With Apologies to Everyone Who Has Ever Bought Me a Gluten-Free Banana Muffin

Before you roll your eyes, I am the Real Deal, diagnosed with celiac in 1967 when I was two, not one of those bandwagon types trying to avoid “inflammation” read: *cough* weight gain *cough*.
Publish date:
March 29, 2012
food, gluten, politeness, celiac's disease

Dear People Who Are Annoyed By How Much Gluten-Free Stuff There Is Out There Now,

You probably wouldn’t expect a certified glutard like me to take your side on this. You probably imagine that my kind think we’ve won in some sort of quest to banish all traces of gluten, your much beloved chewy, stretchy protein, from the face of the earth.

That I, and the other eighteen million Americans with gluten-intolerance, are celebrating your loss with a secret quinoa-crust-soy-cheese pizza party in the cafeteria at Whole Foods. But I’m here to tell you that the whole gluten-free thing becoming like the next oat bran is actually a seriously mixed blessing.

I probably have no business complaining about all the stuff I now get to eat -- breads, pastries, baked goods, pastas, pierogies, for god’s sake. I swear, some of them are really good (at least by my compromised standards), and I am only too thrilled that the edible ones exist.

But there’s also a lot of bad really gluten-free stuff out there -- most of it, actually. And really nice people now eagerly bombard me with that shit, which makes me feel obligated to eat it. There have been entirely too many painfully awkward moments as a result of this, as I’m sure you, haters of gluten-free food, can imagine.

Thanks to this new bounty, friends and family now constantly present me with more gluten-free food (mostly bad) than I know what to do with -- certainly more than I might want to eat in a single visit to someone’s house. They stock up ahead of my visits to their homes, or theirs to mine. On any given trip to my mother’s apartment on Long Island, even if I will be there for less than 24 hours, I can be sure she’ll have a new loaf of special bread (the mealy, rice-y brand I don’t like -- sorry, Mom), two kinds of cookies (never the good ones -- sorry, sorry), rice crackers, and a new sleeve of rice cakes.

At pretty much hourly intervals over the course of my stay, my mother will eagerly offer me any and all of these. Sure, moms will do that. But she’s hardly the only one. For instance, when a new friend had me for dinner, she got me bread, crackers, pasta…and a banana muffin for dessert.

When they proudly present me with these treats they’ve gone out of their way for, the people who love me seem to want me to eat those things -- all of them -- right before their eyes. A strange, desperate look comes over their faces, which seems to say, “Please like what I got for you?”

Their intentions are good. They know how many years I’ve been stuck eating poor cardboard facsimiles of the crusty breadstuffs and fluffy desserts they so enjoy. They desperately want to be assured they’ve made me happy, and for me to demonstrate that I know how much they care. In each case, I’m touched.

But even if the 25 things you got me fall into the narrow category of reasonably edible gluten-free food, I am just not that hungry. What’s more, if you give me a banana muffin, banana bread, banana cream pie in a gluten-free crust you made from scratch after taking a gluten-free baking course for the express purpose of being able to make things for me? I am sorry, but I will not eat it. Not one bite.

I’m sorry, but bananas are gross. I hate everything about them -- the flavor, the texture, the smell. It seriously sucks for me that many gluten-free bakers tend to incorporate them because they lend moisture and softness to flours that can otherwise yield dry, brittle baked goods. I cannot enumerate for you the banana-based treats that have been foisted upon me -- except to say that it is exactly the same number which I have either “accidentally” left behind or taken home only to toss in the garbage.

That’s right. Not only do I have Special Dietary Needs (and before you roll your eyes, I am the Real Deal, diagnosed with celiac in 1967 when I was two, not one of those bandwagon types trying to avoid “inflammation” read: *cough* weight gain *cough*); I have the nerve to be a picky eater, too.

Anyone who knows me well also knows not to come anywhere near me with an egg white (with that rubbery texture, how is that edible?) or a glass of milk (smells like a wet dog) either. I also happen to be choosy about brands -- as, I would like to point out, anyone without food allergies might similarly be about what they eat.

There’s tremendous variability among them, and even within them. For example, one flavor of one company’s cookies is so impossibly good, I try to hide them from myself so I don’t eat the entire bag in one sitting. Another flavor is utterly inedible, with that chalky, manufactured health food taste, as if they’d used a flour made from chopped up multi vitamin pills. (These are invariably the ones that people get me.)

If I’m having a hard time eating so much of this crap, I can only imagine it’s exponentially worse for those of you who don’t need to eat this way. I see the looks on your faces when presented with rice- and chick pea- based cupcakes at our birthday parties -- especially the vegan ones. Just so you know? I hate the vegan ones, too.

So, I feel you, enemies of the gluten-free revolution. And I promise that at my next birthday party, alongside my pretend pizza and cupcakes, I will have some of the real stuff for you.


A Certified Glutard