It’s a gluten filled world and for the 1 in 133 living with Celiac disease or the 6% of the US population dealing with gluten sensitivities, we are navigating our way through it very carefully. Some days are easier than other, some places are easier than others; regardless, we overcome each hurdle just as it is presented to us. At home, it is easy to let your guard down … unless you share a kitchen the kitchen with a Gluten Eater (or, gasp, multiple Gluten Eaters). A shared kitchen presents many of its own unique challenges, especially to those new to gluten free living. The kitchen habits you and your Gluten Eater(s) used to not think twice about, can become a risk to your health. Don’t believe me?! Consider this:
You’re chopping veggies for dinner, let’s say you’re having stir fry. You chop the garlic, onions, carrots, celery, broccoli, and ginger. Then, cleaning up your mess as you go, you put the cutting board in the dishwasher. Just as you’re putting your veggies in the wok to steam, you realize you forgot the red bell pepper strips. You pull the cutting board you just used out of the dishwasher, quickly chop up the red bell pepper and throw it in the wok with the rest of your veggies … And you possibly just contaminated your meal.
Remember that glass of beer your Gluten Eater just finished. The empty glass was in the dishwasher, directly above where you had placed the cutting board. It dripped on your cutting board and you reused the cutting board … without washing it … because you had JUST put in the dishwasher after all.
It really is that easy to contaminate food in your own kitchen. Gluten crumbs can innocently be left behind on the counter because, let’s face it, even though you’re thinking about gluten lurking behind every corner, it doesn’t mean your Gluten Eater housemate is. They don’t mean to contaminate things, it just happens. BUT, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of it occurring.
Like many others, I share a kitchen with a Gluten Eater. After a year and a half of gluten free living, I’ve learned a thing or two about reducing contamination risks in my own kitchen. Here are a few of the things I have done/do to keep my kitchen as gluten free as possible, even with a Gluten Eater in the house:
- Get rid of the wooden spoons and cutting boards. Wood is porous, which means gluten can hide it the cracks and crevices! Switch to a non-porous material such as plastic or silicone. You can take this precaution a step further by having designated colors for gluten and gluten free spoons and cutting boards.
- Consider you water filtration system. We have been all about the Bobble, until recently when it occurred to me that the spout from which you pour the water could easily be contaminated. We usually refill our glasses during dinner, which involves touching the spout to open it, creating the potential for contamination.
- Stay away from cast-iron cookware. It is porous and therefore can harbor gluten. Having separate pots and pans for gluten filled and gluten free foods is also an option if you have the space and financial resources to purchase extra of these items. If it’s not an option for you, you want to chose non-porous cookware here too and wash them well between uses. I use the Rachael Ray pots and pans which are designed to be non-porous.
- Foil is your friend. Before toasting a slice of bread or the like, line your pan with foil. Ask your Gluten Eater to do the same so that there is little risk of gluten crumbs lurking around the edges of your baking sheet.
- Speaking of toasting things, don’t use the Gluten Eater’s toaster. Get your own, dedicated gluten free toaster. Don’t have the space for yet another kitchen appliance? Toast your bread in the oven (on a foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet). Also, head over to G-Free Laura to see her experience testing a Gluten Eaters toaster for CC risks.
- Wipe down your counters before preparing a meal or snack. This way you know your work surface is clean and free from gluten. Don’t forget to wipe down the refrigerator, freezer and pantry door handles regularly too. Your Gluten Eater may have made a sandwich, then opened the pantry door, touched the counter or the cabinet door before washing their hands and left gluten crumbs behind.
- Which brings me to another point. Deli meat, cheese, chips, lettuce … all the things used to make a sandwich, can easily become contaminated when Gluten Eaters and the gluten free are sharing from the same package. When you bring these items home from the grocery store, pull out a few servings to be placed in a separate container only to be used by the gluten free eater.
- Once it goes in the dishwasher, it stays in the dishwasher … even if you just put it in there … unless you plan on hand washing it before you use it again. See above for why this is important!
- If you’re the head cook in the kitchen, try making as many naturally gluten free meals as possible. This reduces the chance of getting your spoons switched during the cooking process and prevents you from having to hear from the Gluten Eater that the gluten free pasta, pizza, etc. you made doesn’t taste the same as it’s gluten containing counterpart. When you do make separate gluten containing and gluten free meals, enlist the Gluten Eater’s help; have them make their gluten foods.
- For jellies, mayo, mustard, etc. opt for squeeze containers with a nozzle so that a contaminated spoon doesn’t make its way into the jar. For items that are only available in a jar, tub or other contaminateable container, consider labeling them with a friendly reminder not to cross contaminate. Simply get some sticker paper from your local crafts store, cut into circles, then write the reminder on them with a pen and stick it on the item you wish to remain uncontaminated. You can print up labels on the computer or order pre-made ones online as well.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, remember to thank your Gluten Eater. That’s correct, thank them. Gluten free living doesn’t just affect you, it affects them too. Just as you have had to make adjustments to your kitchen routine, so have they. They probably didn’t wash their hands after every piece of bread or cheese stick they touched when getting them ready for dinner. And they probably never thought twice about the few crumbs they left behind on the counter. But they do now. So thank them for thinking of you and your health when they are in the kitchen, thank them for washing their hands after getting out the bread, thank them for helping make dinner so you don’t have to touch the gluten filled ingredients. After all, these changes have been a challenge for them too.
And now, I would like to take a minute to thank the Gluten Eater in my house:
Fiance, I know that me switching to a gluten free lifestyle hasn’t been easy for either of us. Thanks for putting up with my nagging about contaminating various things in the kitchen. Thank you for making sure I’ve gotten my lunch meat out before you contaminate the container. Thank you for eating at the same 4 restaurants over and over because they are the only places I feel safe eating at. Thank you for helping with dinner. And thank you for supporting me through all of this. I LOVE YOU!
Ok, ok. Enough mushy, gushy stuff … There you have it, how I stay sane and safe in a Gluten Eater’s kitchen. Remember, gluten free living is an individual experience, there may be things I’m comfortable with in my kitchen that you would not be comfortable with in yours and vice versa. Do what makes you comfortable and what works best for you, your Gluten Eater and your health. That said, I would love to know how you stay gluten free in a shared cooking environment, share your suggestions and experiences in the comments section!