stop the (wheat-free) insanity. Please. Now. For reals.

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There’s a lot to worry about in this old world of ours. Presidents without guts, race-to-the-bottom capitalism, technological advances rapidly overwriting our essential humanness, that the secretaries on Mad Men use typewriters that weren’t actually invented when the series is set—you know. Stuff.

If you’re vegan and/or some sort of health conscious eater (please note I am in no way saying the two go hand in hand), the following three concerns probably pass through your mind once in a while, and I really want to make it my mission that you do not concern yourself with them. Set your mind to worrying about something, anything, other than:

1) Wondering if you should stop eating wheat. My god, ENOUGH. I have no nutrition credentials apart from a few basic nutrition classes at my cooking school, but that’s not going to stop me from taking a stern, authoritative tone, because this is seriously out of control and is making me nuts (another thing you have no reason, apart from life-threatening allergy, to avoid): unless you have been diagnosed (and I’m not saying you can’t self-diagnose, but “self-diagnose” means “to do a lot of research and tests on yourself” not “I read this one article that said wheat is evil and thus I will heap guilt on myself for enjoying pasta for the rest of my life.”) with a wheat allergy or intolerance (and also? There is a difference, people, and when you’re running around saying you’re “allergic” to wheat and therefore can have only a bite of a cookie, you’re sort of really putting the lives of people who truly are allergic to wheat at risk by downplaying how serious it is.), and unless you have some freaky illness like candida where avoiding wheat for a period of time can be beneficial, there is no earthly reason why you should avoid this most delicious of grains. I mean, JESUS.

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Speaking of the devil, my no-knead bread has been coming out AMAZING lately (though my 3 AM photo-taking skills still could use a little help). Peep this chocolate bread, yo! All marbled and swirly and roasty toasty. I added a half cup of sugar and handful of chopped choco to the dough before the second rise. (For the recipe, click that link in the top line).

It seems to me that wheat- and gluten-free products are increasingly combining with vegan products in some hellish one-size-fits-all approach to recipe development and marketing that is kiiiiiling me. Here’s the thing: being vegan is a POLITICAL choice. I know some people are vegan for their health, but us awesome vegans know it’s a political choice first and foremost. There is only one reason not to eat wheat: because you will die or get massively sick if you do. I really really really really resent that now when I go buy a POLITICAL vegan cookie it’s suddenly made with fucking oat flour or something just because some nutjob thinks that marketing a vegan cookie as “wheat-free!!” will sell twice as many. It implies that vegans are idiots who hop onto any trend, and that veganism is yet another marketing-driven faux trend.

That said, my heart of course goes out to those poor peeps who have true wheat intolerances and allergies and illnesses like candida, and I am happy that good companies can help them out with a cookie now and then. That’s peachy. However, the percentage of these people is so infinitesimal that I don’t really see why us POLITICAL eaters should have to suffer through dry-ass spelt cookies for the rest of time just so food manufacturers can profit off a (largely fake) wheat scare.

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Kalamata olive bread and plain old NKB with a little sourdough added in for extra flavor. Ten minutes of work, this bread is, people. Ten minutes, at the most!

That said: we all eat too much wheat! It’s ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with wheat per se, but many mainstream eaters eat a shit ton of it and it’s fucking up their systems and so they go to a new agey nutritionist and she tells them that pasta is poison. This. Is. Irritating. Not because it’s untrue, exactly (a carrot will be poison if you eat 50 in a row), but because we all have to suffer because some people cannot make good choices and because 1% of the population cannot tolerate a food that humans have been eating for hundreds and hundreds of years.

So we should all be eating a wide spectrum of grains. That’s obvious and makes sense. I am the bestest BFF quinoa has ever had, but I don’t see why I should ever buy pasty quinoa pasta. Wheat is very, very, very, very good at what it does, and your corn pasta* and spelt cookies will just never be as good, let’s admit that. They can be differently wonderful, that’s the most I’ll give you (and don’t go crying to me about Babycakes [to which I shan’t link]. It’s perfectly fine…fine stuff, just fine. Perfectly fine. Fine fine fine, that Babycakes. Just…..fine. They use really high quality ingredients and…and well, it’s fine. Why everyone seems to think—nope, I’m going to stop while I’m ahead. Why rag on other small biz owners, you know?).

