We’ve Got “Issues”: A Gluten-Free Vegan's Query
Irreverent solutions to your real life allergy drama
I’ve been a vegan for almost ten years and was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. I’ve tried to embrace the change like I did when I removed all animal products from my diet but I have to say, this is not easy. I used to live on oatmeal in the mornings. Please, please, please help!
Animal Lover, Not Eater
Dear Animal Lover,
Yep. It’s challenging to adapt to a meat-and-gluten-filled world that sets a triple cheeseburger on Krispy Kreme donuts as some kind of standard. However, I know you can grab hold of this new lifestyle and make it work. I really do.
There are options. You can still enjoy all those fantastic fruits and vegetables you vegans love, so that’s great. Many packaged gluten-free foods are free of dairy and some even eschew eggs. Two of the best gluten-free bakeries in my town are also vegan, so you’ll find that these two lifestyles actually go together like peas and carrots, which are also gluten-free and vegan.
Here are some of the things you’ll no longer be able to eat on your gluten-free diet: wheat, barley, rye, triticale, couscous, wheat berries, ramen noodles, spelt, kamut, regular soy sauce, seitan, normal bread (Let’s be honest—your vegan bread wasn’t exactly normal either), regular beer, regular pasta and, yes, regular oats.
But there are tons of delicious substitutes. For instance, you can replace wheat flour with flours made with garbanzo beans, buckwheat, amaranth, tapioca, quinoa, rice, sorghum, soy, teff, coconut, almonds…and there’s probably another alternative gluten-free flour hitting the market right this second.
Truly, there are gluten-free replacements for everything you think you’ll miss, including oatmeal. That’s right. There are oats processed in dedicated facilities that are certified gluten-free. Delicious. Just be careful not to overeat, as oats can still be rough on a celiac belly.
Really, you may barely notice the shift in your diet since you’ve already gone rogue and companies are clamoring to feed all you gluten-free vegan types. Heck, you won’t even have to skip Italian night since many gluten-free pastas are also vegan.
Life is good for those of us on a special diet. So go forth and eat your GF-vegan heart out!
Dinner Party Blues
What do you do when a friend just doesn’t “get it”? I have celiac disease and everyone in my group of friends knows all about it. I know this because we have lots of back and forth on email on account of my situation anytime we plan a night out that involves dinner. But one friend (I’ll call her Tonya) serves me gluten every time I go over to her house. Every time! It happens even when she insists that everything she’s serving is gluten-free. I don’t know if she’s slipping flour into dishes or forgetting about soy sauce. She repeatedly insists her food is gluten-free but I get sick—really sick—every time I eat dinner at her house.
While I don’t think she’s doing it on purpose (although honestly, I’m starting to wonder), it’s impossible to know if anything is safe once I walk through her door and start to put food in my mouth. I talk a lot about what is safe and what isn’t safe in front of her and she assures me she knows. So why does she keep dosing me with gluten?
Dear Under Attack,
Yikes! I think you’re right about being under attack. You should declare Tonya’s house a war zone. She’s got her sneak attack down, whether it’s “just a dusting” of flour or cross-contamination in the kitchen. And, my celiac friend, she’s clearly winning. You’re the one getting knocked down every time you try to advance.
I don’t know if your friend is serving up the gluten on purpose or if she’s just incredibly forgetful, but short of you taking over her kitchen every time she has a dinner party, you cannot control this situation. You’ve just got to get out of there alive.
The way I see it, you have two options. One, never attend a dinner party at her home again. Personally, I like this option because a person who thinks she knows what’s best for you, but clearly does not, is a dangerous person. She is not going to read any literature on how to be safe and gluten-free because she thinks she already knows everything. You should not trust this person with your health.
The other option is to go ahead and attend a dinner party but don’t eat anything. Yes, I know, this sucks. It means you eat before you leave home and then awkwardly dodge eating when you get there. Just pass the food while you nurse your glass of wine. Unless your hostess has a dog that will sit at your feet under the dinner table and quietly consume the contents of your plate, this can make you look (a) weird, (b) anorexic or (c) drunk. None of which is optimal.
But getting sick every time you go to someone’s house for dinner isn’t optimal either. IMO, you should not put yourself in that position ever again.
Unless you’re confident that a serious sit-down with lessons on cross contamination is a solution (and again, a know-it-all brain is tough to penetrate), I’d say your time at Tonya’s is finished. If you still want to eat dinner with her, meet her at a safe restaurant or have her over to your place.
April Peveteaux (glutenismybitch.com) is author of Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free (Stewart, Tabori & Chang).