Are the Best Foods in Life Free?

Published in Gourmet Live 05.30.12
We’re exploring the many meanings of free where it intersects with food, with Tracie McMillan’s account of surviving on SNAP, the history of Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free foods, Matt Gross’ ode to mooching, and more

What does the phrase free food mean to you? When brainstorming for this issue of Gourmet Live, we asked that of ourselves and contributors, and the answers ranged from freebies (who doesn’t love National Donut Day?) to dietary restrictions (gluten- or fat-free cuisine, for example) to more whimsical and weighty takes on the topic.

We chose to begin with a personal essay on food stamps by American Way of Eating author Tracie McMillan. Best known for her recent best seller chronicling a year working the lowest-paying rungs of America’s food system, McMillan has a SNAP story to tell as well. Hear it here first, before Rush Limbaugh—who excoriated the author this spring, to the direct benefit of McMillan’s book sales—gets started.

Another personal story—in a lighter vein—comes from travel writer Matt Gross, perhaps most familiar as the New York Times’ former Frugal Traveler columnist. Gross details his escapades as a self-described food freeloader and delivers some amusing tips on scoring food gratis around the globe.

The word free also brings to mind the many dietary preoccupations of our time. When it comes to targets of elimination, gluten is getting a lot of attention lately; avoiding wheat and other gluten-containing ingredients is a fast-growing trend even among some who don’t suffer from celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Plenty of food manufacturers are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon, but Bob’s Red Mill has been making a difference in this market for decades. Rebecca Flint Marx profiles Bob Moore, the company’s founder, CEO, and president.

And here’s another treat for those going wheat-free: the Ultimate Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe, written for Gourmet by Annalise Roberts, coauthor of The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook.

In closing, some free advice from local bloggers in the freethinking city of Seattle, including picks for the city’s best burger, coffee, wine bar, and more.

Send us some free advice and let us know which story in this issue resonates most with your notions of free food. Stay in touch via Twitter or Facebook, drop us a line (, or post a comment on our blog. For more tasty bites, sign up for our weekly newsletter to get convenient access to our most-read blog posts, editors’ favorite recipes, and exclusive reader offers.


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