Let’s review:

  1. Wheat is fucking amazing.
  2. Not being able to eat wheat is fucking tragic.
  3. Happily, very few people have this problem. Fuck yeah!
  4. I wish I knew (oh, but I do! Marketing! Money! The C word!) why all of the sudden half the smart people in the world think they need to stop eating wheat. It seriously bums me out. Because:
  5. See point #1.

And now! Bring on the crew of WF zealots with their pamphleteering! Their rhetoric against my favorite grain! Their passionate Babycakeing, their obsessive grain mixes, their “I have so much more energy since I gave up eating [FIVE POUNDS AT A SITTING] pasta!”ing.

In the meantime, keep enjoying your tagliatelle, peeps.

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Moving on:

2) Eating gluten: see above, but with more annoyance, in keeping with how annoying it must be to not eat gluten even though there is literally not ONE reason why a non-celiac should avoid it.

3) Eating too much fat. I’m sure we’re all most likely over this, but lists of two are no fun. VEGANS NEED (good quality) FAT!

What should you worry about, then?

Well, I still think people should be more worried about overuse of (here we go! My bestest pet peeve!): ye olde EB. Or you could worry about the vegan world’s obsession with sticky sweet trashy desserts. Worry about the “tofu ice cream” I had yesterday at an unnamed NYC hipster hotspot. Worry about the fact that I ordered it even after my brain had processed what the words meant. Worry about how bizarrely stringy it was—worry about what would cause ice cream to be stringy.

We’ve got a ways to go, babies.

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Can you spot the hot pink sauerkraut in the background? (And yes, I like my bread a little burnt!)

*Full disclosure: rice pasta is freaking DELICIOUS, both the Asian kind and the yuppie brown rice health food store kind, I am not above admitting that.

36 Responses to “stop the (wheat-free) insanity. Please. Now. For reals.”

  1. Jordan

    We don’t post pictures of bread like that and say it only takes 10 mins. Without posting a recipe also.

    Reply
      • ecclescake

        Oy vavoy. You got me doing it too. I just made the NKB. I’m not super hardcore about bread, but I have been making kneaded sandwich bread about every two weeks for the last couple of years, and I, too, scoffed at the NKB. I made a cherry chocolate stout version: stout instead of water, 1/2 c yeasty fermented cherries from our most recent brew, and a few spoonfuls of sugar and a handful of chopped chocolate added before the second rise. Damn! I’m drooling thinking about it. The fact that it’s so damn easy makes me want to ex-per-i-ment!

        It came out a little dense, though. I don’t know what might have retarded the yeast. (I added the yeast called for in the recipe even though there were other yeasty additions.) Maybe I let the first rise go too long.

      • lagusta

        My god, YES. I’ve made a cherry choc NKB too, but yours sounds far better. I think the lack of amazing rise might be to your oven–do you have an oven thermometer, and is your oven cranked alllll the way up? My dirty little NKB secret is that….I bake it in a pizza oven that is like 600 degrees. And every time I make it at home using the same pot, same yeast, same flour, etc, it’s never quite as good. My pizza oven at the kitchen is, I really think, what contributes that super oven spring. At home it’s perfectly fine…but it is less tall.

        Also “oy vavoy” is my new favorite phrase.

  2. Sally

    Stringy ice cream? Eeeeew!

    Of course, I’m of the opinion that much of the effort that goes towards making (often kinda gross) vegan ice cream should be re-directed towards making awesome, innovative sorbet. Sorbet! Not that I don’t appreciate good vegan ice cream… but damn, I love sorbet.

    Reply
    • zoe p.

      I agree. Totally. Now, on to more important things:

      I have not been able to successfully make NKB since moving (back) to the East Coast. My oven isn’t great but it works for most of my other baking. My crackpot theory is that the air is too damp here. But damp air (during the baking process) is what makes NKB work. So I’m baffled. Or wrong.

      But the air has recently dried out, what with the cooler fall weather, right? And your NKB is better than ever.

      What gives?!!?

      Reply
      • lagusta

        I don’t think it’s the damp air. San Francisco manages to turn out great bread! Do you have an oven thermometer? It could be that your oven just isn’t getting hot enough. Are you using a pot with a tight lid? Are you adding too much yeast? What’s happening, exactly? We’ll figure it out!!!

    • lagusta

      Yeah, totally!!! In Australia there are these gelato places that have amazing “sorbetto” everywhere. IT’S RIDICULOUS.

      Reply
  3. Dustin

    WHAAAAAAAATTTT!?!? Rice pasta is delicious? I’ve never even tried because I assumed otherwise! Tell me more! (not because I am a wheat avoider, but I have two friends who are the kind who will DIE from gluten!).

