I lost my patience for the gluten-free trend in a bar. I was with my dad. He ordered a martini. As usual, he asked for vodka rather than gin -- a trespass of good taste that I accept only because he's allergic to juniper. But this time, he asked specifically for vodka distilled from potatoes, rather than wheat. He explained that he was trying to go gluten-free. And he didn't even blink when I pointed out that distilled spirits contain virtually no gluten, regardless of their source -- unlike the rolls in the bread basket he'd heartily enjoyed moments earlier.
My dad's dietary preferences may be on the idiosyncratic side, but he's far from alone in his gluten-free aspirations. According to a recent survey, about a third of Americans are trying to go gluten-free. We spend billions of dollars a year on foods that are specifically marketed as "gluten-free." And gluten-phobic diet books like "Wheat Belly" and "Grain Brain" have been working their way up the bestseller lists for years now.
Now, I have nothing but reverence and respect for the approximately 3 million Americans with Celiac disease, for whom avoiding gluten is a matter of life and death. And I buy the idea that a few million others suffer from a less severe, but still real, form of gluten sensitivity. So I'm glad that the market has made more gluten-free foods available to them.
I just don't buy the idea that gluten makes one third of Americans sick. No way. Humans have been eating gluten for millenia. I'm sure some people lose weight after giving up gluten -- but because they're consuming fewer 900-calorie plates of pasta and more salads, not because there's something specifically fattening about gluten. So in my book, the "gluten-free diet" is just a spelt-friendly imitation of Atkins, without the ketosis.
I've heard people say, nebulously, that going gluten-free makes them "feel better" -- but at a gigantic cost. It would entail forsaking a huge swath of the most delicious foods known to man! That would certainly make me feel worse. So here are 27 crucially important reasons I would never go gluten-free. (Unless a reputable doctor told me to, for a legitimate reason. But it would be hard. Very hard.)