Is the gluten-free lifestyle becoming a little cultish? There is a subset of the population with celiac disease for whom this is a very serious matter — and they should stop reading this — but for the rest of us all I can say is come on, man. How many people really even know what gluten is? I’ll be honest, when I first heard someone mention it, I thought gluten was a goalie for the Vancouver Canucks. The truth is, for most of us gluten is like the equator, the pink cloud in the swimming pool or the schwa, it exists because someone we trust once told us it exists.
It all started innocently enough. Recall how the early disciples were modest when claiming the benefits of gluten-free living. Weight loss. Better digestion. Less acid-reflux. Consistent energy levels throughout the day. But then it became an international phenomenon and to sustain the growth rates, the claims of the faithful, like the Salem witching accusations, became more hysterical. Since going gluten-free, I can time the stock market. I listen, rather than wait to talk. I look great in my jeans. I don’t look great in my jeans, but I’m fine with that. I see the way forward in the Middle East.
Seriously? It’s a protein composite that we didn’t even know we were eating until we were told what great people we were for not eating it. Could the avoidance of one viscid substance really be responsible for so much? You can answer however you want. As for me, it’s like asking whether Kermit the Frog could be the lead singer of Canned Heat: possible, but not likely.
The problem is the more you resist, the more the Glutenistas want you within their ranks. It’s all very flattering and, when your guard is down, tempting to think I too can have these life-enhancing powers if only I forsake gluten. I mean, who wouldn’t want heat vision? But you must resist their wiles.
Even if you resist the first wave, your trial isn’t over. Instead you should expect more experienced recruiters to make a run at you. From their silver tongues you’ll hear some version of the “caveman” argument. You know, cavemen had a very simple diet their whole lives, totally unprocessed and close to the earth, and so should you. Let’s break that down. First, what did cavemen live to, like, eighteen? It’s not as if they passed up Cinnabon every day on their way to and from the rock quarry or the fire pit. I’m just saying that if Early Man had been introduced to Earlier Honey-Glazed Bear Claw, Big Leaf Soup might not have remained a staple for so long.
In short, the gluten boosters will paint a pretty picture of all the good dietary choices our paleo ancestors made. When they do just nod politely and remember one thing: cavemen didn’t eat gluten for the same reason they didn’t drive Trans Ams or listen to Gordon Lightfoot.
But how did we get here in the first place? Sure, there had to be demand, but somebody also had to supply the merchandise. And gluten-free product is everywhere, so whoever is behind it has real power. That means one of two things is afoot. Most likely chieftains at the global snack conglomerates have found sweet, sweet margin in these markets. Good for them. I can imagine a presentation in some stately boardroom:
Junior Brand Manager: Our studies indicate that we can charge more — much, much more — if we simply remove the gluten.
Senior Executive: Wasn’t it twenty years ago that we charged a premium to add the stuff?
Junior Brand Manager: I don’t know. I was born in 1992. I just know that less gluten means more margin.
Senior Executive: Less is more. I like that.
Junior Brand Manager: Plus marketing says we should get a nice pop from labeling as gluten-free products that have always been gluten-free. It’s found money.
Senior Executive: What’s your name again, kid?
Junior Brand Manager: Abernathy, sir.
Senior Executive: You’re gonna go far here, Abercrombie.
But this is bigger than Big Gluten, so that leaves only Big Government. Maybe it’s the work of the scientific intel boys at Langley. Ever since those botched LSD mind control experiments in the 1950s, they’ve been trying to get out of the doghouse. But cui bono – who benefits? With mind control, I can see where the game was worth the candle, but what does the CIA gain by influencing macro-digestion patterns? Perhaps the Illuminati and the Council on Foreign Relations are involved in some global commodities short?
You know what? This is crazy talk. Truth is I haven’t been sleeping well. I suppose it’s possible that avoiding gluten in your diet is a good … wait just a minute … two black Chevy Suburbans just pulled into my driveway. What do they want from me at this late hour? And why are they all wearing sunglasses…