    Reply
    • lagusta

      yeah!!! I’ve been in love with Thai-style rice noodles forever (super cheap at Thai markets, super awesome), but now there is this health food store brown rice pasta that I REALLY like. It’s weird, I know. Tinkyada is the only brand I’ve ever had, I can’t vouch for any others. It’s great, I swear!!

      Reply
  4. Joshua May

    as far as ice cream options go, coconut bliss is pretty good times.

    even the soy ice creams (like the soy milk) on this side of the planet lacks flavour and seems generally watery. but coconut bliss is actually quite creamy and tasty. gluten free to boot! *cough*

    Reply
  5. Randal Putnam

    There are too many food makers who use the same arguments you use in support of wheat to support adding this or that to their creations, which additives render their creations non vegan. Makes me sad to read a label, make it nearly to the end and then see something like whey tucked in second to last place. Probably one shake over a vat and poof the food is off my list.

    I agree there are many avoiding wheat unnecessarily, but who am I to say what’s necessary when the issue is what someone else wants to eat, whatever their motivation? I do find myself avoiding things that have been stretched into the wheat free world, fearing or knowing they will be less good than their wheat filled counterparts, but I am glad when people make what I call inclusive food. I am delighted when non vegans make things I can eat, so I am sure people who avoid wheat are delighted when they find food that fits their criteria.

    I am way behind you on the vegan path. I am guessing there are many things that once delighted you that you’ve since gotten over that I am just discovering and being delighted by. I say let wheat free people delight in finding a mass produced wheat free ring ding. Like you, they will move on, get smarter and find better food down the road. In the end, I am thankful you are here pulling me more quickly along the path. I have loved every step. Thank you, super friend.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      Randall: I am pretty sympathetic to your comments because of my friends with real celiac—one of whom, literally, almost died because the problem went undiagnosed for so long. And she can’t eat anywhere, unless they actually have dedicated equipment. Microscopic amounts of gluten will wreak havoc on her system. It’s really scary, and it’s made me re-think what I take for granted.

      Of course, I don’t think Lagusta and I disagree about this. I think she’s just talking about all the people we know who go “omg, I’m gluten free!” because it’s the thing to do. Which really IS annoying.

      Speaking of annoying, you know what annoys the fuck out of me? “All-natural” products, which I think—for the most part—are plain old bullshit in about every way. You know, the “all natural” ones that have the same preservatives that every other skin cream on earth has. And that’s not to mention the stupidity of putting an essential oil on one’s skin in hopes of it doing anything other than irritating the hell out of your skin.

      But I digress.

      Reply
    • lagusta

      Ah man, why are you consistently such a better person than me? It humbles me…and I rely on it. :) I really like that when I get all cranky about something I have good friends who don’t write me off, but engage me on the topic and make me see it from other sides. It’s nice to know people who make you better than you are.

      Reply
    • lagusta

      that said! I think there is a difference between making something vegan and making it wheat-free (aside from the obvious differences). So when you said, “There are too many food makers who use the same arguments you use in support of wheat to support adding this or that to their creations, which additives render their creations non vegan.” I’d say: here’s the thing. It’s ALWAYS, in every case, better to make something vegan. And that’s just not the case with making something wheat-free. That’s where my irksomeness comes in. Ya dig?

      Reply
      • Randal Putnam

        You are kind. I do like poking around the edges of your angrier posts looking for sweetness. Glad you take it well. That said, why is it always better to make something vegan? True, to a vegan and an animal, but not necessarily true to an omnibore. Or put it another way, if inclusiveness is your schtick, then it is always better to make something vegan, wheat free and, by the way, no peanuts… I don’t know. I was just trying to show that what you take as bedrock might not be so firm to others. I’d agree your foundation is solid, but I am on your team. What about others, though? We shouldn’t discount their thoughts just because they eat meat or are currently, for a moment, off wheat, just like we don’t want others to discount our chow just because we use some ingredients that are strange to them. In the end, I think there is room for food makers to make some things wheat free without harshing on our situation. I mean, there is always your food to eat! Yum!

      • lagusta

        No way yo. I think it’s different because of what I said before: veganism is political. Not vegan food is NOT FOOD. That’s the difference to me.

        Inclusiveness….eh. Meh. I care about animals. Of the non-human variety.

        OMNIBORE!!!!!!

        I smell a t-shirt…..

