The Fad that is Food Intolerance


The Fad that is Food Intolerance

Illustration: Akshita Monga/ Arré

There was a time you actually HAD to be gluten or lactose intolerant to be gluten or lactose intolerant. But now, due to incredible advances in knowledge of pretentious, competitive wankery, these windows to a brighter future are open to everyone. There really has never been a better time to be colonically aware.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented period of amazing collective indigestion. While it’s only the upper classes that are currently enjoying this glut in intolerances, it’s only a matter of time before there is a trickle down effect to peasants like us as well. I, for one, can hardly wait.

Something as dreary as an actual food allergy is a definite obstacle to the lifestyle statement you get to make with a vague intolerance to the same food. I mean throats swelling up and needing medical intervention are not really good calling cards to get entry into the smart set. Besides, choking is not a good look with ruffles and rainbow colours, which are the definitive trends of the season.

So step aside, those of you with genuine medical issues. Take yourself and your swelling oesophagi out of our way. I have important news for the rest of us. Without having to suffer the actual nuisance of a genuine food allergy, we can all claim some vague intolerance for ourselves, conveniently unprovable of course, except by determined rooting about in the toilet bowl.

Here are the popular ones we can legitimately lay claim to – there’re gluten and lactose intolerance, which are oldies but goldies (there’s a reason a classic is a classic after all). However there are others too, an intolerance to nightshades (tomatoes, brinjals etc), an intolerance to yeast, eggs, and alcohol. The latest newcomer to the food intolerance scene is fructose, which while trendy, lacks the heft of a proper intolerance – so careful handling that one.

Pick and choose your intolerance carefully to make the most out of occasions during which it can be displayed. Remember scientific research has proven that there is a direct correlation between how many people are around and how intolerant to that food you need to be. Choosing to be intolerant to something obscure (wallaby meat, for instance) while initially thrilling, as you recount tales of how you discovered this intolerance (“I was hiking across the Outback and at Uluru, and I had this meal…”), pales beside the showcase value of something that can be trotted out every day and at every meal (go gluten! Go dairy!). The only downside then is that you could be reduced to eating plywood when in company, because you have ruled yourself incapable of eating anything else.

“I can only eat rotis made from this Peruvian flour which is gluten free. It tastes of arse, but ever since switching to it, my hand eye coordination has improved dramatically.”

Depending on the mood and the moment, you should launch into your symptoms, which can be shamelessly stolen from any disease you like, or invented at the top of your head. Gluten is a good candidate to blame a lot of shit on – people already hold it responsible for depression, overfishing, climate change, the crisis in banking, the rise of Donald Trump – so you can defo slip your bloated gut and migraine in there.

Similarly, the main purpose of dairy is apparently to congest you. Please be sure to elaborate upon the close relationship between dairy and your body’s immediate production and despatch of phlegm and mucous out of various orifices. Discussing disgusting bodily functions is one of the perks of having food intolerances, and peasants who don’t, are obliged by law to listen to you.

Just so you can talk the talk and walk the walk, here are a ready reckoner of malaises, symptoms and effects – things you can work into conversation to assert your dominance and sound genuinely intolerant and intolerable.

The first trick is not to wait till the subject of food or intolerances comes up, work it in skillfully any old how. A sample conversation could go somewhat along these lines:

Peasant with rude gut health: “I hear they may be dropping Virat Kohli from the next test…”

You: “I can only eat rotis made from this Peruvian flour which is gluten free. It tastes of arse, but ever since switching to it, my hand eye coordination has improved dramatically.”

The second trick is to always reinforce the hierarchy of intolerance superiority. “You’re so lucky you can do dairy – it just doesn’t work for me”, is a masterful way of making the poor sod who can “do” dairy feel bad about himself and his shamelessly robust colon that can metabolise a glass of milk.

The third is to try and extend your sphere of dominance from mere food intolerance to the larger one of wellness and ethical eating. This is psychological one-upmanship at its best, since it comes straight from the gut. “My fructose intolerance has really taught me the importance of eating local, sustainable, organic stuff…” is a statement that is guaranteed to give you pole position in the race for eco-salvation.

Armed with all this important knowledge, we can all march confidently towards a future where the only colon we claim to use will be on our keyboards. I can see it shimmering in the distance – a brave new world where everything including our haircuts, our bank loans, our antiques, our roofing material and of course we are gluten, dairy, sugar and totally personality free.