Someone found my blog by Googling “i hate gluten free people.”28April 30th, 2012eating
I love monitoring the search terms in my Google Analytics: seeing how people find this place is often funny (“buckwheat beer tastes like crap,” “friend gave me free beer,” “why do some people love peaches while others hate”) and always informative. Twice in the past couple of weeks, I have been troubled to learn that someone has found this blog by Googling, “i hate gluten free people.” In late 2011, someone found the blog by searching for “hate being around someone who is gluten free,” and in January, someone arrived here by Googling “i hate gluten intolerant people.” I know nothing else about these visitors—even if Analytics allowed me to know more, I respect their privacy and wouldn’t want to—but their expressions of aversion got me thinking about the source of their angst.
My initial thoughts upon seeing these search terms were to feel that I can’t completely blame these people for feeling that way. Some of our prominent images of gluten-free people lead people to believe that we are all insufferable, demanding and a drag to be around because of our imaginary illnesses and our histrionics. Over the past several months, I’ve nearly stopped going to restaurants, only eating out at places like Blue Moon Burgers because I know they are gluten-free friendly, with gluten-free buns, a dedicated fryer, and knowledgeable staff, so I don’t have to feel that I am troubling anyone with my requests. There’s nothing worse than showing up at a restaurant, making the minimum requests that will keep me safe (“There’s no flour in that soup, right?”) and feeling like a bother. Sometimes, restaurants are able to accommodate, but sometimes, they are not. So I cook for myself. It’s cheap, and so am I.
It’s only online that I have read about the demanding restaurant behavior that I, too, consider an embarrassment toward the rest of us. I would much rather eat my own getting-better-every-day cooking than display such a sense of entitlement. If you really need to worry so much about cross-contamination in a restaurant, perhaps you should eat at one that is comfortable with your needs, or eat at home.
It took a little while for me to realize that the search terms are really more troubling than I had noticed at first glance. These statements, i hate gluten free people and i hate gluten intolerant people, are not about behavior. They are about people. I am not an abstraction or an idea; I cannot ever change my disease, and I will not ever change the fact that I don’t eat gluten. The fact that someone might hate me because of that disturbs me.
The hate, I know, has nothing to do with the sickness. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the food. Nobody cares whether I eat wheat, barley and rye or not. It is about the demarcation of difference, about drawing attention to oneself, and about the perception that we made this stuff up.
I have discussed my concern about the fact that Shauna James Ahern, aka Gluten-Free Girl, has instructed her celiac readers to tell waiters that a single speck of gluten will cause the sufferer to get sick in the restaurant. In that post, I wrote that I was no longer interested in reading Ahern’s blog because I no longer felt that she was speaking for me.
Ahern has begun blogging for Epicurious, beginning with a post on April 11, “The Grace of a Gluten-free Meal.” At the time of this writing, there are thirty comments on the post, both positive and negative, and moderators have obviously removed some comments. Clearly, this brief post about an Easter meal brought on a flurry of discussion that ranged beyond the post topic.
Several of Ahern’s Epicurious posts have spoken to a desire for special treatment that seems to be the cause for widespread resentment that I believe has trickled down to the rest of us. In “Gluten-Free Italian,” she writes:
“Those with diagnosed celiac are given two paid work days a month to go food shopping, since gluten-free baked goods can be more difficult to find. And in farmacias in small towns, there are shelves of gluten-free packaged pasta, croissants, and rolls. That’s at the pharmacy.”
A commenter, JulesGlutenFree (probably the Jules of JulesGlutenFree.com, although Epicurous does not provide spots in profiles for commenters to link to their own blogs), calls on Dr. Alessio Fasano, the head of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, to help refute some of this information. Dr. Fasano, who is Italian, says of Ahern’s post about Italy,
“It is almost ALL WRONG. It is not true that the prevalence in Italy is 10%, it is not true that kids must be screened before entering kindergarten, and it is not true that diagnosed celiac have 2 paid work days to go shopping. It is true that GF products are in farmacias (pharmacy), since the Italian government subside the cost of GF products in the order of ~100 euro/person/month. They have a ticket to claim their products at the pharmacy and that is the reason why pharmacies carry large number of GF products.”
