Perhaps my family's greatest claim to fame is that my great-great-uncle coined the term, "conspicuous consumption." In his 1899 book The Theory of the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen explained that as the industrial revolution moves business owners and workers alike further from the means of production, they will replace that urge to define one's worth through his or her work with a certain public display of wealth; essentially predicting the flash of the Roaring 1920s, yuppies in the 80s and the bling of the 90s.
But, if the 21st century has had any positive economic developments, it is the so-called "shared economy," a new model of wealth and social values that sits at the opposite end of the psychological scale from conspicuous consumption.
In their 2010 book What's Mine Is Yours, Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers outlined a very different economic model, and emotional connection to money and means; the sharing economy. That idea has manifested in any number of ways: shared cars, community bikes and, perhaps most actively, in AirBnB, where homeowners offer up unused rooms. It is also the concept inspiring a growing number of commercial chefs and cooks, who find that sharing the burden of stocking and renting a full-kitchen simply too heavy for their scale-of-production.
Gotta B Gluten Free is such a collective kitchen, a bustling nexus of six local bakers, with a focus on, as the name indicates, gluten-free baked goods. Located next to The Taco Stand, Gotta B Gluten Free provides a day to each of its member bakers—and, from there, each produces soups, cookies and baked goods for sale elsewhere throughout town (soups from Love Light at Palate coffee bar; spicy chocolate brownies from Sweet Nothings at Newport Market and, starting in mid-October, the kitchen opened for retail sales on Wednesdays from 3 to 7 pm).
The space is a jumbled, yet organized space: Three fridges line one wall and, on a large countertop opposite, two mix masters stand ready; up front, a display case has shelves of strawberry muffins, pizza doughs and paleo chocolate chip cookies from Karen Taylor. The cookies have a strong dark cocoa forward, flavor with a coconut finish, dates and walnuts in the cookies give an additional heft. Taylor also produces KT's Energy Bars in apple cinnamon and pumpkin pie flavors.
"A lot of people think it's crazy to be open only four hours," says Susan Walker. She bakes biscuits. Fluffy and rich with cheese and a zingy pop of spice and texture added by green chilies. She doesn't use rice flour because she says that dries out. Cheese rolls, though, were her best sellers when she set up shop at this summer's farmers' markets. Doughy and cheesy, they are remarkably light with high notes of parmesan. ($3/bag)
"There's a variety of experienced bakers doing gluten free and some specialize in paleo and vegan," explains Walker, whose husband Tom was diagnosed as gluten intolerant 17 years ago, long before the now trending food allergy spread like wildfire. "We wanted to cook things that reminded him of what he used to eat." She adds, "going without gluten isn't going without taste, flavor or texture."
Another wonderful treat sold at Gotta B Gluten are Sweet Nothings, made by Carey Sweet, another renter in the space, and whose daughter is gluten free. Sweet's cupcakes, like the enticing spicy chocolate and spice pumpkin, are also available at Newport Market.
Gotta B Gluten Free also sells A Kulinary Innovations, with its power-to-the-people logo of a black fist crunching wheat stalks on a red circle–gluten-free baking flour and Black Butte chocolate cake mix.
In addition to the high quality baked goods, there is Love Light, Veronica Robinson's line of soups. She has always cooked for her family and has been a vegetarian for 15 years. She has taken a leap of faith with those familiar recipes into what she hopes to make her full-time job. The coconut curry is rounded with a slight hint of lemon grass and spice and stuffed with green beans, carrots and other veggies. Her Spicy Vegetable is full of corn, carrots, green onions, and slightly crispy green beans; the spiciness is understated, but noted. (available at Palate; 643 NW Colorado; $4 cup; $7 bowl)