HomeApril 2016Gluten-Free Gluttons for Punishment

Gluten-Free Gluttons for Punishment

0416mayravA few years ago, the entire Western world declared itself allergic to bread.

Celiac disease, gluten intolerance and wheat allergies suddenly became things people had. Not just people like that slightly off guy from work, who believably suffers from an isolating obscure condition, but people you’ve known your whole life. People you had pizza and beer with, like, two weeks ago. Those people. They all suddenly couldn’t stomach wheat.

When gluten-free was emerging as a new fad I thought, “Good luck, suckers.”

We Jews know a thing or two about giving up man’s most delectable culinary creation. Every year, we celebrate our salvation from slavery by shackling ourselves in the bonds of matzah.

Using everything short of a blowtorch to rid our homes of leavened bread, we sign up for eight days of tasteless, fiber-less food, and subsequent constipation. It’s a painful exercise in religious fidelity that is only slightly mitigated by “let my people go” jokes.

I don’t want to minimize the problems suffered by those who have a legitimate intolerance to gluten, but there is simply no way that everyone I know who declares himself gluten-intolerant actually is. Agriculture would not have advanced had the majority of our farming ancestors spent half their lives doubled-over in agony every time they ate a biscuit.

Researchers say the true extent of gluten disorders won’t be known until they discover reliable biologic indicators to diagnose the problems. Until then, I have to conclude that most people are faking it. And this boggles my mind.

From the moment we open the haggadah, the only thing I can think of during Passover, is bread. Big, leaven-y, delicious bread. Challah. Pizza dough. Cookies–and not those crumbly “kosher for Passover” cookies, but real ones. I want to stuff my face with all the gluten in the world.

Why would anyone give up bread the other 357 days of the year?

It must simply be that fake-gluten-intolerance is a form of masochism. Like Pharaoh’s stubbornness in the face of the 10 plagues, or a Donald Trump supporter, people who profess to be gluten-free must want their lives to be harder. Lucky for them, Passover obliges.

According to the kosher certification authority Orthodox Union: “Because one can only perform the mitzvah of eating matzot at the Seder with a matzah that is made from one of the five varieties of grain (barley, wheat, rye, oats and spelt), eating matzot using any of the other flours that are gluten-free would still not enable one to fulfill the mitzvah.”

In other words, in order to fulfill the mitzvah of matzah, a gluten-free Jew must eat gluten. Because I’m mean, I find this hysterical. You deny yourself a baguette all year round, but somehow that isn’t good enough during Passover? You must also join your gluten-filled brethren in suffering the consequences of matzah?

Well, gluten-free gluttons for punishment, I’ll see you in line outside the bathroom.

Mayrav Saar lives in Los Angeles.


  1. Oats are actually gluten free. A carefully made oat flour based matzah would work. Now if such a thing exists… who knows?!?

    In any case, great essay.


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