This special treatment of celiac sufferers is a strange pipe dream. I’m not sure why I would need to spend more time shopping than anyone else; I recently wrote about the fact that I’m over anything that comes in a package marked “gluten-free.” After writing it, I read Sari Botton’s fantastic piece about all the gluten-free crap she hates, the cookies she doesn’t care to eat. It’s much easier to avoid that stuff altogether. There’s no need for two days off for shopping when I can run into the market, grab some vegetables and meat, pay, and run out.
In “Good Food at the Airport?” Ahern again tells Epicurious readers about her special needs:
“This doesn’t include the questions about cross-contamination you have to ask an overwhelmed teenage food service worker. Could you change your gloves after you make that guy’s sandwich but make my food? Could you clean off that plastic cutting board of the crumbs? Do you know if there’s any gluten in the salad dressing? Has there been any flour on that surface recently? Is there soy sauce in anything?”
I couldn’t help but comment on that one. After all, I’ve written about food at the airport before and found it incredibly easy to disappear among the other eaters in the concourse, all trying to make satisfying choices, some trying to be healthy as well. “Healthy” means something different for each person and I found that the airport I was in had many choices, but I didn’t need to buy any of them, because I brought my own food. Ahern has written about the airport before and seems uninterested in arriving prepared, which I find puzzling.
I know that these days, I eat at restaurants less than the average person, and that’s my personal choice, but come on—does every meal have to be a dining experience? Do we always have to be impressed by what we eat? (I don’t believe our stomachs always need to be full, but that’s a different blog post.) Isn’t it okay for an airport to be a place that planes fly into and out of, a transitional space we briefly stop into, one that doesn’t need to impress us or take care of us? And when we do dine out, why choose a chancy item that will require a game of twenty questions about soy sauce and surfaces?
I do not wish to attempt any feats of mind-reading or analysis of Shauna Ahern’s personal habits or predilections, but I do have a vested interest in the personality she projects on her blog, because it affects everyone who is forced to share the label of celiac, who must ask restaurant staff about the food choices available, and who knows that people might hold negative opinions of us and our illness just because of the behavior of others who share our diagnosis.
I remember the gluten-free newbie fear of being glutened in a restaurant, the wish to make sure that everything is safe, but that wore off. Now, I know how to quickly and quietly navigate the terrain. I do not want special treatment. I want to go to a restaurant, very quietly check in—”I’ll have the salad, no croutons,” or “Burger, no bun please”—and not think about gluten for the rest of my meal; or I want to go to the place where I know I’ve ordered from a GF menu before and just order from it without fanfare. Honestly, I don’t want to think about gluten at all. After all, I’m gluten-free.
I don’t want my life to be ruled by gluten, or by gluten-free, strange in its huge presence because it is a negation. I don’t want to be run by the need to eat, either. If gluten controls my social life, makes me speak its name every time I enter into a food-based give-and-take with another person, I am not in control, and I become defined by gluten. This, perhaps, is what tires people about celiac sufferers: everything is about gluten. It gets old fast.
My plan to not let gluten control me, and to not let myself be one of those gluten-free people that others hate, has gone something like this.
- I will not constantly point out the food I can’t have when others are eating it.
- Before asking for special treatment by someone who is about to prepare food for me, I will consider whether the request is feasible, and whether it will inconvenience the person asked. Additionally, I will consider whether I might be able to choose an option that would not require special treatment.
- I will try to go entire days without using the word “gluten.”
- I will be comfortable going without food if no options are available to me.
- I will be appreciative of the hard work of those who prepare food for me, whether or not they are knowledgeable about celiac disease.
- I will keep in mind that my nourishment is not the center/purpose of a gathering.
- I will take full responsibility for my own health by opting to cook my own nutritious meals at home most of the time.
That way, food can function in the way I need it to, providing sustenance and satisfaction, while getting out of the way of my life. I don’t want gluten-free, gluten-intolerant or celiac people to be hated, so I’m doing my best to stay on best behavior, hoping “gluten-free” will someday no longer elicit eye-rollings.Tags: Epicurious, gluten-free, Gluten-Free Girl, restaurants
This is a fantastic post. I appreciate your honesty about both a very “popular” GF blogger as well as your list of not letting gluten controlling you.
