Anyone who has ever seen “The Pickle Story” episode of The Andy Griffith Show (first aired a week before Christmas, 1961) knows that there are prize-winning pickles, not-so-good pickles and the kind best surreptitiously shipped out of state before the kerosene brine does damage to local taste buds.
Pickles are a favorite snack here at the ranch, both daytime and midnight. So I was recently perusing the aisles of the market and finally noticed that even the most common brands of pickles label themselves "Gluten free."
Come on boys and girls, we're talking cucumbers here. Unless your neighborhood moonshiner is selling you Mason jars filled with cucumbers pickled in malt whiskey you are pretty damn safe from gluten poisoning.
Last summer while visiting Trinidad a coffee shop display of drinks offered the acknowledgement that their cider was gluten free. Living on a ranch where Macdonalds have picked, pressed, and mashed apples into fresh cider as well as canning seven quarts at a time for parts of three centuries left me totally unaware of the potential dangers of gluten in cider.
Yes, there's a tone of cynicism on display here. We live in a country where "trending" has become the way of life for too many. Reality show "stars" are constantly "trending" online for heaven's sake. Gluten free, or GF as those who are truly trendy would say, has become a victim of the double-edged sword of "trending" and the actual need for proper regulation of the foods we consume and the labeling of those foods on store shelves.
1% percent of Americans have celiac disease, a malady that requires a gluten free diet. Go into any restaurant, diner, or bakery in California and it is easy to imagine that every American with celiac disease has chosen to inhabit the West Coast. When I see "gluten free cider" advertised the cynic in me takes over. I glance around for the trendiest phony, but there can be gluten in cider if the cider makers go down the road of giving that cider an alcohol content. In the case of common sense butting heads with the need for product labeling regulations, we come face to face with a conundrum. If we are to protect the least of us, the slightly less than one percent of us who truly must stay away from gluten, we must honor the needs of the intolerant, the gluten intolerant.
It sounds funny; however, protective food labeling, down to 'this product may have waved at a peanut as delivery trucks were passing in the night,' may be a sign of a generally broader, more open, mindset throughout the land.
The genuine, real health concern known as celiac disease is no laughing matter. It is a genetic autoimmune disorder in which the human body reacts to gluten as if it were a poison. Gluten is a protein found in wheat (including spelt, Kamut khorasan, einkorn, and farro), barley, rye, and triticale (a wheat and rye hybrid). In celiac sufferers, gluten can do damage to the small intestine and interfere with the proper absorption of nutrients from other foods. Left untreated celiac disorders can lead to reduced bone density, infertility, neurological problems, some forms of cancer as well as other autoimmune diseases. Though the exact cause in the seeming rise of celiac disease cases is unknown, most theories center on changes in the way that wheat has been grown, processed, or methods of growing wheat at a faster rate in recent times.
As recently as a few years ago more than 80% of U.S. celiac sufferers were undiagnosed, but let me repeat: celiac disease, requiring a gluten free diet, still strikes only one in a hundred thirty-some people in this country. But here in the Land of the Libs and the Home of the Oh-So-Hip the cynic can't help but spot a few too many folks who have made GF a trend, a lifestyle choice based not on health requirements but ego gratification.
Best advice if you aren't truly a celiac sufferer: lay off the preservatives, go a tad lighter on the dairy, eat more fresh fruits and veggies, and for freaks sake, get the bleep off your butt and do something active. For ninety-some percent of folks a long walk in the woods will burn most of the gluten from your system, not to mention a pound or two, and just possibly an ounce of cynicism and/or pretension.