How to Feed a Celiac

 

Wooden cookware can retain gluten, even after thorough washing.

 

First, a thank you. To everyone who has fed me and dealt with my dietary limitations. In particular mom and wshaffer. You are heroes of the revolution.

Now, an apology to anyone I’ve driven crazy by minutely examining their kitchen, or not eating the food they prepared, or whose trash can I’ve sifted through to find food wrappers. It’s not personal.

Feeding a celiac guest is hard. There are a lot of things that aren’t initially obvious. I made lots of mistakes in the early days. I’m probably still making some.

The first few steps are obvious:

  1. Make sure all ingredients are gluten free. If it doesn’t say gluten free on it, it’s probably not worth the risk. Lots of foods you’d think would be gluten free are processed in the same facilities as wheat. Like corn tortillas or chips.
  2. Keep gluten free and gluten full items completely separate. This is harder than you think. Gluten is everywhere in the standard kitchen. You can buy gluten free pasta or bread, and make sure not to use croutons, and serve gluten free ice cream for dessert. You can make sure not to have any gluteny foods out for your non-celiac guests, to avoid contamination (like bread crumbs on the butter). And that is an awesome effort. But it’s not enough.
  3. Use metal, glass, or ceramic cookware. Have you used that wooden spoon to stir regular gluten-full cake batter?  Have you sliced regular bread on that plastic cutting board? Wood is porous; gluten can get caught in it. There’s some debate about plastic, but if it has scratches on it, then it can have gluten hiding in the scratches. Same goes for non-stick pans, which have a plastic coating.
  4. Clean all the surfaces in your kitchen. Counters, handles,  

    A bag of flour gone airborne.

     

    floor. There’s gluten residue on your counters. There will be crumbs you can see, but the worrisome stuff is what you can’t see. If you’ve ever – EVER – baked anything that uses flour, there will be gluten on all the surfaces of your kitchen. Flour particles travel. They go airborne no matter what you do. They sometimes even spread beyond the kitchen.

  5. Use paper towels, a freshly laundered hand towel, or a new sponge for clean up. Otherwise you’re going to be spreading gluten around. It’s probably wise to do a second wipe down with a different cloth/paper towel/sponge.
  6. Don’t make anything using standard flour that day. Preferably not the day before, either. Flour particles can stay in the air for hours. Which means wiping down your kitchen won’t prevent gluten contamination.
  7. When in doubt, go with premade. There are good gluten free frozen dinner options these days. Whole Paycheck has a gluten free bakery section. You can get premade gluten free items, made in dedicated facilities. Far better this than making your guest sick.

You can feed a celiac. You have to thoroughly clean your kitchen and remember what has come into contact with gluten before. Expect to get asked a lot of questions, or have your trash rifled through. And don’t take it personally.

(Edited to add: I’ve put together a list of ready made storebought foods that are safe here.)
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