Thursday, August 29, 2013

Will Miss #523 - no "gluten-free"

The irony is that a lot of food in Japan is naturally gluten-free due to the "rice culture".

One of my former coworkers asked me what I was doing during the March 11, 2011 earthquake and I told him that I was baking muffins. He said, "I bet you were," in a way which patronizingly said, 'you prairie muffin housewife, you'. When men become chefs of all sorts, they are masters who are perfecting a craft. When women do it at home, they're good little wifeys fulfilling their role and duty. I wanted to let him know how unintentionally condescending he was being, but I'm convinced that people who are lacking in self-awareness cannot have it forced upon them by others. I let it go.

Nonetheless, I do like to cook and bake, and it's not to make my husband happy. It's an exercise in creativity. In fact, some of my most satisfying endeavors are inedible to him with his particular tastes and purely created for me or others. It's one of the reasons that vegetarians are interesting to cook for when we have them to our home as guests. The restrictions that are placed on you force you to think outside the box. And, then, there are the gluten-free types...

Since coming back to the U.S., I've witnessed firsthand the gluten-free fad, and it is a fad. Yes, there are people who have celiac disease and are actually made sick by gluten, but there are also people who just see a bandwagon and are jumping on it. Gluten-free is the carb-free and low-carb of the 2010's. Before that, we had low-fat and fat-free. While I've actually found the challenges of baking gluten-free somewhat interesting, I find all of the labels on products that never had gluten pronouncing their absence of evil wheat protein ridiculous.

I am glad that I was spared this sort of happy nonsense in Japan, and I doubt that they'll ever adopt this particular fad. In fact, the main food fad related to diet that I saw in Japan was about reduced cholesterol products or those with collagen enhancement. I miss the fact that this sort of dietary restriction was rare there, and never in my experience quite so broad as things like gluten-free.


  1. I chuckle in the grocery store when I find so much 'crap/junk food' plastered with stickers that say gluten-free... as if that would make it healthy to eat. And the uneducated, mindless monkeys just consume it because gluten-free is "healthy".

    I remember when I was younger I had a room mate that was all about the fat-free stuff. Which to me tasted off, bring on the fat! I did some research and a lot of things that are fat free have other additives, like sugar, to help make the taste bearable. My favorite thing to watch was her drown a salad in fat-free Ranch and continue to complain she wasn't losing weight. Forget trying to explain to her that fat-free dressing was probably hindering not helping.

  2. I do not pander even to vegetarians who visit, and the one vegetarian friend who I'll go out with I will only eat South Indian: a vegetarian cuisine with enough tradition to have depth, and to wisely eschew meat substitution. If I were self-oriented enough to demand certain food restrictions from a host, I would insist the problem is my own and bring my own food: for a true food allergy, a fad, or kosher, halal, etc.

  3. I wonder what type of label the Asian import stores in the US put on packages of Japanese "Fu".

    If dried, it's basically 80% or more wheat gluten by weight.

  4. I know of only one person in my life who is gluten allergic. She suffered from forgetfulness and had really bad acne (it would be the size of quarters). Out of the hundred or so people I've met, befriended and gotten to know over my life, she's the only one. So there's definitely not the pervasive issue of celiac disease that some well known fad doctors and news organizations make it out to be. Yes, there's folks who are allergic to eggs and are lactose intolerant in my family but no gluten allergies.

    I do not know where fad diets come from, though I have a feeling that people in general who have negative self perception (of which there are many in our society) fall for these fads. This isn't a recent phenomenon either, check out this page:

    Tapeworm! Yeesh!

  5. While working on a Japanese food product I had a conversation with a food chemist at Kikkoman. I asked him about gluten free soy sauce and he kind of laughed saying that the fact is that when they brew soy sauce the effect is that it breaks down the amino acid chain thus rendering it naturally gluten free..but still they put out a "gluten free" version of their soy sauce!....

    Here in SF I was joking to a friend that I wanted to open a store called "Gluten Plus" in anticipation of the swing the other way....ha ha


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