Some 15 years plus, back in the days when catering for gluten-free choice was merely a desirable noun, I sat at my breakfast table in one of Lisbon’s finest hotels with freshly tossed gluten laden warm pancakes descending on my plate and my palate quicker than I could utter: yes, please.
At a table next to me sat a gentleman from America with what appeared to be a BYOB (bring your own breakfast) kit – a box of gluten-free cereal and a carton of non-dairy milk. The curiosity barometer rose. He explained he had no food allergies but that he felt more energised and alive without the gooey protein. I rolled my eyes and dismissed it (aloud) as yet another fad.
Ah, the insidiousness of arrogance . . .
Fast forward some 15 years plus and an apology would be in order to the same breakfast buddy neighbour. Every time I read articles/blogs with the same/similar contemptuous tone that came out of my larynx that morning in the Lisbon’s finest guest parlour, I cringe at the thought of the past time anti gluten-free gall and nescience.
Recently an article in the UK’s national press caught my eye and in particular, a barbed undertone in the claim that the majority of people who eliminate gluten from their diet don’t appear to have any medical reason for it.
Now hang on a moment. Since when have medical reasons become sole prerequisites for gluten avoidance?
Why do we need a medical condition in order to eliminate gluten? What is it about this particular food group that precipitates disregard for those who choose to go gluten-free solo, without doctor’s orders?
When someone at a dinner table declares that for whatever reason they don’t eat say tomatoes, should we politely ask for a doctor’s certificate?
Do we have to be diagnosed as potatoes or celery, pumpkin or pork, tomato or toast, peas or prosciutto intolerant to know that any of these foods (or any other for that matter) may not be what warms up our belly when our belly might be bellowing so?
Where does this need for a medical certificate to precede one’s choice for their dinner menu come from?
Ironically, the truth is that even when these days we are presented with medical evidence of the harmful effects of certain foods (be that gluten, sugar, dairy etc.) by an emerging number of physicians such as Dr Amy Myers, Dr David Perlmutter, Professor Alessio Fasano, Dr Mark Hyman, Dr Gary Fettke and others . . . the cynicism remains insatiate and the scathing continues.
Why is such a simple choice to not eat certain foods that needs no laboratory, (merely a body) yet to a great extent affect how we feel, our energy level, even our sleep and our thought processes, made to be something people feel they have to carry doctor’s orders with them to be shown exculpation for not eating them?
So where does this need for ridicule come from? Are gluten lovers somehow feeling threatened? What is it that presses people’s buttons about another person’s choice? Like when someone stops drinking alcohol and others are gently (or not so) nudging: “Oh come on, just one glass!” Or when someone chooses to eat a vegetarian diet, suddenly catering for them makes lamb a vegetable (seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding?)
We often hear people speak of tolerance, acceptance of people’s beliefs, embracing all religions, colours and creeds and yet we seem unwilling to simply honour another person’s food choice.
After all it is not like the gluten free crowd walks around knocking on people’s doors saying:
- "Gluten shalt be removed from all your celebration parties" OR
- "You cannot donate blood because you are infected by gluten" OR
- "Your right to vote shalt be removed unless you are gluten-free"
Picking on the gluten-free choice is as much fun as calling a red-haired person a ranga or an individual who wears glasses a specky-four-eyes.
Life is about choices. We make choices that we consider best work for ourselves. Whether they do or don’t, our greatest ally, time, does and will tell. Making fun of someone’s food choice and in particular, when it is the right choice for them, is not supportive. It is not loving. And it is not journalism that offers educated choices.
When Jonathan Cooke, a former television film editor, producer and cameraman goes against the grain, he speaks ever so eloquently from his personal experience:"The growing realisation in later life that what one has been feeding oneself to date is – to put it mildly – not in one’s best interest, feels as heavy as a gutful of freshly baked croissants."
He reminds us that the word Gluten comes from Latin meaning GLUE, and gently adds: “Perhaps this explains the oft-quoted advice of, 'Choose a diet and stick to it!'
What if many people are not fully aware and are yet to learn how certain foods affect them until such time that they remove them from their diet and give their body an opportunity to feed back?
To Gluten or to Gluten-Free is a question best left for each gut and heart to discern. This is every body’s choice and most certainly need not be a medically prescribed pick.