meal comment, which must be said with food in the mouth and perhaps a bit in the throat, half-swallowed or so: “Luscious.” I see on their site they offer several gluten-free breads that look scrumptious.

Okay, yes, some gluten-free products taste like sawdust (not that I’ve eaten sawdust), but you know, it’s funny because “normal” foods don’t face the same scrutiny as allergen-free foods. There are an amazing amount of truly awful tasting “normal” foods on the market, by comparison. Vegemite. Lima beans. Kim-chi. Pig ear. Tripe. Tongue. Funyuns. Oh, I’ll stop. By the way, it’s the “normal” foods that most often cause bad breath. Think corn chip breath. Think wheat breath.

When people hear me ask for a gluten-free beer, the most common reaction is, “Oh, that must taste awful,” which is puzzling because ‘Boy, that wheat sure is mouth-watering,’ is something I have never heard anyone say. Think about that for a second. Wheat is grass. Cows eat grass. We are not cows. We do not have their digestive system. (Strangely, we drink cow milk, yet we are human. Wouldn’t it make more sense for cows to drink cow milk, and humans to drink human milk? Me, I drink coconut milk and rain milk.)

The truth is, gluten-free beer is just like wheat beer, except without the annoying bloat effect. Of course, if you like bloat, more power to you.

People wonder how I manage to find enough safe food to eat. The fact of gluten being in nearly everything at the supermarket is born purely of industry, not human dietary needs or even availability. Wheat is often used as a filler ingredient or a binding agent. Do you want to eat binding agents? Do binding agents sound like they would aid good digestion?

Whether gluten-free is a choice or a requirement, there are now plenty of options, pretty much wherever you go here. It’s smart to be careful, ask questions, and make sure you are truly getting the gluten-free goods.

I just stick with the basics, fruits, vegetables, meats. I cook nearly all my own meals. If I find myself at a restaurant that doesn’t seem like they get that gluten-free is not a choice, I just order vegetables. Oh wait, I do that anyway. Going gluten-free is not nearly as hard as it sounds. All it takes is making a firm commitment to your health, and that’s about as easy as it gets.

Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.


Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.

Thank you! This is going to feel good.

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