I think we have reached peak gluten free.
When Greggs and Patisserie Valerie get in on the act, you know it’s properly commoditised, and the fad has become mainstream. Make no mistake, Greggs are not going to make a business from coeliacs missing their budget sausage roll fix, they are squarely trading on a massive public delusion about gluten free being ‘healthier’. (“POPULAR bakery chain Greggs has announced new plans as part of a healthier rebrand” says The Express). Will it last? Probably not.
But it leaves me with a lot of questions about where the market goes from here, and what this means for coeliacs, public health in general, and personally, my blog.
I feel properly tired with fighting the misconceptions about gluten free amongst colleagues and acquaintances. The misconception about gluten free as ‘healthy’ is now so embedded it seems pointless trying. I’ve actually lost count of the number of friends advised by unscrupulous ‘nutrition advisors’ or ‘holistic health coaches’ to lay off gluten, dairy and sugar. Unexplaining what people think they know about gluten is a harder (and ruder) task than explaining coeliac ever was. Mainstream gluten free brands implying health benefits no longer makes me rage, but sigh knowingly.
Gluten free bread is now so ubiquitous in restaurants I no longer feel like I want to order it in support. I never ate that much bread anyway! I’ve gone from being a proper coeliactivist over the chip fryer to quietly ordering the salad (no croutons), because to be honest that’s what I’d rather have (for my health), and I don’t want to give a medical low down every time I eat out with someone new. We’ve never had it so good with food availability: maybe I miss my outsider status? Or maybe I’m just bored of my diet being the most prominent thing about me.
So what does this mean for my blog? Like fellow blogger and friend, Mrs D, I’ve been facing a bit of a direction dilemma with my blog as the market and my life has changed. Over time it’s evolved from a place to share much needed information about eating out, to something more issue-based and somewhere to share something about my way of life (and eating!) as the market has expanded and there’s less need to shout about new products and restaurants that get it right.
Along the way the free from blogosphere has exploded, and not just with hobbyists like me, but with people who treat blogging like a business venture- some with passion and writing and recipes I love (all success to them); and, to be very frank, some with cynical approaches and drivel for content who seem to do unfathomably well. Do I envy them? Perhaps a little. Mostly I feel sad that the subject matter is so commoditised that the more successful blogs simply rave about freebies for retweets, reprint press releases in full, or list the contents of free from supermarket shelves for search rankings.
Gluten free blogging for me is about the lesser-asked questions, niche issues and expertise, and above all the community and friends I’ve found.
So what now for gluten free B? I have a job and young family, and am rediscovering life and passions outside of my diet; my recipes will never compete with those by full time chefs or people with the patience to try out ten types of flour; I’m not bold enough to market myself to win self-nominated blogging awards and thousands of followers, I have no ambition to make blogging a career. I do have ambition to enjoy life, do something a bit different, and start something new this year.
And you have no need for more reviews of the latest product, you don’t need another recipe for courgetti or gluten free carrot cake, or another opinion on the best high street gluten free pizza. I’m flattered if you’re interested in my opinion on these things, but I think I can do that in a tweet.
From here I’m going to keep this blog much more focussed. If an issue gets my goat, you can be sure I’ll write an opinion piece. If I feel like I have something different to write I will, and If something tickles me, I’ll share it; but my posts here might be a bit less frequent than in the past. I’ve got some other plans in 2016. I’m going to be sharing more about my life in a new personal diary blog that will reflect that there’s more to life than what you eat – it’s going to be a lot more ‘free form’ than ‘free from’. I’m also taking a nutrition course (I love a contradiction), and continuing to improve my photography over on Instagram. I’d love it if you joined me.
And as a treat to myself, I’m going to unfollow all of the accounts that are boring, unoriginal, run by nutritionistas, or who make me feel inadequate in some way with their ‘fitspo’ or thousands of followers and also the brands who I think are unethical or just have poor products; because that’s not my gluten free, and what matters is the personal connections I have made and the genuine appreciation from people who care x