Why Aren’t More Gluten-Free Products Nut-Free?

I’m not a marketing guru, or even a product development guru. I did a pretty mediocre job in AP Economics in high school (though, in my defense, my class was before 8am, I had zero friends in it, and the teacher used to say “thousand” like “thousthand” which was distracting. And he only spoke in terms of the supply and demand of apples, which always got me thinking about other foods, other possibilities, and why he couldn’t be more creative).

The point is, I don’t know very much about targeting a consumer base, but I do know this:

It makes no sense for the only gluten-free oat flour and gluten-free oats available in LA to contain traces of tree nuts.

The backstory:

I’m invited to attend a Shabbat dinner at a friend’s house. Said friend asks if I can bring dessert. I say sure, because I make killer pumpkin oat muffins. Turns out another friend, with a wheat allergy and celiac is attending the meal as well.

“Great,” I think. “She can never eat dessert, but since oats don’t have gluten, and I only bake with oats, I can give her a treat. How wonderful for us all.” (Sometimes, I think like an old woman who might think she’s in a terrible rendition of “The Importance of Being Earnest.”)

So I ask my gluten-free friend which oats to buy, because I know some oats contain traces of gluten (would it kill them to put it on the package though? #complaintsforanother time #thisisn’ttwitterwhyamipretendingitis?

She tells me Bob’s Red Mill is the only brand, and maybe something “Valley” but that’s harder to find. Bob’s it is!

So I go to Whole Foods, where said flour and oats presumable are stocked, and I can’t find any that say Gluten Free. Awkward. But I pick up the regular Bob’s and it’s manufactured in a facility that also processes tree nuts and soy. I get it. Because they make like almond flour or whatever. But it seems silly that they can’t take more precautions to ensure lack of cross-contamination, like a different floor in the facility or a neighboring one, or something. Anyway, I look for gluten-free oats – just rolled oats – thinking I can adapt my baking to use no flour, or just make flour from my oats in my food processor (I have gotten creative, crazy, and ballsy). But every single gluten-free rolled oats was connected to tree nuts in some way. And every non-gluten free oat? Not connected to tree nuts.

Notice the allergen information.

You’d think a company that fills such a niche need would a) want to make sure they cover the entire niche, ie gluten free people with nut or soy allergies or sensitivities and b) want to cover multiple niches to expand their market base (ie tap into the people who need nut-free flour and the people who need gluten-free flour.

But alas. We don’t live in that world, yet. So even though I can only bake with oats, I still can’t bake for someone who can’t have gluten, because my oats are glutenous. That is beyond lame.

It also begs a question I’ve been thinking for a while — can’t all products with nuts just be manufactured in a facility that processes nuts, and all products that don’t have nuts be manufactured elsewhere? Like a nut factory that all the food companies share so that the nut-free population can eat foods that don’t have nuts themselves and no longer have traces of nuts? There are just so many random products that may contain nuts or are processed with nuts (salsa, for instance, WHY?), and it seems silly. I wonder how much nut isolation would increase sales, compared with the costs associated with a nut factory.

I’m half kidding.

Any donors?

(ps I love Bob’s Red Mill, as they introduced me to teff and anasazi beans, two of my favorite new foods. So no hard feelings, Bob.)

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins – Vegan and Gluten Free

There are three days a year I absolutely need to eat pumpkin pie: Sept 13 and May 12 & 13. I do this in honor of my beloved late friend Bernard Herman, who loved him some pumpkin pie. We started a tradition in May 2005 to buy Bernard a pumpkin pie for every momentous occasion, in homage to him eating my friend Elyssa’s pie when she was out of town, in the most Goldilocks of ways. It was just so something he’d do, and he loved the food so much. Plus, as my friend Zach pointed out, what college students ever got to say the sentence, “We’re going to buy Bernard a pie?” We did.

And so every year since his passing, I keep the tradition alive by eating pumpkin pie on his birthday and the anniversary of his death/the following day when I found out about his death.

Except I can’t eat pie. It’s been secretly breaking my heart since the whole “no wheat or eggs” thing started 60+ days ago. How would I eat pie today? What if I couldn’t eat pie again?

Enter pumpkin oat muffins. I’d made them before as an erroneous cookie, and I’ve experimented a bit since, but since the whole “3 times a week” diet thing started, and since I’ve been trying to avoid any contact with egg yolks so egg whites are out of the picture, I’ve steered clear of desserts. Until now.

The following recipe is based on a pumpkin oatmeal cookie recipe from Cooks.com. I had the original before this whole thing started, and it’s delicious. But if you’re looking for an egg and gluten free alternative, the muffins are great. Also, since I can’t have nutmeg, cinnamon, or ginger, I replaced those with extra sugar and brown sugar. Refer to the original recipe for the proper spices. But seriously, delicious either way.

I don’t typically measure so much when baking, especially when I’m playing around with ingredients, because you really can’t tell how many oats equal one cup of flour. So the below are total approximations, but I feel like you can sense the consistency as you’re baking. Plus, if it’s a little gooey (it was the first time) you get a great souffle. Who doesn’t like souffle?

3/4 cup corn starch

1/2 tsp baking soda

~ 2 cups oats

~ 1 tsp brown sugar

a heaping cup of sugar

3/4 cup oil

1 tsp salt

1 can pumpkin

1/4 cup applesauce (to make 1/4 cup applesauce, since I can’t eat prepared foods, I used this applesauce recipe from allrecipes.com. I trimmed the portions to 1/4 the original amount to make sure I only made as much applesauce as to replace one egg, ie 1/4 cup).

Preheat overn to 375.

Mix flour, sugar, bakind soda, salt, brown sugar, and oats. Add in pumpkin and appleasauce. Mix well.

Drop into a muffin tin. If you don’t have little paper liner things, dab a little corn starch into the tin to keep the muffins from sticking.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a knife can be removed without any residue.