“Dr. Glutenlove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love All Food”

“Everything in moderation… including moderation.”
Julia Child

When did the wisdom of moderation turn into the obsession of food denial, an imagined moral high ground that can only be reached by surviving without access to nature’s most bountiful supply of sustenance and pleasure? Is this fear and loathing driven by the guilt of living with so much when so many have so little, or is this simply the new piety, invented to fill the void created when the old ladders of religion and morality no longer provided an easy means to climb high above our neighbours and peer down with disdain? I believe it is largely the latter. The former could easily be corrected by taking a small portion of the premium paid for the gluten free, organic, vegan, heirloom, blessed by the goddess, plate of whatever and passing it along to those in the community who wait in line for a loaf of discarded bread or a tin of expired meat.

Food is indeed the new religion. Not, mind you a wine fueled pagan night of naked pleasure in a field of spring blossoms, but the kind of mean spirited, bible thumping, holier than though preaching of self-loathing flagellants. These new age priests however have no after life to offer, so instead they preach a delirious mixture of witchcraft and pseudo-science, promising a greatly extended mortal life in place of eternal life. And how does one gain access to this Methuselahic promised land? Through strict adherence to an ever changing maze of culinary does and don’ts.

Why has food become poison in so many people’s minds?  I spoke with a baker recently who had a client ask if she could prepare a “sugar free, gluten free, dairy free cake” for their child’s birthday. The weary baker replied “that’s all that’s in a cake”. I suggested she keep a bucket of sand on hand for similar requests in the future along with the phone number for an eating disorder clinic to be handed to the child on their 16th birthday. I also spoke with a daycare provider who spent the afternoon teaching the children how to bake cookies from scratch only to be scolded by a parent and accused of promoting the “dominant sugar paradigm”. The what now!?!

Of course these examples of restricting children from accessing the kind of special teats we all grew up with are minor compared to the far more dangerous practice of rejecting 3 of the 4 major foods that that have provided the building blocks for humanity’s survival over the past 10,000 years; meat, wheat and dairy. It must seem bizarre to the hungriest people on earth that the wealthiest people on earth would cherry pick a few items and cobble together a survival diet (at a premium price) while rejecting readily available food that would be viewed as a life giving source of nutrition in the 3rd world.

I hold no ill will for people who wish to improve their health, live in harmony with nature and support food security in their local community. But I have had more than my share of those who sit in the restaurant or grocery store aisle carrying on unnaturally loud conversations about their virtuous and superior diets or who scold their dinner party hosts for not tending to the peculiarities of their dietary needs. Food denial is big business and well managed by the same marketing geniuses that brought us get-rich-quick guides in the 80s and self-help guides in the 90s, only this time cloaked in their finest earth mother kaftans. Throw in the internet and it’s magical ability to convince almost anyone of almost anything and you’ve got the perfect storm.

What about food food allergies and sensitivities?  Of course they exist and can present a real challenge to those who live with them, but the next person I hear begging for sympathy for a phony food allergy they have just self-diagnosed is going to receive a miracle cure courtesy of my hoof to their skull. People who truly suffer from afflictions like Chron’s disease must be awfully annoyed by the pity seekers and quacks pretending to share in their afflictions. It’s like having two working legs and zooming about in an electric wheelchair calling your self a paraplegic.

As for food sensitivities, don’t we all have them? Too much green pepper, corn or legumes and I’ll be spending a couple of days…er…catching up on my reading. A friend of mine has a severe garlic sensitivity, even just a little garlic salt sends him too a place nobody wants to go. But does he demonize garlic, tell others they must avoid it and pen a book on how this filthy allium will cause you to suffer every conceivable ill from rectal itch to alzheimer’s? Hell no! He simply avoids coming into contact with it and allows others to enjoy this delicious, nutrient rich food staple. We all have our food sensitivities, they are our own and we don’t need to force them on others, and if you think you have an allergy go and see an allergist. If you think you have Chron’s or another food related illness for goodness sake go and see a doctor!

“Food sensitivities” have also become a very convenient way to explain away certain “ailments” when we might not be so willing to admit the real causes to those around us, or ourselves. Are your co-workers wondering why you’re having so much trouble focusing on your work and can’t keep your eyes open even before the lunch hour? Well, you could tell them about the thumb sized spliff you imbibe every morning before breakfast…or just loudly lament your ever increasing food sensitivities as the obvious cause of your lethargy. Friends worrying about your heart palpitations, poor sleep, and constant headaches? You could tell them about the bottle of wine you drain each and every night before bed…but why cause such a fuss when it’s so much easier to blame it on a suspected intolerance to dairy? Haven’t had a regular bowel movement since the 8th grade? Do you really think it’s because of the wheat in your diet …or could it be that you haven’t had any regular exercise in years? (And no, moving from a sitting position to a standing position 3 times a day does not count as exercise). You’re colon has ceased to function because it assumes you’re dead. C’mon people, let’s stop blaming food for every discomfort we experience, whether brought on by the natural aging of our bodies, or the additional challenges we choose to impose upon them.

But enough ranting. Now let me bring you some good news. You’re going to die, and probably sooner than you think. No amount of food denial will reverse the cancer programmed into your genetic code, or stop the bus hurtling toward you on the crosswalk of destiny. So just enjoy your life and stop obsessing over it’s inevitable end. What are you trying to accomplish anyway? Want to live to 100? Then I’ve got more good news for you. We’ve got more centenarians than at any other point in history and these folks spent most of their lives eating meat, bread, vegetables sprayed with copious pesticides and consumed their fair share of TV dinners swimming in preservatives (remember the 70s?). If you live to be a 100 it will be medical science or luck that will get you there, not your diet obsession.

I have chosen to experience food the way nature intended; as a source of sustenance and pleasure. All of nature worships food, whether the bee drunk on a summer flower’s nectar, the panther’s face buried in the warmth of its kill, or the plant whose feet drink from the earth and whose arms ever reach for the sustenance of the sun. Like any omnivore our bodies were made to benefit from a very wide variety of food. It has much to do with how we became the planet’s most successful mammal.

The only moral code that nature imposes on food is that to refuse its bounty is a sin, and the wages of this sin is death. I believe the best way to stay happy and healthy is to eat the widest variety of food available, in moderate quantities, and with maximum pleasure.

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