Irreverent solutions to your real life allergy & sensitivity dramas.
My fiancée has celiac disease and we recently moved in together, which means merging kitchens. I understand that some things, like wooden cutting boards, can be very difficult to rid of residual gluten. I’ve tossed those and only eat gluten outside of the house. Still, my fiancée has gotten sick more than once after we ate at home. I’m pretty sure I’m doing something wrong. What is it?
I’m sorry this is happening to (both of) you. Thank you for trying to make things safe for the gluten-free loved one in your life. You are awesome.
Kicking out old cutting boards is a great first step. I’m going to run a few other common problems by you and you can check yourself for gluten:
1. Did you forget about soy sauce, which contains gluten?
2. Did you hang on to a deep fat fryer that used to fry donuts?
3. Are you serving packaged foods that look gluten-free but aren’t labeled gluten-free? These might appear safe but may be made in facilities with mega cross-contamination.
4. Watch out for other common sources of cross-contact. Are you still using that old toaster that’s filled with gluten crumbs? Are you using a separate sponge to clean gluten-free cookware? Is someone double-dipping into the peanut butter or mayo and leaving crumbs?
5. Are you and your fiancée eating a ton of dairy to make up for the lack of gluten? Some of us indulge in too much dairy when we’re told we can’t have gluten and that may not make the old belly feel good.
Sometimes we do everything right and still wind up sick. We’ve all had those weeks or months of symptom-free bliss, only to get glutened by something as gross as a dirty dish. (Happened to me. It took me a month to figure out that my dishwasher wasn’t working properly.) And this can make the gluten-free life sometimes feel unfair.
You are a superstar for working so hard to make your fiancée feel safe. It may seem like your significant other isn’t appreciative when she is locked in the bathroom, but your awareness and willingness to educate yourself and be supportive is notable. You are an advocate for those of us with celiac and we salute you. Now go check your kitchen once more and make sure your beloved celiac isn’t sneaking donuts at work.
Vegetarian & GF
My family has always tried to maintain a vegetarian diet. My daughter recently started middle school and she has a new friend who can’t eat gluten. Since we don’t eat meat, it’s been difficult for me to host this girl when she comes over after school. I don’t know what to feed her.
Also, I kind of feel like we already have one dietary restriction going on, so why do we have to deal with another? Not to be “that person”—but if I start serving everything vegetarian and gluten-free, what’s next?
Dear Cranky Veg,
I’m going to restrain myself from recommending you have a burger to improve your mood. Kidding! I do respect all who choose to eschew animal protein in their diet. At the same time, you’re right. It does make it more challenging when accommodating another dietary issue. Hence, your question.
In addition to avoiding gluten, my family has been working around peanuts and tree nuts since 2012. Food allergies and intolerances are on the rise in kids, so it’s very possible this gluten-free friend will not be the last. So let’s buckle up.
While you can find loads of recipes and tips for gluten-free living in this magazine, I’m guessing what you’d like is a quick and easy answer to your immediate problem. I have two words of advice: Buy snacks.
There are a zillion gluten-free snacks and frozen foods on the market today that you can pick up before play dates, prepare in a snap and feed to the kiddo to make her happy and safe. Some snacks are better than others, so ask for feedback from your child’s gluten-free friend. Most middle schoolers will let you know if they’re unhappy with what you’re serving. (They’re good like that.) In addition, check in with the child’s parents to learn the ropes about her gluten-free issues, as well as food preferences and suggestions.
In the hope of making you feel confident about hosting your daughter’s BFF, I’m going to quickly suggest some gluten-free snack brands that are very kid-friendly and also happen to be vegetarian-friendly: Glutino (pretzel twists and toaster pastries), Kinnikinnick (animal cookies), Milton’s Craft Bakers (baked crackers), Pamela’s (cookies, graham crackers, mac & cheese and bars), Schär (honeygrams) and Udi’s (frozen pizza).
Also, don’t forget about naturally gluten-free options like fresh fruit and cut vegetables. Just remember, if you’re serving food for gluten-free guests, don’t allow the safe food to touch unsafe gluten. Then all your work will be for nothing. Good luck!
April Peveteaux is author of Gluten Is My B*tch: Rants, Recipes and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), The Gluten Free Cheat Sheet (Penguin Group), and Bake Sales Are My B*tch (Rodale).