I was thrilled by Kim Severson’s piece on the gluten-free trend because it points a light, yet again, on … but god, aren’t there enough klieg lights on American’s stupidity, gullibility, and laziness already? And yet even Severson herself quotes a chef, thereby giving the piece its own kind of reporter’s credibility, saying that the gluten-free fad is here to stay.

This, despite noting that only 1% of the population is actually badly affected by gluten, and that there is scant evidence that there’s anything wrong with this wonderful protein combination.

A grocer I know said he didn’t know if it was a good or a bad thing, the gluten-free fad, but he was loving the hell out of it.

If Americans’ lack of self-awareness, or even awareness generally, weren’t already on painful display almost everywhere, and especially in the most important places on earth, Jimmy Kimmel found it on the street when he asked people advocating and adhering to a gluten-free diet, what in fact gluten is. They had no idea.

They had no idea.

Again, they had no idea what gluten was, why exactly they were avoiding it, and why it even might be bad for them.

Really? You’re hired!

I’ll say this again: Don’t listen to me. Think for yourself. My thinking and reading lead me to believe that the root of America’s chronic food diseases has to do with refined sugar, refined wheat, highly refined processed food, Wheat Thins, Coca-Cola, Snackwell’s, etc. But I don’t know. Really—maybe it is the genetically modified shit in the Snackwell’s, or in the Lay’s potato chips, that is doing the damage, and not the sugar. No one knows. Think for yourself. (Case in point: I like Lay’s potato chips—potatoes, oil, and salt. But the baked Lay’s? They put sugar in them. Pay attention.)

One thing we do seem to know is that if you eat whole foods, unrefined foods, in good proportion and balance, food you have to actually cook, it’s not going to hurt you. It might very well be good for you, if only by making you happy and comfortable and nourished.

If you really want to, or must, go gluten-free, have a look at this excellent post by the excellent Gluten-Free Girl. Or listen to Carol Blymire: “For those of us with celiac, it’s not a fad. That said, the attention-seeking, me-me-me-ness of people (with celiac and not) has gotten way out of hand when it comes to wanting/needing gluten-free food in restaurants.”

You really want to go gluten-free? Here’s what Carol says you can’t eat: “No bread, pasta, Chinese food, pizza, beer, Twizzlers, couscous, French fries that have been fried in the same oil as something battered, cake, pie, many commercial ice creams, some deli meats and cheeses, bottled salad dressings, canned soups, some mustards …. I mean, it’s an almost endless list.”

For those not afraid of gluten, try this multigrain bread, a little bit of refined flour for its gluten, but mostly whole grains. So tasty my 15-year-old son devours it.

Why? Because you can actually feel the nourishment in every bite. And after you’re done with a slice, slathered heavily with butter, maybe some kosher salt on top, you feel good. No, you don’t need another one. You feel good.

(James Brown, you’re on!)

Multigrain Boule


  • 250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 125 grams whole-wheat flour
  • 250 grams other flour or grain (I use a mix of rye, spelt, buckwheat, and rolled oats, but sometimes include things like quinoa and grits, soaked in some of the water.)
  • 375 grams water
  • 12 grams salt
  • 3 grams yeast
  1. Combine all ingredients in a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Cover and let it ferment for 3 hours.
  3. Knead the dough on a floured surface and form into a boule.
  4. Coat a banneton (or a bowl lined with a cloth napkin) with flour and toss some pumpkin seeds and oats in the bottom. Put the boule bottom side up in this proofing basket, cover it with a towel, and let it sit for 60 to 90 minutes.
  5. Preheat your oven to 500˚F/260˚C with a Dutch oven inside.
  6. When the dough has proofed, upend the dough into the Dutch oven and cover, turn the oven down to 350˚F/175˚C, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the top of the Dutch oven to finish cooking, another 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. Remove it from the Dutch oven and let it cool for at least an hour.


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© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


13 Wonderful responses to “Gluten-Free Malarkey
(and my recipe for multigrain bread)”

  • Meredith

    I have Celiac Disease and I greatly appreciate this post. I’ve started feeling more like an imposition when dining out as restauranteurs are having to deal with this growing number of obsessive diners — diners who won’t actually get sick for a week if there are bread crumbs in the gazpacho. If I could, I’d make and devour that multigrain boule and likely feel healthier for it.

