American Food Practices

Last week I gave a pot-sticker-making lesson to a group of ladies. Conversation turned to one participant's recent trip to Italy, and she declared that her daughter, who has a gluten intolerance at home, ate "whatever she wanted--bread, pasta, pizza" in Italy, with no ill effects! You can imagine what a fascinating topic this was to me, and we spent some minutes trying to fathom the mystery. All wheat contains gluten, after all, whether it be grown in Italy or the United States. Was it that American wheat is genetically modified? Was it that American wheat is grown with particular fertilizers and sprayed with particular pesticides? Of course, if it was the latter case, the woman's daughter wouldn't have a gluten allergy but rather a pesticide allergy.

Wikipedia picture of the culprit

And if it were the genetically-modified bit that the daughter's body objected to, wouldn't that be solved by eating organic wheat? The anecdote had a sad ending because the gal decided to risk some of the forbidden foods on the plane ride home and instantly got sick. Vacation was over.

I have no idea why Italian wheat foods didn't sicken her, although when I mentioned this interesting case in another conversation, another person piped up to say they also had the same experience! Amazing. All I can say is, if you're gluten-intolerant (or think you are), and you're craving breads and pastas, you may want to schedule a research trip to Italy and order a bowl of fettucine.

Wheat is not the only thing the Old World does differently when it comes to food. Many practices and ingredients allowed in the United States are banned in Europe, including certain food colorings, pesticides that harm bees, and various genetically-engineered ingredients. This recent Mother Jones article cites others, like good old chlorine washes for poultry. Mm, mm good.

Seriously--there's something broken with the American food system. As I mentioned in my post last week, it's not this or that villainized food of the moment (I'm looking at you, "wheat belly"), it's rather our lost connection to whole, unprocessed foods, grown or produced by our own hands or hands we trust, without the chemical and processor middle men. Why are food allergies on the rise? Why are obesity and diabetes on the rise? The right food won't solve everything, but it can rule some things out.

Can't wait for our Bellevue Farmers Market to start up on Thursday, May 16! Bring on the pesticide-free produce, the pastured meats, and the weird-ingredient-free baked goods! I imagine I won't be the only one lining up to hear Director Lori Taylor ring that opening bell.

Food grown on a bee-friendly farm