Creating a Shared Gluten-Free Kitchen

As I mentioned last week, my husband and I made the decision to run a wholly gluten-free kitchen. When it’s just two people and two cats, that’s easy enough to do, and we’ve developed tricks to deal with unwanted gluten when it arrives in our house, usually via guests. It turns out I work in an office filled with people who will happily scarf down cookies, pie, and cake, no questions asked.

Our solution may not be practical for every household, though I do encourage those of you who are celiac or gluten-intolerant to have serious talks with your family or housemates about the effects of gluten on your body, which will lead to a serious talk about the dangers lurking in your kitchen. The tips below will work with any solution you create, but are critical if you’re running a hybrid kitchen.

  1. Separate Utensils and Cookware. Gluten is sticky. That’s good for gluten, bad for you. While a good scrubbing and a turn in the dishwasher will likely remove most gluten from kitchen items, gluten can stick around (see what I did there?) on certain items, particularly wooden spoons, scratched pots and pans, and even colander holes after you’ve drained pasta. If you have a hybrid kitchen, keep safe by separating gluten-free utensils from those used on foods containing gluten.
  2. Separate Appliances. While it’s pretty safe to share a coffee maker, unless you’re drinking some weird kind of coffee that has gluten, do not, for a single second, consider sharing a toaster or toaster oven. No matter how much work you put into cleaning these devices, crumbs and gluten will lurk, waiting to make you sick. Buy new, clean appliances if gluten has come into contact with your old ones. It’s absolutely worth the price!
  3. Restack Your Cupboards and Fridge. I wish I could remember where I first encountered this tip because it’s so important: store your gluten-free foods on the upper shelves of cupboards and the refrigerator. This way, if something spills — like, oh, a bag of flour — your food should remain safe. Label the shelves if you live is a household with young kids, forgetful spouses, or roommates with no boundaries.
  4. Keep “Dip-ables” Separate. Conventional wisdom suggests that mayonnaise, mustard, and other condiments in squeeze bottles are generally safe (I am the paranoid type who doesn’t risk it!). However, if you live in a household where everyone dips a spoon or knife into a jar, it is critical that you keep your gluten-free items separate from those used by the rest of the household. Gluten or crumbs can cling to a utensil and end up in the jar or bowl.
  5. Separate Dips. Following on the above, when I have a party (or attend a party) where gluten-filled crackers or bread might be an issue, I always put my gluten-free hummus or dips in a separate container a good distance from danger. I have a few other friends who are gluten free for various reasons, so this consideration on my part is greatly appreciated by them as well.
  6. Create a Safe Zone. Depending on your kitchen, it may be necessary to create a space in your kitchen that is protected from gluten. This no-go zone is yours alone, and no non-GF food prep should happen in that area.
  7. Communicate. You know how you feel when you consume gluten. If you have celiac disease, you know that gluten is destroying your health. This, however, is something civilians may have trouble grasping. They may think it’s no big deal when wheat flour dusts all surfaces; you know it’s a huge problem that will affect you for weeks as flour is hard to remove with just a quick wipe with a sponge.
  8. Speaking of Sponges. Yeah, you want a separate sponge if you live in a hybrid kitchen. Sticky gluten and nooks and crannies on sponges equal a breeding ground for cross-contamination.

When I first started researching my new gluten-free life, some of the tips above seemed, well, extreme. After a bit of careful consideration, I realized how important they are to maintaining my health. This is, yes, why our kitchen is wholly gluten free. I am lucky to have a husband who makes my health a priority (I think he considers himself equally lucky to have a wife who makes great food for him a priority!).

Tip of the Week

Color code your gluten-free kitchen items. Use brightly colored paint or tape to identify the utensils, pots, pans, and other dishes that are gluten free. This makes it easy for everyone involved to identify items that can and cannot be used for preparing non-GF foods.

Gluten-Free Meal of the Week

As I write this, I’m on vacation in Hawaii. The moment I step off the plane, my palate switches gears. Maybe it’s the heat — not too hot, but not cool. Maybe it’s the humidity — luckily not to bad, but noticeable for this California girl. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m on an island….

While I am a carnivore who eats a lot of vegetables (or maybe I’m more of a meat on the side kind of person these days), I have had fish for the past three meals. Yes, I’ll get a great steak at some point, but right now I’m overdoing ahi. And thinking hard about the non-Hawaiian salmon. In fact, in honor of the close relationship between Hawaii and Japan, I’m thinking about miso-honey salmon with rice and braised greens. Just make sure your miso is gluten free, and you are in for a perfect meal.

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