Gluten free life: curse or opportunity

Checking for gluten free ingredients

There is no greater misunderstanding in the food industry than the one bestowed upon feeding the food intolerant or allergic, especially when the allergen is gluten, wheat or lactose. Just check a typical list of ingredients in ready-made meals, in fast food, in snacks. The less money you have, the worse it gets, it seems, as the amounts of ingredients unrelated to the finished product pile up to help lower the overall cost and create a familiar or addictive taste. People fighting to reduce the sugar intake in their lives will go through something similar.

Indeed with gluten, it is more likely that in the preparation kitchens, the factories, even in the cultivation, there has been some contamination. This is what food regulations work to uncover when they require ingredients and likely allergens to be specified. Food components suddenly reveal “traces” of otherwise unlikely ingredients, naturally gluten-free foods such as oats must clarify whether they are actually gluten-free, i.e. farmed in areas not contaminated by gluten,  and so on.

Save here, pay elsewhere

The eyes open to a more transparent food industry and a better understanding of our bodies’ reactions. They are not being whimsical, they are reacting to the abnormalities in food industry: the lack of biodiversity, the corruption of meals for the sake of profit-making disguised as keeping costs low. Increasingly, the mind realises that the cost saved financially is paid with our health.

In that regard, it becomes apparent that allergies are just symptoms of deeper alimentation issues. The quality of food which used to be defined by its variety, its biodiversity, its unadulteration, its untempering, the absence of filler, the ability to give the body great nutrients for its strength and health has now been confused with the ability to give the tongue a standard comforting “taste”, the ingredients a competitive costs, our purses à seemingly lower burden, whatever the health costs. It seems that the adage “it (in this case health) is someone else’s problem” applies and while the regulations do not catch-up with the broken system, why fix it? But I’m getting off topic.

Gluten substitutes

Just like the lactose and/or dairy intolerant, the vegetarian then the vegan more or less before, one of the first reflexes of the gluten intolerant or allergic is to recreate all their favourite gluten full foods. And how else can one react to being suddenly deprived of the main ingredient of the world’s staple food? This mainly means using gluten free flour, for the daily bread, the sustaining pasta, the otherwise faster food favourite pizza, the luxuriously golden crispy of breadcrumbs,the festive pancake, the more festive cake…

I always wondered why we could not find any organic gluten free flour mix. I also wondered if what happened to soya would occur with this substitute flour: in a bid to respond to a demand long recognised but not deemed important until it was profitable, production started cutting corners. The rhetorical question arose: Who pays when regulations enforce the need to add health related specifications, in this case, only allergens? Does it really take major actual negative consequences for us to consider the possible consequences of our otherwise financially profitable actions? Is there a point where regulations compliance and profit-making are smartly embedded in product and service design alongside ethics with the deep understanding of long-term costs cut to business and individual health? Are our businesses so survival oriented that even their long term is a short vision? But I digress.

Naturally gluten free

It is an anchored belief within me that all is a matter of perspective. There is no denying the pain endured when one is weaned or altogether deprived from the à whole set of gustatory adventures. However, in trying to recreate the wheat and gluten experiences, in sucombing to the reflex engendered by withdrawal, we can easily miss out on the opportunity to rediscover the world of alimentation out there that is naturally gluten free.

From reexploring the other crops to finding out about meals originally made from other flours, the mind, tongue, stomach and heart are taken into new domains or even just given a new vision of things already known.

Suddenly, the knowledge of gram flour and the Indian culinary science reintroduces the likes of popodums, the best shortbreads find their way back to rice flour, buckwheat aka sarrasin flour reminds us of pancakes, almond flour redefines cakes and its ingredients, corn flour gives us back that…

Conclusion

We live in a world saturated with data and information to such a point of survival that we require a major physical alarm to address. The signs are there, our minds knows but prioritisation in survival mode demand near death situations to respond. This is what happens with allergies, and with a number of such symptoms. It is a shame that society can become so busy as to confuse such symptoms with distracting exceptions rather than to recognise the alarm bells being rung for an alimentary industry that needs to feed its individual beyond survival and appearance taste and stomach-filling check boxes. We recognise that importance when we feed babies, why do we stop caring the older the individual gets?