Free the Glutens!


Note: This article was begun nearly two months ago as I was en route to China. I will recount my exploits and attempt to explain my temporary absence from the Blogosphere in my next post.

Pop Quiz!

Glutens are:
A. an up-and-coming punk rock accordion band.
B. the oppressed citizens of Glutonia.
C. a protein composite in foods processed from wheat and other grains.
D. all of the above.
E. none of the above.

Easy, huh? Everybody knows Glutonia became an independent state following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Duh.

This week I’m in Portland. The one on the Left Coast. I am mooching off my offspring while I wait for my return flight to China. I feel I have a right to do this because (A.) I am their father and (B.) I am a Portlander by birth.

Portlanders are, uh, a quirky people. As my future son-in-law says, “Portlanders are like a bunch of kindergarteners whose mother allowed them to pick out their own wardrobes for the day.” You can take the Portlander out of Portland, but you can’t take the Portland out of the Portlander. I wear my Portlanderishness proudly wherever I wander.

On this particular trip I’ve managed to pick up two new food buzz phrases: agave syrup and gluten-free baking. I was already familiar with agave for different reasons. If you don’t know already, it’s a vital ingredient in the production of Tequila. Which is a vital ingredient in the production of many Country and Western ballads, both in the writing and the singing thereof.

Agave syrup, or nectar is sweeter than honey (I feel a song coming on) and a popular alternative to sugar or honey, especially in Vegan diets. It’s not as thick as honey and will dissolve easily in cold beverages such as iced tea.

The nutrition label on a popular brand of agave nectar indicates 60 calories in a serving size of 21 grams. It also indicates 5 per cent of the daily value of carbohydrates and 4 per cent of dietary fiber based on a 2000 calorie diet. Thank you, Mr. Science.

In the evolution of our civilization (such as it is) a key turning point was when some guy (or girl) realized plants come from seeds. Which meant that he or she could finally settle down and stop his or her wandering ways.

Development of agriculture led to the science of plant breeding and domestication and refinement of cereal grains. As with any advancement, there is a down side. Celiac disease is one example. Celiac disease is the result of an intolerance to gluten present in grains such as wheat and barley. It is estimated that as many as 1 out of every 22 people is a potential celiac sufferer.

Here are a couple of links to Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coeliac_disease

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluten

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2 thoughts on “Free the Glutens!

  1. You didn’t really say why you bring up the topic of gluten-free baking. If you aren’t one with Celiac disease ( I don’t see it as a disease, since it’s an auto immune disorder and I only feel diseased if I accidentally eat some gluten). Anyway, if it’s just an interest and not a necessity for you to take interest in gluten-free matters, I applaud you. Until people stop looking at gluten-free foods as that weird stuff eaten by people who can’t eat gluten, it’s going to remain difficult to eat and shop.
    Starbucks put a lot of time and investment into developing ONE gluten-free item on their menu and then totally failed to promote it as an item anyone could find delicious. Many of their stores refused to carry the new muffin, based on the belief that 1 in 22 people wasn’t enough of a demographic to bother and those that did stock it, did nothing to promote the item to anyone. All that investment and development down the drain, because of a lack of creativity about how to use and promote their new product to everyone. The gluten-free muffin died a quiet death in a matter of months, never being featured or promoted as far as I could tell. I think I was the only person who ever ordered one.

    To my surprise, gluten-free baked goods, when done right, are as tasty and often tastier than the ordinary wheat goods. You can make delicious yeast breads with rice and other flours. The dough is sticky and gooey and you don’t have to knead it, but the results, with the right recipe are every bit as wonderful as a loaf of wheat fresh from the oven. Most of the favorite recipes we have from childhood can be converted into gluten-free versions.

    • Thanks for your comments! I wrote about gluten-free baking for two reasons. One, I suspect I am a bit intolerant of gluten myself. I always feel much more comfortable when I have rice with my meal. Since I am in China right now that is easy to do. And two, at the time I wrote the post my daughter the baker had a second job at a gluten free bakery in Portland. Think she has quit since then as working two baking jobs was exhausting! Regards, Ron

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