Gluten is a protein, and protein is healthy stuff, so that means Gluten should be good for you. And for me. Which it probably is. Gluten is not, however, good for my wife. Nope, this little protein, crafted in the endosperm of certain grains, can knock her down for a good day, with migraines, joint and muscle pain, and similar debilitating effects.
Why Gluten? The reason this otherwise indistinguishable portion of a grain has such a response is not well known (at least to me), but it shows up in a remarkable variety of foods. The reason it shows up in food has something to do with the versatility of the host grain, and the clever application of food engineering. The primary source of Gluten is Wheat, which is often used in bread and bread-like products. Aside from direct uses, Wheat can be included in food as thickener, or to enhance some aspect of the food like it’s energy content. Wheat is particularly useful for making Beer, and the starch from Wheat was used to stiffen cloth during weaving (I think they use a different process now). Gluten is also generated by grains other than Wheat, such as Barley, Rye, and depending on who you ask, maybe Oats. Other names for Wheat are usually historical in nature, since what we call Wheat today is the descendant of some super-evil grain quite some time back. So, you may encounter the locally derived names for Wheat, such as Kamut, Spelt, Bulgar, or Durum. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but at least the biggest offenders. The most interesting hiding place for a Wheat derivative I have seen is Soy Sauce. In particular, the traditionally brewed variety. If you avoid Soy for any of the numerous good reasons to do so, keeping away from the Gluten in Soy Sauce should be pretty easy.
So, in this journey through a life of eating food, we have learned to craft our food without the easy engineering techniques that include Wheat. Several Gluten-free grains are available, but require some practice to use (if you are used to Wheat flour).
While this step is a rather daunting task to most, my wife and I were already pursuing the non-processed food route before we had to leave Gluten behind. My wife has been off Gluten for several years, and we have found that most foods can be made without Wheat. All the recipes I have discussed here we made without Gluten, for the recipes that have flour we use a mix of Gluten free flours.
One interesting note: We have found that soaking Gluten free grains overnight in Raw Milk works wonderfully. A fairly consistent issue with Gluten free flours is the stuff you make with them tends to crumble or fall apart. A good night with the friendly milk bacteria seems to convince this flour to settle down and play nice. However it works, I’m glad that it does. The general approach to ‘fixing’ Gluten free flour mixes is to add Xanthan or Guar gum, or a similar bonding additive. Instead of these shortcuts, we are grateful we can make use of the soaking process to keep our food together.