Saucers of Mud

November 21, 2009

Free Gluten! (and not vice versa)

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 3:23 pm

Some points for food co-ops, organicish supermarkets, Vegetarian Timeses, and post-hippie eaters everywhere:

Wheat gluten is not a form of meat.

Wheat gluten is not in fact an animal product of any sort.

As far as I know, there are no specific ethical issues concerning the production of wheat. Wheat stalks are not raised under especially cruel conditions.

Some people, I guess, have medical problems that make them sensitive to gluten. Most people do not. The allergy-of-the-month club doesn’t count.

Wheat has been a staple of the human diet since, like, forever. You know why the Fertile Crescent is called the Fertile Crescent? Because wheat grew there. [UPDATE: Which is not to disparage the many cultures whose main grain is rice. Do you know what is not a prominent feature of the cuisine of those cultures? Muffins.]

There are many nice baked goods that you can make without gluten, such as corn muffins, corn bread, and corn dodgers. Flourless chocolate cake can also be tasty. Cookies made of ground tapioca and potato flour are nasty. Maybe if you’re avoiding gluten, you shouldn’t try to make cookies? Those aren’t real cookies. In my experience, people who are allergic to peanut butter don’t smash up chickpeas and rubber cement in an effort to get something with a similar color and texture and then put it on their sandwiches with jelly. Or if they do, I haven’t noticed, because the peanut butter shelves at the supermarket still contain actual peanut butter, not peanut-free chickpea-cement butter.

OK, I don’t actually buy peanut butter off the shelf; there’s a machine at the store that grinds up the peanuts right there, extruding the peanut butter in a form that looks like the poop of a not very healthy person, and that’s what I get. Same principle.

What I’m trying to say is, there is no reason for any store to have a shelf full of scone and muffin mixes EVERY SINGLE ONE OF WHICH IS GLUTEN-FREE. Scones and muffins are made with wheat! That’s what they are! There should be at least one available mix for someone who wants to make an actual scone, not some gravel-chalk dust concoction that’s supposed to help you grind up the rest of your food in your gizzard.

I’m a tolerant man, even if I may actually have gone on a similar rant right there in the store the other day. I understand the plight of the small minority of the population that has Celiac Sprue and may want to have some sort of facsimile of a baked good available to console themselves for the tasty dishes they can’t have, and I’m quite all right with a store selling a couple of things for that market. But why oh why can’t you sell the real thing next to it? It’s not like anyone’s going to get sick from being near a bag of gluten-containing product. Is it possible that the only people who actually want to bake anything are the very people who can’t actually eat gluten, and so there is no demand for actual muffin mix? It doesn’t seem likely. For instance, I wanted to make scones, and, as you may have gathered, I prefer my scones with gluten in them.

I would like to announce the formation of the GRO, the Gluten Rights Organization. We will work for gluten awareness, picketing stores to ensure that for every gluten-free baking-related product on the shelf there is a corresponding product that’s, you know, normal. Also, our website,, will have a palindromic URL, and that’s pretty cool.

[NOTE: The last paragraph is full of lies; I have no intention of doing anything about this other than ranting about it on my blog, and looks like it’s already squatted.]



  1. Amen, amen, a hundred times amen.

    Also, I totally lolled.

    Comment by Standpipe Bridgeplate — November 21, 2009 @ 6:20 pm

  2. I didn’t even mention that Celiac Sprue sufferers need to find a syndrome that doesn’t sound so much like a band/fake cult from Texas.

    Comment by matt w — November 21, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

  3. SB stole my comment — thanks for the LOLs!

    Comment by dagger aleph — November 22, 2009 @ 6:09 pm

  4. Do you know what is not a prominent feature of the cuisine of those cultures? Muffins.

    However, where they do have a bit of a wheat culture, like in northern China, they go with various types of bao. I don’t think I’ve ever had gluten-free bao, and now I’m afraid to find out what it would taste like.

    Comment by andrew — November 22, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

  5. ROTFL. Now, under this entry I was offered “possibly related posts (automatically generated)” and they were
    *Do you fear a cat?
    *Impostor Syndrome

    What produced these? A wacka-wacka algorithm, or secret messages by Masonic hackers?

