Monday, June 6, 2011


A friend handed me the Style section of this Sunday's New York Times. Smack, in color, in front of me, was the article "Looking for a Plan B? Make it Gluten-free". I wanted to like it... well I wanted to not hate it. What started as a medium irritation festered into a full-on yelling-at-the-newsprint swearing event. I was waving the paper back and forth, yelling quotes aloud, the full nine yards.

It began with:
Who even heard of gluten (or the lack thereof) a decade ago? The estimated 1.3 percent of the population who had celiac disease, which is basically an inability to digest gluten, did, but the general public awareness was minimal.

I realize it is the Style section, but that is no excuse. 

Celiac disease is NOT "basically an inability to digest gluten" it is an autoimmune disease. There is a big fucking difference.

Then there is Ms. Gillette, who allowed food-allergic FIVE-YEAR-OLDS to cook with items they are allergic to:
She found a startling number of them could not eat the treats they made because of allergies; the most common allergy was to gluten. “There’s nothing like seeing a five-year-old make a chocolate chip cookie and she can’t dive into it,” Ms. Gillette said. “It kind of broke my heart. I told myself I’m going to have to teach myself how to be a gluten-free chef.”"

Who the hell would ever EVER allow children to touch, never mind cook with ingredients that could make them violently ill? Even if the kids do not eat the final product or ingredients, there is a good chance they are going to get it on their clothing, hands, face and increase the risk that they could ingest some. This sounds like the most irresponsible educator ever.

Oh then there is this gem by Edie:
“I’d tasted a lot of gluten-free bread and thought, ‘Wow, this stuff is terrible,’ ” she said. “I thought I could do better and thought because I didn’t need to eat gluten-free, I could hold it to a higher standard.” 

Who the fuck do you think you are? Just because you have the luxury of not having to eat gluten free, you have a superior palate? Whether intention by the author or not, this made dear Edie sound like an asshat. First of all, taste is cultural and personal - so what is "good" is relative. Secondly, gluten-free substitute foods, like bread, have been around for decades and the demand for "better" has pushed many before Ms. Irwin to be creative in the kitchen and in professional bakeries alike.

There is also an undertone throughout the article that gluten-free bakeries are the "plan b" option for those looking for a life/career change and want to cash-in on a money-making trend. The last couple profiled are the Kings, who warn that:

“Anyone who thinks they’re going to start a food company as we did, with no money, better be passionate about it,” he said. “If you’re in it for the money, good luck to you.” 

While perhaps helpful advice to anyone thinking about starting any business venture, the article ignores that this possible "plan b", is cashing in on misfortune.
“There was a certain satisfaction in putting up a 10-story building,” Mr. King says of his old profession. “But it can’t be matched when someone thanks you for something you’ve given them that they haven’t been able to have.” 

No discussion about who gets to eat at these new bakeries, nor how much their gluten-free alternatives to gluten-filled standards cost. Us, dear readers, are also left wondering if these businesses are financially sound, never mind successful... though a fluffy write-up in the Times usually isn't bad for business. 


  1. Send a copy of this to the Times. -Beth

  2. Done and done. Though its too long and full of swears, thus it won't be published. Catharsis is sometimes worth it.

  3. Style section:

  4. “I didn’t want to do muffins that tasted like beans,” she said.

  5. Thanks for the post. As a mother to a toddler with Celiac Disease I've already grown tired of the nonchalant and dismissive attitude that many people display with regards to the absolute necessity for my son to eat gluten free. They don't seem to understand how critically ill gluten made him.

    Great perspective.

  6. Its a shame the NYT didn't post any of the letters to the editor. Hopefully people will keep spreading the real information about what is and isn't safe - and appropriate.

    It must be hard to be an advocate for your son in the middle of such blatant inaccuracies, but way to be an awesome mom.