We’ve been doing the celiac thing now for 2.5 weeks, and I have a few initial experiences to share:
- Gluten free ≠ celiac gluten free. I keep hearing, “This is the time to be gluten free. There are so many options there didn’t used to be.” This is all true, but nonetheless it’s a big deal. People who are gluten sensitive are in a whole different category than my daughter. They may feel bad if they accidentally eat gluten via cross-contamination, but they aren’t going to experience medical fallout from it. Celiac disease is diagnosed by the destruction of the villi in the small intestine, and what our doctor told us is that even trace amounts cause the damage. Eating ALMOST gluten-free is not good enough. And gluten, because its purpose is to make things stick together, sticks to everything else, too. Fingers. Counters. Etc. And on that topic…
- Cross-contamination is EVERYWHERE. One good thing about a celiac diagnosis is that we are cleaning our kitchen WAYYYYYYY better and more consistently than we were two weeks ago. Our kitchen counters are havens of bready things. Our family is having to learn a whole new paradigm for interacting with the kitchen. For instance: I spent copious amounts of time planning which cutting boards and which knives and which order to make the food so that we would have chicken salad in a bowl on the table, which people could put on their plates and eat with the appropriate starch–the family with Ritz crackers, Julianna with her gluten-free crackers. Then my husband walked in the house hungry after work, grabbed a Ritz cracker, and dipped it in the bowl. #mamasnothappy. However, in all candor, I did the same thing three days later with the leftovers and I was way farther into my meal before I realized what I’d done.
- Measuring spoons, etc. This week I have been making Christmas cookies. I cut WAY back on this endeavor this year, and the kids are cranky about it, which I am responding pretty sharply to, because I’m the one that has to figure out the logistics of using the same bowls, measuring spoons, etc. without cross-contamination. We are making gingerbread in two forms and that’s it this year. Generally, I make the GF version of something first and set it out of the line of fire, then dive into the regular. But yesterday, I didn’t have one of the ingredients for the GF gingerbread, so I started with the regular and then wiped the counter down and used different measuring things. At least that was the idea. See, another quirk of our household is that Julianna puts away clean dishes in random places, so by the time I realized I couldn’t find the second set of measuring spoons, I was too deep into the process to put it on hold
Now, none of the things measured with the measuring spoons were gluten items. Salt, cinnamon, etc. But the measuring spoons had been plopped down on the counter in between ingredients, and the counter was definitely NOT gluten-safe. Envision me pulling my hair out.
- Eucharist. I wrote about that here. I am pretty hot about this one and doing some investigating in advance of a letter writing campaign. Since the bishops are talking Eucharist right now anyway. But everything I said above about cross-contamination goes triple for a church where the people handling the Eucharist don’t really understand cross-contamination. (If you wipe out the low-gluten pyx with the same corporal you used on the regular patens… cross-contamination!) I am not blaming them b/c two weeks ago I had no idea either. But it’s a pain in my butt!
- Buying brand name sucks. I have spent my life campaigning for Aldi and off-brands as, in most cases, equal to or better than the fancy-schmancy name brands. This is how you feed a family of six. This is no longer an option, because the generics don’t offer gluten-free options. Speaking of which….
- Why the %^$%$#^*%*^$&% do I need to buy THAT gluten-free? OATS ARE GLUTEN FREE NATURALLY! (Hello, cross-contamination.) And what the heck is with the CHICKEN BROTH?????? It’s chicken, salt, and water! Really? You have to find a way to add gluten to THAT????? Come on, food companies!!!!!
- You can’t FIND ↑ gluten free ANYWHERE!!!!!! Gluten-free chicken broth exists from Swanson. Gluten-free oats, from Quaker. But do you think ANYONE CARRIES THEM????????????
- Gluten-free flour ≠gluten-free flour. One of the key pieces of advice I was given by a woman who is “allergic to everything” and gave us a bunch of recipes was: “Do not substitute. If a recipe says use Bob’s Red Mill GF flour, don’t use King Arthur. These recipes are tested for particular blends.” Well, I have Trader Joe’s and NONE of the recipes call for that, so I have to play around a bit. But for instance, today I was trying to figure out how to make bread so that we have an easy starch to go with sausage-and-kale soup next week. And lo and behold, I discovered that although I have Bob’s Red Mill, KrustEase, and Trader Joe’s blends, plus rice flour, what I ACTUALLY need to make bread is Pillsbury!!!!
- Grocery planning and shopping lasts all week now. If the above didn’t make that clear, now you know.
So that’s the two-week report on going gluten-free. Be judicious with advice. I’m handling this reasonably well, but I am easily annoyed on this topic at present. 🙂 Sympathy always welcome.