Saw a little ad in the Georgia Straight for a “Gluten Free Eating Expo” to be held at one of the local halls in town. It caught my attention. Reducing gluten in my diet has been of interest for a few years now. I know that I feel so much better when I eliminate or at least reduce my consumption of wheat in my diet but it is a struggle. That delicious fresh baguette thickly sliced and thickly slathered with butter is always a welcome accompaniment to a delicious homemade soup or anything else for that matter. Sprinkling that bread and butter with chocolate hail (a Dutch treat) is a worthy dessert.
Several years ago my daughter altered her eating to exclude wheat and to be as gluten free as possible. She has benefitted noticeably and enough that the temptation of fresh bread and butter is no longer a temptation. We have benefitted from her determination and success as we have moved in the direction of at least being cognizant of using less or no wheat and having gluten free alternatives at meals that she shares with us. Her interest and active participation in exploring gluten free baking has been a wonderful treat for us.
It was natural that we would choose to attend the expo. The three of us agreed that an early start would fit with our day and going to the expo before going for a coffee would make sense. So off we went to the hall, getting there only about fifteen minutes after the doors opened. I liked the feel of the event, registration and voluntary donation and focus on contributing to the Food Bank rather than charging a high entrance fee but I was a bit surprised by the number of people entering the hall. Maybe this was just the congestion at the door.
As we made our way past the registration we realized that we were definitely not the only ones who were interested in gluten free eating. The three aisles of producers showing their wares were packed with people. Didn’t we get here early to avoid the crowds? I guess not.
The event featured a number of local and non-local producers of various gluten free products: granolas; crackers; breads; muffins; donuts, fruit and nut bars; different types of gluten free flours; meats; soups; pasta, both dried and frozen; and baked goods galore. Most producers were giving out samples of their interesting products so it was a tasty morning. Information about celiac disease, recipes for gluten free cooking and sources of gluten free products was available.
All of this was appealing and useful in our quest to be wheat or gluten free.
My fascination with the event however was on the numbers of people attending. The crowds of people wandering the aisles were much larger than I had expected and to some extent limited our ability to really look at the displays or to talk to the vendors. All three of us commented on the obvious interest demonstrated by the crowds. I spoke with a few vendors asking them if they were seeing the numbers they were anticipating, only to hear that they too were taken aback by the response to the event. Even the organizers were surprised. At the beginning of one of the four information sessions to be held as part of the event they announced that they were expecting about 200 people but more than triple that had registered in this the first hour. After a good tour of the vendors’ wares we were ready to take our bags of goodies, some free and some purchased, home with us. As we were leaving we saw the same number of people as we had shared the hall with now waiting in the lobby to be let into the event. We thanked our lucky stars that we had chosen to come to the event early, avoiding any standing in lines although not avoiding the crowds.
All of this is of interest to me. Take away the people who came to the event because for them gluten free eating is the latest fad that they want to be part of and take away the people who came to get the free samples and you still have a lot of people interested in changing or at least looking at what they are eating.
Maybe this is a sign that more and more people are willing to take an active role in their health. Maybe more people are acknowledging that what we eat has a major impact on our health and our ability to stay disease free. Maybe people are doing some serious examination of the impact of various foods on their ability to be well and feel good. This was all good from my perspective.
The other positive we took away from the event was seeing the number of producers working to provide a full range of gluten free products in the market place. Knowing the availability when my daughter started her gluten free journey and what we saw today is evidence of progress. We were encouraged to see the variety but also the increased quality of products and their availability. A change in the making. A change in how we produce food, how we eat and how we think about what we eat.
It was reassuring to be around so many people interested in their food and subsequently their health.
Irene McDermott © 2012