    Comment by Matt's mom — November 22, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

  6. But making scones with gluten in them is not difficult enough to require a mix*, whereas the gluten-free variety often requires an arcane blend of tapioca flour, rice flour, and potato flour to even get off the ground. The hippie/co-op/organix supermarkets that offer gluten-free goods are often the only place where Celiac sufferers and the gluten-allergic can buy food at all, so it is not surprising that they would stock a wide range of products.

    I’m pretty sure nobody abstains from gluten by choice. After all, most gluten-free products are, as you say, inferior shadows of wheatful delicacies. So are you honestly going to begrudge these poor souls the ability to create some facsimile of the foods that you get to eat as often as you like? If they want to eat a muffin, they pretty much have to make it themselves, and it’ll be a lot more difficult for them to do so without a mix.

    (Also, corn muffins and corn bread still usually contain wheat flour.)

    Whisk together 2 c flour, 1 tbs baking powder, 3 tbs sugar, and 1/2 ts salt. Cut in 5 tbs cold unsalted butter. Stir in 1 c heavy cream, knead for 5 seconds, cut into wedges, bake 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m not sure how a mix would have made that easier, unless it somehow contained the dairy ingredients as well, which means it would probably be in the refrigerator section, not near the other baking mixes.

    Comment by Anon — December 6, 2009 @ 11:43 pm

  7. Whisk together…

    I grant you that gluten-free whatevers need a mix, but you’re seriously overestimating how much effort I want to put in to making scones for breakfast, which I remind you takes place in the morning. I don’t remember exactly how the scone mixes I’ve used worked, but they were easier than that (and not in the refrigerated sections).

    If they want to eat a muffin, they pretty much have to make it themselves

    Not actually the case in the supermarkets I’m shopping at — the muffin shelves will typically have consist of the gluten-free muffin of the day, the vegan muffin of the day, the I can’t even remember what kind of abomination it is muffin of the day (fat free?), and the normal muffin of the day, which is often something like Morning Glory which I found out too late translated into Poop Production. And these markets also have gluten-free cookies and other things that most people get in packages, often overwhelming the gluten-rich products. Like, you can get these gluten-free bourbon cream biscuits (or something like that) in Vermont, but you can’t get actual bourbon cream cookies. Which is a shame, because actual bourbon cream cookies are tasty, and the gluten-free ones are shit.

    I should also mention that the food co-op store I’m talking about is the only supermarket in this half of my city.

    I’m pretty sure nobody abstains from gluten by choice.

    Some people have celiac sprue. I’ve also known some people who abstain from gluten basically out of hypochondria, or for silly new age reasons. Anyway, I don’t begrudge these poor souls the ability to eat a poor facsimile of decent food, though I do think they might be better off making gluten-free things that are actually tolerable. I’m annoyed that there’s nothing else available. Celiac isn’t widespread enough to drive every other product off the shelves.

    Comment by matt w — December 7, 2009 @ 12:11 am

  8. My mom (a pretty damn good baker) was diagnosed celiac before it got super-popular, and would drive an hour to stock up on one of the – well, I don’t actually know how many, but not a lot, right? – gluten-free baking mixes on the market, which made everything taste like fricking tongue depressors. These days she can make biscuits and shit that could pass as normal-people food with a little mascara, some wang-tucking, and enough butter, and I’m happy for her.

    It is puzzling and annoying that you can no longer find regular baking mix, though, and I sympathize. Maybe you could move somewhere with a Wal-Mart. I hear they make spray-on pancakes these days.

    Comment by Jenni — December 17, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

  9. Aw man, now I’ve insulted the mother of someone I like. Like I said, I don’t mean to begrudge celiac sufferers the ability to make at least quasi-decent stuff, but it’s weird that there’s nothing else available.

    Wal-Mart, though, that’s cold. (I’m pretty sure I just have to drive to one of the non-hippie supermarkets around me, but that does tend to be an extra trip.)

    Also, it’s hard to convey how traumatic those gluten-free bourbon creams were.

    Comment by matt w — December 17, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

  10. Some people think that autistic kids are adversely affected by gluten. (And casein.) I suspect that’s part of the market. I also suspect it isn’t true.

    Comment by Matt's mom — January 4, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

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