  • Matt

    I ditched gluten and lost 30 pounds over the course of 2 years. I know about correlation and causation, but my little n=1 experiment is good enough proof for me that gluten is not healthy, at least for me.

  • Jesse

    I hate the gluten-free fad too, but the issue I have with the Jimmy Kimmel bit is that while it’s good for a laugh, I don’t think it’s that ridiculous to think that something is bad without knowing exactly what it is. I know that arsenic is bad, but that’s about all I can tell you about it (for now; I’m heading to Wikipedia to read up on it as soon as I hit submit).

    • Jesse

      My high school chemistry teacher would be so disappointed in me for not remembering that arsenic is an element.

  • Sue Schwab

    There is a reason that grains have been called the staff of life. The wonderful Burt Wolf always says moderation in everything, and he is right. The problem is we as a society depend too much on pre-made highly refined meals. Our overall health would improve by cooking at home from scratch not eliminating entire food groups. Grains are healthy and that includes breads and pasta and home made sweets. When you cook you know what you are putting in your mouth and you will have better meals because you cook.

  • jeannie

    I was diagnosed celiac over 5 years ago, and am actually grateful for the “trend” in that it makes my eating out, or in, a lot easier. that being said, I don’t make a huge fuss or “look at me” deal when I go out, because I’ve educated myself and know how to order at the few restaurants I go to, without having to over-involve or rely on the staff.

    also, of note–I know people who can eat flours that have been grown for decades without processing (old time grain mills such as Adluh Bros. in South Carolina) and not be symptomatic; which goes to the theory that the years of genetic modifications and over processing is what we’re “allergic” to.

  • Dan in WNY

    A woman in a New Yorker cartoon says to her companion: “I’ve only been gluten-free for a week, and I’m already insufferable”.

  • Elliott Papineau

    @matt you feel better because you cut out the things that are most used with foods containing gluten, not the gluten itself. Just eat good food and cook it yourself.

  • Elizabeth

    I eat real food, and I’m really gluten intolerant.

    I don’t have celiac, and I’m so grateful for that. Every time I pick up a restaurant bottle of soy sauce, every time I nurse a beer at a party, every time I order french fries I’m grateful I don’t have celiac. I don’t claim to have celiac – if I’m asking about ingredients, I say I “can’t eat wheat,” and I’ve gotten really good at just picking the things on the menu that are not made with wheat to begin with. I try really hard not to be an asshole and make it worse for those who DO have celiac.

    But I *am* sensitive to gluten – I get horrendous 24-hour diarrhea if I eat “too much” gluten. How much is too much? It’s no fun to find out, so I don’t test it. I’ve gotten glutened by gochuchang and by rice noodles (“ingredients: rice flour, wheat starch, water” – ARGH!), and it sucks badly enough that I don’t dare order them in restaurants anymore.

    I eat a lot of rice. Asian and Mexican foods are staples of my diet. Yeah, I’m not above buying gluten-free cookies or pizza crust every now and then – they suck and they’re pale imitations, but a life lived completely without junk food isn’t much fun. So I’m glad gluten-free is a fad right now, but when it fades away, I’ll still be eating stir fries at home, thanks.

  • Janna

    I eat gluten free (my mother is a celiac and I’m super sensitive to the gluten), but I cut out all the crap refined gluten free food a year ago (pasta, crackers, packaged cookies, breads…) which were making me feel almost as rotten as their gluten filled counterparts. Now it’s whole foods and homemade everything, my husband and I have never been healthier on our mostly paleo whole food focused diet. Thanks for calling out the posers, love your blog!

  • Annie

    I think it’s just laziness on the part of a lot of eaters because they don’t want to take the time to learn about the food that they eat and to understand The Big Picture. Yes, a stick of butter is a lot to put into a batch of cookies, but that batch will make about 36 cookies. I don’t think anyone is going to have a heart attack and develop coronary diseases by having 1 or 2 cookies. I once read a post where someone chided the recipe author for using “so much salt” in a sweet roll recipe. It was 1 tsp of salt and the recipe makes about 16 rolls. It’s instances like these that drive me insane. That and the current nutritional labeling format.

  • Joe

    I love to eat. I also know that for whatever reason, certain kinds of gluten containing foods just kill my GI. Bloating, sluggishness, etc. I cut the gluten, no more bloating and 15# gone in 1 month. I guess I’m a stupid fad follower LOL.

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