  6. Christy

    Ok, but what about sugar? Ever since I switched to unrefined sweeteners such as agave, and maple syrup, sugar seems like such a cheap, and unfulfilling thrill (dark chocolate being the exception). I know on a large scale that would probably be unaffordable, but for me, I splurge.

    I do have a strong guest ethic though. If someone has lovingly made something (not meat), I usually accept. If it’s some store bought, pre-packaged crap, they obviously don’t care that much, so I don’t either. I have a hard time refusing someone’s hospitality, even if it’s something I’m not that excited about personally.

    Reply
    • lagusta

      Ah sugar. I am personally a fan of it in all its forms: maple syrup, agave, brown rice syrup, good quality molasses, and what I mostly use: evaporated cane juice sugar, which I like because it tastes just like what we think of as “sugar” but is less processed (and is organic, and fair-trade). In cooking school we were taught that sugar was the very worst thing you could eat, so I spent about a year avoiding it like the plague. In return I got a miserable year filled with no candy and thus no fun. And I felt exactly, precisely the same…just less happy. I know what you mean about “alternative” sweeteners having a more rich flavor though—that’s the reason to use them, in my mind, not because of a mistaken notion that they are healthier. I really think all sugar is sugar and reacts in your body the exact same way. Give a kid (or me) a maple sugar candy and you will prove this theory instantly!!!

      Reply
  7. abovegroundpool

    I don’t have quite the strong feelings you do about wheat-free, since I find it to be a good excuse to try other grains I rarely use myself. Nope, I haven’t cooked with spelt.

    But, I agree with the gist of it, with food choices as fads, and people having no clue of the difference. My pet-est peeve on this front, because I always lust after good Mexican food, is when I get a vegetarian burrito out in the world, and it is 1) filled with lots of rice, which should never be an ingredient in a burrito, 2) contains broccoli and carrots and cauliflower, 3) has no beans, no spices, no flavor, and 4) is wrapped in a friggin’ whole wheat tortilla that tastes like cardboard. Any idiot who thinks this has anything to do with what a burrito should be needs to be assigned taco truck duty in San Diego immediately.

    All of this hurts me as much as hearing people say “hal-a-pee-no.”

    Reply
    • lagusta

      MY GOD YES!!!!!!!!!!! Burritos with rice….oh god. I can’t write any more without spontaneously combusting. “Whole wheat tortilla” is getting me very close also (though I don’t doubt there are good ones out there, I am just a corn tortilla sort of bitch myself).

      Real Mexican food lovers in the Hudson Valley have it rough, don’t we? Mexican Radio, a couple of places in Pok, do you have any favorites?

      Reply
      • abovegroundpool

        Nah. Even Mex Radio kind of bums me out, even though the owner went vegan and upped the choices. “Radio rollups” and tequila are swell, but the entrees get me down.

        What are your Pok spots, if you’re willing to share?

      • lagusta

        To be honest, I’m also not a fan of the food at Mexican Radio, but I am a giant fan of their margaritas!!!!

        My Poughkeepsie spots are all super not vegan friendly, and I haven’t found any place I truly love and don’t know any of the streets because they are places I go to when I have to go, for example, to the bank. I always get amazing fresh-made guacamole at this place next to where Jacob always has to rent cars (I have no idea of the street, because I am dumb like that, but if you’re dying for it I could figure it out), I believe it’s called Los Compadres. Then I love the supermarket there called Casa Latina. And there are a few places on Raymond Ave I like, but none are Mex: Zorona I ADORE for middle eastern tasties, and I like Twisted Soul right across the street. Try them!!! Do you have any hot tips on other places?

  8. ecclescake

    I was just going to pop in and say I’m pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down, Lagusta, and then I saw Randal’s reply, and Randal: did you type “omnibore” on purpose? I LOVE IT. I’m picturing people who eat whatever omni food happens to be in front of them and they can’t even imagine delicious vegan food because “delicious” to them is Mom’s meatloaf and maybe chicken tikka masala (which is the only thing they ever order at an Indian restaurant, and “Indian” is the only non-Olive Garden restaurant they’ll go to), and the one time they had “vegan food” it was a dry carob spelt cookie (which is a great choice to have available but shouldn’t be considered an exemplar of vegan food).

