Eating my morning croissant, the Accidental Locavore was wondering — why is it that there is so much fuss about being gluten-free in the US and it’s never mentioned in France? Here, every day starts with bread, continues with bread and often ends with bread. But do a Google search for gluten-free in France or celiac disease and there’s little there. And the results you find are mostly Americans wondering how to eat in France. To be fair, I know a few people who actually have celiac disease and like a severe allergy, they can be extremely ill from eating gluten.
But in France a typical morning starts with a croissant (or two) or a tartine, made from toasting a leftover baguette (if there is one) and spreading it with butter, jam or a mild cheese.
Lunch could be a classic croque monsieur, a sandwich made with a baguette, or pizza. Even in a restaurant, there’s always a basket of bread. And any decent bakery has at least a dozen different varieties to choose from, ranging from tiny ficelles to giant sourdough loaves known as miches that could feed a family of ten.
At a recent dinner there were three different breads on my solo table – pain d’épice (a local spiced bread), slices of toasted baguette and regular baguettes. With my soupe de poissons came more toasted baguettes and the tart I had for dessert had a flour-based crust.
Think about this: how does a population with almost 300 million people (vs. 60 million in France), that annually eats less than half the amount of bread as the French, end up with five times the number of patients with celiac? Is it the flour and/or the way the bread is processed? It’s an easy bet that a loaf of Wonder Bread isn’t as good for you as an artisanal baguette. Wheat has evolved from having 14 chromosomes to currently having 42. Luckily, GMO wheat hasn’t made it into the market yet, but that doesn’t mean Monsanto isn’t working on it.
Meanwhile, I’m off to grab a baguette and some cheese – it’s lunchtime!