Learning to live Gluten-free is a lot like driving a stick shift, or manual transmission car.
First Gear: eliminate glutens. Sounds easy, any one can master first gear. You can't go very fast, but you can get up hills.
Second Gear: you learn that in order to get to more places faster you need to add more speeds to your life vehicle. You can't live in a bubble, you must live in the world. So you start bringing safe lunches to work.
Ok, bear with me here. This story is going to start way out in left field, but I promise it will all come together. My friend used to be a smoker. She told me about when, years ago, she would smoke on the airplane. She would smoke while shopping at the grocery store. She would smoke at the movie theater. All of those things were a common and accepted practice. Non-smokers were thought of as "irritants", wrinkling up there noses, and fake-coughing when around smokers. Then the scale started tipping in the favor of those "irritants".
Not again. I felt that uncomfortable rumbling. I knew what was coming next. How could this be? I know my kitchen is gluten-free ... well, as much as possible with a gluten tolerant spouse. I can pinpoint the "events" to happening on those days when my husband comes home for lunch.
So a few days later, I played Ninja Kitchen Detective. I sat inconspicuously at the dining room table, "reading" with full view of the kitchen. Of course, we had the normal lunch time conversation, but here's what I observed. He came home for lunch and made his sandwich. There were crumbs all over the counter. He wiped them into his hand, and dumped them into the sink. He turned on the faucet and rinsed them down the drain. He then went to the cabinet, took down a glass. From there he went to the freezer, grabbed a handful of ice cubes and plopped them in the glass, and then went to the fridge and poured from a jug of cold water.
The first is normal mom/grandma, you know the one. The one that you used to be. Your kids are home and want a pizza - you throw one in the oven and then when it's done you grab a hot pad and pull it from the oven. Of course your the tip of your thumb gets tomato sauce on it, and without realizing it you've touched the dough. The hot pad goes back into the drawer.
You place the pizza on it's the wooden cutting board and cut through it with your pizza cutter. Crumbs from the crust explode all over the cutting board and counter. You grab a dishtowel from the oven door and wipe the crumbs into your hand and then toss them in the sink. You shake out the towel over the sink.
If you're Celiac/gluten or corn intolerant, you may need to sit down before reading further because you've just gotten all shaky with the thought of all of the things that would put you over the edge in your world.
This person looks at things differently. Let's see how many ways we need to adjust the above scenario for our special needs.
1) Throwing a pizza in the oven - on the rack? Nope. Gluten from the crust would stick to the rack. The pizza would have to be on a GF special stone, OR you might have a special GF (gluten-free) oven rack which is stored separately and used only with gluten free products.
2) Grab a hot pad. Yes, but you would not use your special GF hot pads. Those are reserved for GF foods only. You know how easy it is to contaminate things. If you used a regular hot pad with your GF foods, you know that you'd be asking for trouble.
3) Wooden Cutting Board - Nope. Wooden cutting boards and wooden spoons and utensils are a no-no for GF folks. Gluten is very sticky and difficult to completely remove from wooden items. Plastic or metal is a better choice.
4) Grab a dishtowel - Yes, but not your GF towel. Everyday dishtowels clean up gluten contaminated hands, counters, and dishes. Your GF towel is used when you're wiping your hands, drying GF dishes, and areas that have not been contaminated by gluten. It's your "safe" towel. It is stored in your GF cupboard or drawer. It is not hung in the open where gluten dust and particles could reach it.
It IS possible to LIVE gluten-free. You need to keep alert to the possibility of cross-contamination, and be a gluten detective. It takes extra work, but it's so worth it to be symptom free, isn't it?
What would you do differently? Share your comments so that others can benefit from your kitchen wisdom.
Photo credit: Flickr - sk8greek - Creative Commons
When you have food sensitivities you must constantly use your "spidey senses" to anticipate cross-contamination opportunities. So you're being ultra cautions. You've brought your own gluten-free bread to the hamburger cook-out.
You get your burger, you dress it all up - thank goodness the ketchup and mustard and mayo are all gluten free, right? You eat your wonderful burger, and then that evening, you start to feel it. That rumbling in the tummy. What? You were so careful. Everything was gluten-free today. You were extra careful.
You forgot about the condiments, didn't you? The folks before you, the ones without sensitivities, used the condiments on their sandwiches. While squirting mustard on their sandwich, they inadvertently sucked up gluten particles from their buns. When they smeared mayo on their bun, some of the bun adhered to the knife. Then you came in right behind them and put the contaminated condiments on your bun. And you paid for it in the bathroom later, didn't you? Was it enough to make you break out in that painful itchy rash?
The next time you go to a yummy cookout, bring some packets your favorite condiments to be ultra safe. Keep your spidey-senses super sharp for cross-contamination opportunities!
Are there other events where you thought you had taken precautions, but realized later that you had overlooked a contamination source? How did you deal with it the next time? Do you have other tips for our readers?
A friend's sister was diagnosed last year with Celiac disease, so for her relatives this was something totally new. It was generally understood that Lenae couldn't have gluten. Ok, so gluten-free items popped-up at family events. At one get together she brought a gluten-free bun for her ham sandwich. But she didn't eat it. Her mom, not understanding cross--contamination gathered the uneaten bun and put it in the bag with all of the OTHER buns. <Are you gasping yet?> Then at the next event, her mom brought out the buns and told her she had saved Lenae's gluten free bun, as she pulled it out of the bun bag. Thank goodness we saw it in the bun bag, otherwise Lenae may have eaten it, and had a really, really, bad day.
Have you had similar experiences with well-intentioned friends and relatives who didn't quite grasp the importance of cross-contamination? Share your stories below.