Saturday, July 14, 2012

To Gluten Or Not To Gluten

Back in the 80s, I bought and read a book entitled "How To Make All The Meat You Eat Out Of Wheat" by Nina and Michael Shandler. I never actually tried making gluten burgers according to the directions in the book, but a small food court restaurant at which I worked in Cambridge, MA offered such burger patties in its pita bread sandwiches (in addition to excellent New York Style cheesecake).

Just as I suspected they would (on the basis of the book's descriptions), their gluten burger patties tasted very meat-like (and NOT grainy, unlike the vegetarian burgers sold in local natural foods grocery stores, although those were OK in their own way). I'd have preferred to heat them up and melt cheddar cheese on top, and add lettuce, tomatoes and BBQ sauce, but that wasn't how Baby Watson's served them. And although one could buy tofu and tempeh at a local natural foods grocery store, I don't recall that they offered gluten burger patties.

The weird thing was that the entire book of recipes was reliant on wheat gluten. So I was puzzled when it later became fashionable to preface the names of many dishes by describing them as "gluten free", as if gluten was evil or at the very least unhealthy. How was it that people referred to gluten in very negative ways, if gluten was also capable of partially or completely replacing meat in a person's diet?

As I had suspected must be the case, it turned out that some people had allergies to gluten, and it was apparently a significant number of people; therefore, it made sense to cater to such people, just as it would make sense to advertise that particular dishes were "peanut free" (again, allergies) even though peanut butter had been a basic substence food for many people.

So, OK, if you have an allergy to gluten, then stay away from the recipes in the aforementioned book. But if you're a vegetarian (or just a normal meat eater like myself who

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