While I was waiting for my heavy cream latte to be prepared at a lovely coffee shop, I perused the goodies on the counter, because of my chronic sweet-tooth. Seeing what looked like an oat based bar, I asked the woman behind the counter (with very little hope) if she knew if that “healthy” looking bar was gluten-free. In near disgust she assured me it was not, and told me nothing at the shop was gluten-free and I probably couldn’t even drink my latte.
So… maybe you follow Baked True North because you know Lauren or Nick… and maybe you like Baked True North goodies. Maybe you eat gluten-free occasionally or even faithfully. MAYBE you even know what gluten is!? I didn’t. I assumed gluten was bread, because that’s what it was described to me as by someone else who was not educated on the topic.
Google describes gluten as a mixture of two proteins, present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. Not likely to be found in a latte, but it sneaks into more things than wheat bread. The things that caught me the most off guard to discover had gluten were thick creamy soups and a lot of sauces, especially soy sauce.
Above is a picture from my pre-gluten-free days, with a maple bourbon bacon doughnut in Key West on our honeymoon. I grew up eating mac & cheese, sandwiches and the croutons off my salad (not necessarily the vegetables). The two questions I get asked the most are, “why does it seem like this is all of a sudden a problem?” and “Jesus spoke a lot about bread… so how can it really be bad?” The simple answer is that gluten is not what it used to be. The more complicated answer is, Norman Borlaug won a Nobel peace prize creating a shorter wheat called dwarf wheat that produced a lot of grains on less acreage. This was all in the name of solving world hunger, so let’s not get upset at him right off the bat. Mark’s Daily Apple provides a much more in depth explanation if you’re interested.
In further summarizing Mark’s article and the research behind it, dwarf wheat was found to be less nutritious, based possibly on the increased yield per plant or the shorter roots, not allowing in as much nutrition. Certain gluten proteins that were not barely present in the older strains of wheat now are rampant and are causing a higher rate of gluten sensitivities to appear. Additionally, bread and similar goodies used to be made by home-grinding wheat kernels, but now wheat is processed and potentially rancid by the time it gets to the local burger establishment to be delivered with your “meat” patty.
Hopefully that helped explain what gluten is and why bread is different today than it used to be. I hope to share more information on gluten-freedom in future blog posts. Please feel free to shout out questions you have or discoveries you’ve made in the comment section!