I saw a link online recently to the Gluten Free Museum. This is a tumblr of artworks that contained images of or references to grain or grain products. These references have been skillfully removed, so the remaining art is 100% Gluten-Free!
Pretty funny, huh? I actually found it a little more disturbing than funny. It's pretty clear that an understanding of the role gluten plays in creating the suffering of people with celiac disease has been a lifesaver (literally) for them. It's also the fact that celiac sufferers number between 0.6% and 1.0% of the population as a whole, with regional concentrations running up to maybe 2.5%... yet who hasn't been at a dinner in the past few years where fully half the guests are looking for the gluten-free canapés?
This would seem at first glance to be a boon for celiac sufferers. After all, even if they are simply jumping on a bandwagon, aren't all those food faddists creating a market for a greater variety of gluten-free options than could ever have been possible otherwise? Well, the good news is, you can buy lots of things now that are marketed on a "gluten-free" theme. The bad news is, there's not a lot of incentive for manufacturers and restaurateurs to be all that careful about just how "gluten-free" is the product behind that trendy label. Food faddists, after all, won't have a bad reaction to actual gluten, just to the perception of gluten. Meanwhile, celiac sufferers will know the difference for sure... but only once it's too late.
The Gluten Free Museum is a pretty sharp commentary on gluten as a social phenomenon. By removing gluten that occurs in a form where it is not remotely possible to be genuinely harmful, it pokes fun at the faddists' obsession with that perception of gluten.
So why did it bother me a little? It reminded me of a time in an earlier life when I kept kosher to the Orthodox standards. This meant that even a fork that had been used for non-kosher food, or for meat once and later dairy, was verboten. And what was the first image I saw from the Gluten Free Museum?
It's amazing what old brain-habits can crop up to annoy me, years and years after the Enlightenment.