    Reply
    • Randal Putnam

      Too funny! My parents only eat chicken tikka masala! They get frustrated when one restaurant’s version differs from the version at their local joint. Luckily for them, so many Indian places stick close to the playbook of Indian food transformed to appeal to Americans. I thought that by my age I’d grow out of being embarrassed by my parents (they really are lovely people and I have had plenty of years to get over it), but they still manage to throw me a curve now and again.
      .
      Omnibore was intended. Makes sense to me. I am so tired of listening to people apologize to me as they order rack of lamb. I want to tell them to save it for the next lamb they meet, but I usually just smile. Maybe I need to be less boring with my replies!

      As for whole wheat tortillas, I would have agreed with you until I had Stacey’s from Boulder. See http://www.staceysorganic.com/tortillas.htm

      Later!

      Reply
    • lagusta

      Want to hear a secret: I love carob!!!! Not as a chocolate replacement, of course, but just as carob. Poor, poor carob. Will it ever recover from what hippies did to it?

      Reply
  9. Brittany

    I hate Mexican radio. Taco shack, on the other hand – amazing veg chili and the ONLY kind I’ve found in NP eateries that doesn’t have CELERY OF DOOM! (I also really like their seasoned tofu. And I also don’t really think they count as Mexican.)

    Which brings me to my take on the injustice of whatever-free foods. Try being a vegetarian or vegan who is legitimately allergic to celery. People put that shit in EVERYTHING, and while I understand the texture might enhance some foods, the flavor usually doesn’t. Imagine, for example, never being able to eat SOUP. Its a freaking crime. The worst part is, in my experience, people are so oblivious to what’s actually in the food that when you ask “is there celery in this?” you will almost always receive the same “how the fuck would I know?” expression, followed by “no,” when the answer is almost always “YES!” Yet ask that same person if it has wheat or gluten and suddenly they’re a chef, nutritionist and physician all rolled into one. And its bullshit!

    In Europe many products have the same labelling we have for “warning: this product contains soy/nuts/dairy/wheat/gluten/whatevs” when it comes to celery. These nitwits get to eliminate all kinds of ingredients on a whim, yet those of us with allergies have to eliminate entire food genres because our real reactions to food are eclipsed by their pseudoscience. Grr.

    I can’t believe I just wrote all this on my blackberry. At 8 am.

    Reply
  10. ecclescake

    Oh yeah! Before I got distracted by Randy’s awesome word, I was also going to point out that candida is up there with wheat-free insanity as far as unfounded health claims that people sometimes make. With candida, you either have a yeast infection, you have thrush, or (if it’s systemic) you’re critically ill and should be in a hospital. There’s no way it can just make you fatigued and achey or whatever people attribute to it.

    Sure, some people are actually more or less intolerant or allergic to wheat. They should absolutely eat wheat-free stuff. Sure, some people (like people with damaged immune systems) have systemic candida (and that makes them deathly ill). They should be taking whatever their doctor prescribes. And sure, some people feel better when reducing/eliminating wheat and sugars and stuff. They should feel free to go ahead and avoid that stuff, and more power to them, but to attribute anything to candida is just wrong.

    Reply
  11. Marla

    Girl, I totally hear you but I’m afraid that I would be one of those people you roll your eyes at because I am largely gluten-free for health reasons. Without getting too much into the ugly details about what gluten, especially wheat, does to my intestinal tract (and then my skin) can I just suffice it to say that I do not want to submit to endoscopy. I do not identify myself as having Celiac disease or an allergy: I just don’t eat it. If I have to identify what I eat, I tell people that I am vegan for ethical reasons and g-free for health reasons. I do not think that gluten-free diets are an improvement or necessary for everyone, but I do feel better – improved complexion, better digestion, more energy – since I have been living this way. I hate the idea that people are looking at me as just another fad diet follower when they hear that I am gluten-free but that’s the way it is. Believe me, it would be a lot easier if I could eat the stuff again. Anyway, this is all to say that I am careful about conflating veganism with gluten-free diets, and though I realize that living as a gluten-free vegan makes the Anthony Bordains of the world look at me as just another uptight, humorless idiot with an awful palate, those are the breaks. I guess it feels sort of sucky that I feel judged for having bad skin when I eat wheat (vegans have bad complexions!) and judged for being another mindless conformist (vegans follow every health fad!) when I don’t. You know what I mean?

    Reply
    • lagusta

      Yep, I totally know what you mean. I give you permission to do what feels best to you!! Really. :)

      Reply
  12. What the problem is | resistance is fertile

    […] tried it to stretch myself, and because Jacob sometimes has stomach upsets, and because I felt like I was being so hard on gluten freeeeeedom that it might be nice to see how the other half lives. Half the shop is gf or gf-lite so why not. […]

    Reply

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