My favorite quote:
“If gluten controls my social life, makes me speak its name every time I enter into a food-based give-and-take with another person, I am not in control, and I become defined by gluten.”
I laughed when I noticed that if you now search on bing for ‘i hate shauna ahern’ (without the quotes), this post is the 4th hit. (And your peach post is first on google).
Thank you so much for this post! As a fellow celiac suffer, I cringe whenever I see Shauna Ahern appear in any mainstream media. She does not represent the gluten free community! I hate that she has claimed a moniker that passes herself off as an expert in something she knows very little about. On top of that, her entitled attitude is what gives all of us a bad name. I really can’t stand her, and know many within the gluten free community who feel the same. I wish others would be more vocal as you have. Thank You!
I will say I am as annoyed by GFG as you are – I think I found your blog with “gluten free girl criticisms” – but I do not think it’s the job of people with celiac and gluten intolerance to be on their best behavior at all times so that we don’t annoy people without it by existing. There are some obnoxious people on this diet, as there are obnoxious people from all walks of life, but anyone defining us as a group from them is wrong, and I don’t see it as my job to be “one of the good ones,” although I try to be considerate to all servers anyway.
I am sometimes required as an adult to go places where I will need to place a special order, and it does sometimes hurt my feelings when family and friends don’t bother to make sure I can eat anything I didn’t bring myself. The word “glutard” angers me a lot more, while the former just makes me a little sad.
Excellent work! I didn’t know about the posts at Epicurious before today. Apparently, no one who I follow on twitter mentioned anything about them. Twitter is so awesome.
But being aware of things is good. The comments on those posts replaced dessert for me tonight. Honestly.
It’s a shame Epicurious didn’t select a better writer, like Elizabeth Barbone. But maybe they went with annoying on purpose, for traffic’s sake.
ps – apologies to the grammatically correct and/or annoying people I may have offended.
This is a really thoughtful and thought-provoking post, thank you. I don’t have celiac, but I like the way you think about food and its place in your life.
When I read your list, it becomes clear that you are considerate of other people, and you have a sense of perspective about food. And that, I think, is what causes most of the criticism of Shauna Ahern: she is obsessed with herself and obsessed with food, and it’s ugly. It makes eating gluten-free look like an excuse to draw attention to herself constantly, and to live a life focused on food and gluttony. It’s sad that she’s become such a high-profile gluten-free blogger, because these personality traits have everything to do with her, and absolutely nothing to do with celiac disease.
While I agree with you that people should take responsibility for their own dietary requirements, I think there’s another side to it too. If I have a friend who has any special dietary needs (gluten-free, food allergies, etc.), it’s only considerate to keep that in mind when I make plans with them. Because so many social gatherings revolve around food (for good or for ill), it’s part of being a good host or a good friend.
This is an excellent counterpoint to Mrs. Ahern. While some of the insults directed her way are vile, a lot of the criticism is sadly warranted. It’s important to have a life outside of food. I think even the late Julia Child would agree.
And didn’t you comment before that you weren’t “thin and wan”? You look lovely, hon. Much more of a picture of gluten-free health than….another person.
Very informative as well as honest criticism. Personally, I do not hate people who have dietary restrictions because of people such as Shauna Ahern. I don’t think you need to explain yourself for the people who think that they have to make themselves the center of attention because of their afflictions. You sound like a cool person and if anybody holds you to some stigma that Shauna or others have put out there, then it sucks to be them.
Good post. I like your realistic attitude and your way of becoming self-sufficient. If you ever come to my house to eat, I will consider creating a healthy meal for you and everyone else an adventure. There are so many good things to eat that are unglutenous; the trick is to to create a balanced diet and a balanced life.
GFG sounds very high maintenance to me. We all know people like that. They never quite give up the idea that they are at the center of the Universe. Who needs that?
