If you’re anything like me, you’re seeing gluten free sections pop up in grocery stores and ‘gf’ indicators on menus at your favorite restaurant. The elimination of gluten is the newest craze in our culinary world even though most don’t seem to know what being gluten-free means. A recent sketch on Jimmy Kimmel’s show featured gluten free eaters that couldn’t explain what gluten is.
I have been happily gluten free for about three years due to gluten sensitivity. I am constantly asked questions about what I hope will someday be common knowledge.
So what the heck is gluten? Gluten is a name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. It’s the food glue that makes baguettes so airy and keeps your cake from falling apart. Those who have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease need to avoid gluten as it damages the nutrient absorption powers of your small intestines every single time it’s ingested.
Avoiding bread and beer sadly isn’t enough. Due to the wonders of science, gluten can be extracted and used as a binding agent in food colorings, salad dressings, meat substitutes, makeup, play-dough, deodorant and much more. When I de-glutened my life, I had to get rid of my soy sauce, condiments, lunch meats, and all my body care supplies. Being fully gluten free is a lifestyle, not just a way to lose a few pounds.
This is the best time for a celiac to enjoy their old food favorites, but there is still a long way to go. Cross-contamination is a big issue for people with celiac and gluten sensitivities. A single crumb of bread or flour dust in the air of a kitchen can cause serious problems, and most kitchens aren’t aware of this. At restaurants, I must ask if gluten-free pizza crusts are cooked in the same baking trays as the gluten-full ones and double check that the french fries are made separately from the breaded onion rings. I hope that many restaurants will begin educating their staff on gluten and cross-contamination issues that can arise if they offer a gluten-free option. Many restaurants have disappointed me by offering a gluten-free option but having no knowledge of the necessary preparation procedures.
So where can a celiac or gluten-avoider eat in SLO? Novo and Luna Red have many gluten-free options labeled on their menu and wait staff are very knowledgeable about cross-contamination. New Frontiers will make wonderful sandwiches on gluten-free bread in their deli section. All of Petra’s sauces and dishes aside from their rice and pita are gluten free. Many other restaurants have options, but consume at your own risk if you truly have a sensitivity or celiac. Always ask your server or a manger for help.
Head to celiac.org or contact the Central Coast Celiacs for oodles of information.
Contributor Annie Bruington compiled this week’s Bites. Send food news to firstname.lastname@example.org.