Thanksgiving is upon us, and just as the first Pilgrim predicted as she fashioned little feather napkin rings while waiting for the Indians to arrive: “Y’all watch; I’ve been cooking all day and I am bed, bath and BEYOND tired, but somebody’s gonna say they’ve gone gluten-free and all they can eat is corn. I mean maize.”
Gluten is, of course, the much-maligned ingredient that gives bread its, er, breadiness. It is, frankly, awesome. Unless you can’t digest it, which, turns out, most of us have been lying about lately.
It’s not our fault exactly. We eat a lot of crap in the course of a day, and when all those gluten-free products started showing up on grocery shelves, we figured they were worth a try. So we spent 10.5 billion dollars on gluten-free food last year and felt much better, even if for most of us, it was all in our head.
Now don’t feel bad. Americans have always loved a bandwagon. How else do you explain the popularity of things like chia pets and “Dancing With the Stars”?
We long to belong and this mass gluten hysteria made us a teensy bit special.
“I’m sorry I can’t eat this,” we said, just loud enough to invoke sympathetic glances when the bread basket made its way around the table, untouched as a premarital Duggar.
“I’m allergic to gluten” was the new black. And, yes, I know that makes no sense. But this new study, by the same scientist who told us bread was killing our digestive tracts, indicates that people who don’t have celiac disease (the real deal), can just go ahead and eat that cronut, and godspeed.
Somebody needs to make a public apology for scaring us and our easily agitated colons for the past three years. You can’t just say, “Oh, actually that whole thing about 17 million Americans being “gluten-sensitive” isn’t exactly true.
Turns out the number is significantly lower. Something on the order of about 36.
So how did this happen? It’s simple. A lot of doctors heard us whine about our indigestion and said, “Hey, you’re probably sensitive to gluten.” This didn’t necessarily mean you were really gluten-sensitive, it was just a theory to get you happily on your way.
Now none of this is to say that some of you don’t cramp up after a yeast roll or three. Of course you do. But it doesn’t make you gluten-special. You are never going to get your own postage stamp, and you won’t even get a special parking place at the grocery store.
So this Thanksgiving, as we gather together and bow our heads for what is for some the only blessing said before a meal all year long and hopefully one that will be more thoughtful than “the sun and the sky and the animals,” let’s give thanks that we can eat bread again. Amen.