Here is the deal. Shauna, like Il Duce, was one of the first in the game and mainstream media editors will say, with a cavalier wave of their hand, “Go interview a blogger who (insert “had natural childbirth” “breastfed till age 8″ “home schools her kids” “got fired for blogging” “is gluten free” “decorates her house in shabby chic” “makes gorgeous cakes for celebrities” or anything like that)
and….now that the media has laid off most of its full time/old timers because of (to be fair) horribly dwindling revenue at least in the print market, the few people left do a quick Google search and a quick interview and pick up their (almost universally) low paycheck and
……….. everybody is pleased except for the fact that the same five people in each category get interviewed over and over and over and then they get invited to represent the community at conventions and it’s all just so wonderful until people begin to notice that maybe these five people are acting like total asses. Maybe they were assholes before hand, but many of them have taken to the role with the alacrity that Shauna devours an entire pig.
PS I’ll gladly buy you some gluten free pasta and bread and have you over for spaghetti any night!!!!!
Thanks so much for this post.
One thing that really stuck out to me in Shauna’s posts is that she expects food to be the sole purpose of every single part of her life. There is nothing wrong with an airport focusing on transporting people and not providing a transcendent experience for Shauna James Ahern.
She has such narrow vision of life that it is almost unhealthy. I hope, for her sake, that it is simply an act to forward her page hits.
I have a couple of friends who are gluten intolerant; one has been for many years, long before the ‘trend’ we see today. We often had family meals at each other’s home and met for lunch and it was NEVER a source of consternation. She never tried to make me feel like I needed to change everything to suit her like Shauna does and in return I wanted to insure that her needs were taken care of. If she had shown the demanding and arrogant nature Shauna does…well, we wouldn’t have been friends.
Shauna needs lots of moments of introspection; she laments the people who do not care for her brand of theater as sad people. Funny isn’t it that we see her as sad?
I am not a GF hater; in fact I have huge empathy for anyone who is gluten intolerant, has diabetes or has any number of issues with their health. Compassion is not that hard to come by unless we’re ordered to have it. You have mine and you didn’t ask.
Shauna is far too invested in food and her personal crusade is annoying to others in her orbit. There’s more to life than what you can put in your mouth from dawn to dusk.
Hi, I never leave comments but I’m compelled to opine here. I’m a server in a high volume restaurant set in Zion natl park, so I interact with thousands of diners every season from all over the world; to say we have an eclectic clientel is an understatement. This season we servers have seen an explosion of gluten-free eaters, all being American. The reason I like this post is it’s reason and practicality- characteristics rarely exhibited by the typical gluten free customer. While there are many that are very sensible, understanding, and patient, the majority are not of this variety. What’s clear to me is that this is simply another fad diet that has infected socio-culinary culture and has made life difficult for us lowly order takers. Let me be clear: I’m speaking of those without a legitimate dietary need (celiacs); as a server I sympathize with those that suffer from this issue and do all in my power to accommodate them. I’ve found that most with a legit need are very reasonable and appropriate. How do I know the difference? I ask. We take food allergies very seriously and thus a lot of time and effort is expended in ensuring the propriety of that customers meal. And therein lies the rub. While It’s a lot of work to put these meals together (searching ingredient lists, double the time at the table, heavily modfifying recipes, different cooking styles, utensils, and cookware, etc.) they think it’s little work, which is probably a factor in their demanding attitude of sanctimonious entitlement. There is no need with most people; this is simply a new and popular twist on the Atkins diet that folks think they need and demand despite the monumental effort. I’m not saying that we won’t, or don’t like to go out of our way for any customer…that’s what we do and we do it with a smile. But once your predilection for that new and shiny diet imposes on others experience ( special attention equates to time away from other tables and longer overall wait times) it’s time to cut back and be a little more considerate. Next year it will be another diet and that tenth of an ounce of gluten in the chipotle dressing won’t matter much.
So wish I hadn’t seen this post. I subscribed to your blog based on your introduction via writer grrls. Having gone through the whole gf thing a few years ago (my doc says my tests are negative, but when I eat gluten I have anything from mild discomfort to shrieking gastro pain and worse) and so I fall squarely in the “i’m not celiac I just don’t eat gluten” camp. In other words, crumbs are not gonna kill me.
But they do create a major problem for others. I started learning to cook gluten free thanks to Shauna Ahern. The problem with this post, is you say untrue things about her, just for starters. And then people gang up on her, without reading the links. She doesn’t whine about airports anymore than you do, but one has to go to the link and read the post. And yes, she DOES plan for airports. Her post, the one you link, was about what happened when her flight was cancelled, when they had to spend the night there, when her well planned little stock of okay food is gone.
