This Halloween, hundreds of girls and boys will knock on doors dressed as goblins, ghouls, and all things scary, politely asking their neighbours for candy. After an hour or two of soliciting for the sweet sake of sugar, the sleepy monsters are complacent, follow their parent’s home, excited for their hard-earned treats. Today’s parents have a more thorough job than they once did, though. They laugh about a time when the only thing to look for in Halloween candy was an already open wrapper. Mothers and fathers take out a pen and paper to make a check-list: gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, dairy-free, lactose-free… And after plucking out milk chocolate bars and anything with soy or a crusty nugget, the exhausted parents give their children the bag of candy back, resting assured that the only evil left is a massive amount of sugar.
During the summer, I was out for a stroll along the waterfront and I walked past a couple of girls having “the gluten talk.”
“What’s with the hate on gluten? I love the gluten! I’ll take all the gluten!”
“Well unless you have celiac disease you don’t really need to eat gluten-free, anyway.”
Since then, I’ve heard the gluten evil being questioned several times in conversation, mostly by people who think the gluten-free trend is the pretentious new “cool food” to be allergic to (are food allergies really becoming a trending form of hipness?).
And like any bandwagon, people like to criticize it. I’ve especially heard complaints about those who openly discuss their diet in a way that’s not entirely honest. Sure, a sensitivity isn’t the same as an allergy, but is the seriousness of a legitimate allergic reaction being threatened by those who claim allergy when they actually just have a sensitivity to the food?
At the risk of being pegged as a food-allergy phony, I’d like to unabashedly admit that if I go into a coffee shop and ask for a soy or almond milk mocha, I also ask for the whipped cream on top. And at another chance of being judged as a woe-is-me, my-life-is-tough, privileged young Millennial (yeah, yeah) I’d also like to say that it’s kind of annoying when I’m at a coffee shop with someone and I’m teased for ordering it, like I’m some sort of faux lactose-intolerant person that makes the legitimate ones look bad. With dairy, I can have small quantities. If I drink too much, my stomach starts sloshing around like a carton of milk in a grocery bag.
Although I partly think that people have started to claim allergy as a way to avoid feeling the need to explain their diet or food restrictions, saying that you’re allergic to gluten probably gets a lot less flack than saying you’re trying to cut carbs (“But why are you trying to avoid carbs? Are you trying to lose weight? Don’t you know that every size is beautiful?” etc.). It’s kind of like how I get out of petting people’s cats and their house by claiming allergy (“I’m sort of allergic to cats. No I don’t need an allergy pill. I mean, my nose just gets a little stuffy is all…”).
Abiding to these dietary restrictions doesn’t necessarily make your food choices healthier; alternative cooking and health can go hand-in-hand. Although at this point in my life, I don’t strictly adhere to a vegetarian diet, I do a lot of meatless cooking and I’ve been fortunate to have had people in my life who are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc., and I’ve realized there are many misconceptions about the meat-less, vegan,gluten-free world. Just like there’s bad and good cooking in general, there’s also bad and good cooking in the veggie platform. One of my favourite compliments after I cook a meatless meal for a non-vegetarian is, “You mean there’s no meat in this?” Although, I think there’s a big misconception amongst the non-veggie crowd that vegetarians spend their time trying to mimic the taste and consistency of meat. The “fake meat” veggie products in the grocer probably make a killing off the packs of soy hotdogs and luncheon meat that new vegetarians eat before they learn how to cook for their diet. For me, the best part about axing a bunch of stuff from your diet, for whatever reason, is that it gives you the opportunity to work with a whole new set of ingredients that you probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Have you ever used coconut or almond flour instead of wheat flour? Sure, it’s gluten-free, but it’s also awesome. Have you ever baked with apple-sauce as a substitute for butter? Sure, it’s dairy-free, but it’s also delicious.
This Halloween, I hope you all indulge yourselves in the goodies you love, whether it be gluten-free candy bars with beer or soy hot chocolate with whipped cream, let it be your body and your choice of holiday food sensitivities!