With one percent of the entire U.S. population suffering from celiac disease, it’s no surprise that many of Portland’s eateries are attempting to tap into this new, sometimes under-represented clientele.
Bam Bam Bakery, situated at the corner of Union and Commercial streets, caters to the customers who don’t consume gluten, a type of protein found in wheat and a variety of other grains.
“Gluten-free patrons are an underserved population, and there are not a lot of products on the market,” said owner of Bam Bam Bakery Bevin McNulty.“When I started [a gluten-free diet] five years ago, it was even more limited than today.”
Sophomore and psychology major Maria Kondax agreed saying “The campus in Gorham doesn’t have a lot of options for people with gluten intolerances. Plus, they put the section in a corner and sometimes cross contamination can occur.” Kondax chooses to be gluten-free because she considers it to be a healthier option, but she also knows of the consequences of gluten contamination for someone with celiac disease. It can occur in any facility that carries the two products and is a major concern for people with celiac, an autoimmune disease that can lead to the deterioration of the intestinal lining when gluten is ingested. Research also suggests that it could also lead to severe diseases like lymphoma, an autoimmune type of blood cancer.
“It’s hard to find safe food,” said McNulty. “People with celiac can get sick from cross contamination. Most restaurants can’t create separate prep stations.” But because Bam Bam Bakery doesn’t sell products that contain gluten, the gluten-free customer doesn’t have to worry about a possible contamination. Adrianna Tibke, a Portlander who keeps up a gluten-free diet by choice, these options are not only appreciated by the public, they’re also a good business move.
“It’s incredibly important for restaurants and cafes to regularly offer food options for people with gluten sensitivities,” said Tibke.
Some of the options at Bam Bam Bakery include savory pies, pizzas and cupcakes. They also offer several items that can be made vegan. Take their breakfast bombs for instance, a portable and nutrient dense morning treat, made with quinoa, flax seed, molasses, ginger, gluten-free oats and other ingredients.
“I love the selection at Bam Bam Bakery,” said Tibke.
Though many places are now serving up gluten-free items, McNulty reiterated that safety in these kitchens is still a concern for gluten-free customers. “‘Safe’ is really hard for people with celiac. It’s not easy to control in a kitchen that also serves glutenous items. This includes the gluten-free products found in stores, a good portion of which are made in facilities that also process gluten.”
There are, of course, people like Kondax who do not have celiac disease or a serious allergy but who still choose not to eat gluten. McNulty offered one theory as an explanation of that choice: the grains that the average, gluten-consuming person eats are over-processed, she said. Kondax agreed that gluten-free fare is easier to digest because it’s less processed than non-gluten-free foods.
Whatever your reason for eating gluten-free, the affordable Bam Bam Bakery is capitalizing on a healthy trend by making an array of tasty but wholesome baked treats. Some of which are incredibly rich, decadent and delicious. Make sure to try the quiche which is particularly savory. Bam Bam is a bright, welcoming, gem of a bakery that people with aversion to gluten are glad to have in their city.