I’VE JUST RECENTLY RETURNED from my first out-of-town trip since beginning an experiment with going gluten free. Sleeping past the free hotel breakfast I find myself wandering the empty streets of downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, looking for breakfast. I pass the Starbucks and the Panera Bread Company. No gluten-free bakery and coffee shop? I wander into the local branch of what happens to be the bank we use. I ask only for suggestions about breakfast places. A woman with a clipboard and a pleasant South American accent starts thinking but is interrupted by a hurried, important, man in a suit who asks where he can exchange money. She suggests the bank tellers right behind her. Then it comes. Panera’s! I thank her for this bit of advice and simply follow it.
Inside, Panera’s Bread Company is nearly devoid of customers. My staring at the menu and series of probing questions draws the attention of the General Manager who knows exactly what she has on the menu that is gluten free. Tomato soup. Bean soup. But the bean soup isn’t on today. I can’t help but think of a certain scene from a Jack Nicholson movie, Five Easy Pieces, as I suggest one of the breakfast sandwiches without the bread. “We can do that” she almost shouts cheerfully. So I am sitting at my table staring at the colorful image captured above when my repast is delivered to me: A seriously flattened and very dry fried egg, a thin slice of cheese, two bits of bacon. No prizes for presentation will be won here but it is sustenance.
If I think about it (which I don’t) my world has closed in more than a little. My life now is devoid of pretzels, beer, toast, most breakfast cereals, virtually every pastry known to man, Campbells tomato soup. It’s not the most complicated diet imaginable. But society just isn’t ready for it. We live in a world of Gluten Gluttons. I imagine some great evil to associate with this. None occurs except the reason I went on this diet in the first place.