I found similar inconsistencies in the other links you posted of hers. You seem to just want to distance yourself from the gluten free haters, and you do a poor job of it. You seem to enjoy and welcome yourself to be a lightning rod for all the shauna haters to come out of the woodwork and vent. Good job. But criticizing her weight? That’s below the bar. Nucleating negativity, that’s your role.
You refer and encourage others to denigrate Shauna as self-absorbed. But excuse me? You write a blog. So Shauna’s self-absorbed, talking about food and her life, but you aren’t? Because you’re just cooler, or something. I haven’t figured that out.
I really wish I hadn’t seen this, or the comments. Put yourself in Shauna’s shoes. How about if everyone of those posts was directed at you? How self-obsessed you are? What you look like? What a poor example you set for the so-called “community.?” Hitching your star to the Shauna haters is a short ride to nowhere. Because you never know when they’ll turn on you. And it’s painful.
For my part: I read food blogs to find new recipes, to find new tricks, to look at my food choices in a new way aside from “meat, vegetables, potatoes” and to find new ways of combining them that makes me happy as well as the rest of my (gluten loving) family.
Funny, though, I don’t get that from your blog. (Ranting about costco beef hardly qualififes. And it’s so so UN self-absorbed, yes?) My feeling is that someone who wants to push themselves forward by trashing someone else, probably is simply too insecure about not having much to say. Or jealous.
I’m truly disappointed. I’ve met Shauna only once. But I’ve read her blog probably fifty times in the last year. And got far more out of it than anything I’ve seen here. You seemed like a nice person at first, but your introduction doesn’t fit your follow through.
Have fun with the haters. Me, I’m going to go eat something good I got off a food blog I will not mention. And btw, I’m not thin either. Making fun of someone’s weight is just wack. You should know that.
“Ahern has written about the airport before and seems uninterested in arriving prepared, which I find puzzling.”
Except this piece you link to is about arriving prepared, just not prepared for an unplanned overnight stay. You find this puzzling? Really? The other airport piece you quote from and link to is all about how much easier it is these days, with gluten free menus at some airport restaurants. (Just like you. Wow, you guys have alot in common.)
You just take the quote out of context to rile up the haters. It’s a cheap shot.
And why take comments from other blogs? (Epicurious) Just feeding the beast.
Do you realize you devote 10 paragraphs to Shauna and criticizing her, and yet you sound EXACTLY like her. Your response from MAY 1 is so Shauna, you’re her virtual twin.
And when people accuse her of gluttony and worse, you don’t say a word. Except “thanks for the kind words!.”
Clearly, you enjoy the reception your negative piece created.
I haven’t read your first post about GFG — and why would I? I read this one and it was more than enough. I don’t think people’s problems with personality are reason to read a food blog. You actually sound exactly like Shauna–you ask the same questions of restaurants, of friends and family, and you have the same issues. You just don’t like her, you see that others don’t like her, and seek to promote yourself as the cooler, hipper gluten free blogger at her expense. Same thing, slightly snarkier package.
The point is, you have everything in common with Shauna, you just don’t like her style, and you’ve used your blog as a bully pulpit to bring the haters to the surface — like they don’t have enough places to do that. (They seem to have nothing better to do much of the time. Which is the same reason I dropped Epicurious.)
None of this “let’s trash shauna party” helps people with gluten intolerance in any way, shape, or form. At least Shauna’s posts have recipes at the end.
How funny. I found your web site while bored on the coach and typing in random things that enter my mind. “I hate gluten free people” was inspired by my search for strawberry cream pie and ending up bogged down in a monologue of statements about coconut crusts.
Anyway, your take on the thing is great. The issue with gluten free is that every single invitation, gathering, or mention of food leads to a lecture on gluten. Your commitment to moderation should be a lesson to us all.
Not everything is about our personal issues. 99% of the day can be about all kinds of stuff other than our idividual fetishes.
I truly enjoyed this post…in fact I like your attitude about food and eating as discussed here so much that I am going to read you regularly! Keep up the good work–and the good attitude!