In recent years, gluten-free diets have been the subject of mockery from a certain type of American who thinks the country has gotten a little too soft. The kind of American who rolls his eyes at veganism and wears a necktie that looks like a slice of bacon. It’s the type of American embodied by Ron Swanson, Nick Offerman’s character from Parks and Recreation, whom the actor channeled in a 2015 NASCAR ad that goofed on gluten-free diets and drew an angry petition in response. How appropriate.
In 2016, Ted Cruz echoed Offerman’s sentiment while running for president, equating a gluten-free diet to political correctness in a campaign speech. “The last thing any commander should need to worry about is the grades he is getting from some plush-bottomed Pentagon bureaucrat for political correctness or social experiments — or providing gluten-free MREs,” Cruz said three months before he dropped out of the race, and seven months before he endorsed the man who called his wife ugly.
Three years later, a lot has changed. Parks and Rec has finished its run. Cruz is a dutiful Trump follower. And, according to a study published this summer, Trump supporters are more likely to “identify as avoiding gluten, relative to non-supporters.” Published in the June issue of Agriculture and Human Values, the study “uncovers a complex relationship between the social construction of gluten avoidance and the potential role of political views,” its authors write. As if Ted Cruz needed another “complex relationship” to navigate.