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culture

Gluten Free Garage Shows Off Toronto’s Wheat-Free Options

A pop-up marketplace showcased a range of Toronto-made gluten-free products.

Cupcakes from Bunner’s.

Just a couple of years ago, an event like Gluten Free Garage, even in a large city like Toronto, would have been very unlikely.

In 2013, however, it’s not just those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance avoiding foods with wheat, barley, and other gluten-containing grains; an increasing number of people are avoiding gluten simply because they feel that they’re healthier without it. (A survey by NPD Group recently found that nearly 30 per cent of adults are interested in eliminating or reducing gluten in their diets.) That kind of interest has led to both an increase in the number of gluten-free products available and an increase in the number of places selling them. It has also led to Gluten Free Garage, a local one-day pop-up marketplace that highlights gluten-free products and retailers. It was held for the second time on Sunday at the Artscape Wychwood Barns.

The crowd at Gluten Free Garage on Sunday.

This edition of Gluten Free Garage—which had been timed to kick off Celiac Awareness Month—featured more than 50 vendors, including local shops, large-scale food manufacturers, local producers, and nutritionists. Gluten-free food truck Gourmet B1tches was on hand, and speakers discussed topics like maintaining good nutrition on a gluten-free diet and raising kids who don’t eat gluten.

The food available at the event showcased the full range of what’s available for those who don’t eat gluten. Some of it was clearly meant to appeal to the health-food crowd, like energy bars from Nud, or juice cleanses from benourished. Other offerings, like pasta and soups, were meant to replace typical grocery items that are often off limits for gluten-free eaters. (Even soups without noodles often contain gluten, because flour is commonly used as a thickener.) And baked goods were well represented, with Bunner’s, Tori’s Bakeshop, and LPK Culinary Groove (which recently closed its Leslieville storefront) all on hand. Large-scale manufacturers, like O’Doughs and Udi’s Gluten Free, showcased items like breads and muffins that are available at both health-food stores and major grocery retailers around Toronto.

A selection of gluten-free groceries at Gluten Free Garage.

As much as some of the items on hand were indicators of how far gluten-free food has come (highlights included the cupcakes from Bunner’s, SoL Cuisine veggie burgers, Sunflower Kitchen soups, and Udi’s baked goods) others were reminders of the fact that, in some foods, gluten is really hard to replace. Glutino‘s pretzel sticks had the taste right, but just didn’t have the right snap. Mary’s Gone Crackers were not particularly satisfying. And, though Magic Oven makes one of the better gluten-free pizza crusts in the city, it’s just not the same. Other vendors appeared to be trying to associate themselves with gluten-free products for marketing purposes. It’s not often that kombucha (Tonica), milk (Harmony Organic), or coconut water (O.N.E.) would ever contain the much-maligned protein.

The Gluten Free Garage marketplace was already busy an hour after opening on Sunday morning. It wouldn’t be surprising if a third edition were to pop up sometime soon.

Comments

  • CatherineHeron

    Woman, you cray. Mary’s Organic Crackers are out of this world good.

  • Shame

    Really people. It’s a fad. There’s no health reason to go gluten-free unless you’re diseased. It would be funny if those 30% of adults found out a few years from now that avoiding gluten only fosters gluten intolerance.

    That would kind of be like the parents who have eliminated every speck of dirt from their home and keep their child out of the sandbox and strictly regulate their diet and who are finding out now that it’s exactly that type of behavior which is causing and hardening allergies.

    • Lavender

      This kind of dismissive arrogance has to stop. Maybe you haven’t had the sort of experiences that would prompt you to eliminate or limit gluten, but that doesn’t mean the experiences of others aren’t legitimate. The sort of wheat crops that are being grown today, and they way they’re grown, can create reactions in people. Allergic responses to many different foods are on the rise; why should we take soy and nut allergies seriously but not those related to wheat? Indian farmers have explained that many of their traditional wheat varieties were low in gluten. They’ve since been replaced by monoculture crops. GMOs are also very prevalent in products that contain wheat. There are many possible reasons why people may want to avoid gluten. You offered nothing of value to the discussion but a knee-jerk reaction and an incomparable analogy.

      • Shame

        There was a fully qualified statement. Someone is a bit defensive.

        • OgtheDim

          Calling it a fad before providing your qualifying statement invites these sort of reactions.

          Might I suggest you change your writing style to make your point less contentious? Focus on your main point then bring in the contentious.

          Bury the worrisome.

  • spunky

    grains were cross bread in the 50s to be hardier for industrial manufacturing and are having inflammatory responses in some people, especially people with chronic conditions like arthritis. if cutting out gluten makes you feel better then i don’t see why thats anyone elses business. not to mention that many gluten free products are also free of most common allergens like dairy and nuts which make them good for many people. this is a really cool idea.

  • SJ

    “Other vendors appeared to be trying to associate themselves with
    gluten-free products for marketing purposes”- this is somewhat misleading. My husband is a celiac, and he won’t drink anything that is not verifiable (ideally certified) as gluten free, this has limited the kinds of things you wouldn’t expect- nuts (most say they are processed in a facility that handles wheat, or say nothing at all, we have to shell our own, and haven’t had cashews in a long time!), milk products (often contain stabilizers and food starches) and juice (some juices and facilities use oats/barley and don’t check for cross-contamination). He is so sensitive he didn’t risk sampling at booths where the vendor didn’t have a dedicated gluten-free kitchen. Contamination is a *huge* deal, and these vendors wanted those truly sensitive to gluten to know that their foods are safe.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Gluten shmuten, how about dairy-free options in the baked goods aisle? I don’t want to wait for celebrity endorsement for my whey allergy to count.