People are giving up gluten. It may be because of a diagnosis of celiac disease or finding out you have a genetic predisposition to it. It may be a wheat allergy or from simply experiencing gluten intolerance whenever you eat it. Or it may just be a lifestyle choice after reading how gluten is a very recent addition to the human diet and that the medical community is realizing that the prevalence of celiac disease seems to have increased dramatically in recent years.
Unfortunately, testing for celiac disease and gluten intolerance is not perfect, so many individuals rely on their own instincts and bodies and embark on a complete makeover of their eating habits, realizing that they just feel better when they don't eat gluten.
Gluten and gluten-contaminated products are everywhere. And, often, they are in the foods we love the most. Bread, pasta, and cake are the most obvious culprits. But what about the wheat in soy sauce (used in the fermentation process), creamed soups (in the roux), or cola (via the caramel color)? Or malt vinegar, barley, rye, oats, triticale, and beer? Gluten hides in the most unexpected places.
Now imagine if you are gluten intolerant AND vegan. As I mentioned in a previous post, just because a vegan has to or chooses to avoid gluten, his or her ethical stance about animal products doesn't change. So, the elimination of gluten gets added to the vegan lifestyle. Luckily, awareness about gluten intolerance is becoming more prominent, making it easier for everyone to find food that works for them. Mainstream grocery stores like Safeway are tagging their gluten-free items. More and more exclusively vegan companies, like Eat Pastry are offering gluten-free products. Churches are even offering gluten-free wafers for communion. Allyson Kramer of Manifest Vegan transformed her vegan food blog to a gluten-free vegan food blog when she was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2009. And a recently launched blog called xgfx offers up animal-friendly, gluten-free recipes and resources because "While there are plenty of great resources out there for vegans, and many for the gluten-free crowd, there seem to be very few for folks like us who dwell in both camps." So, it’s easier than ever to find recipes and products that are safe and restaurants that are sensitive to the topic. But it's still rare enough that a little advice doesn't hurt.
In the Bay Area, several restaurants offer gluten-free vegan options that are definitely worth checking out. If you have celiac disease, or are severely gluten intolerant, I recommend calling ahead to see what practices they have in place in their kitchens to avoid contamination.