Kitchen Notes For New Gluten Free Cooks –

Woman In KitchenWhen I first encountered customers with gluten intolerance or celiac, I had no problem (I thought) in understanding the issues that they had to deal with. The solution, it seemed to me, was simple enough. Just avoid the gluten containing foods.

Since those early days, I have found out, that for many sufferers, this directive is a lot more involved than it first appears.

So, if you are one who is dealing with a very, gluten sensitive condition, or if you are caring for, shopping for, or preparing food for such a person, then these notes are for you.

One thing to understand is that Celiac disease is not an allergy, as such, it is an auto-immune reaction. Normally, the body’s immune function protects against bacteria, viruses, toxins etc. Anything, in fact, that it perceives as a foreign invader.

In the case of Celiac, it is gluten
that is perceived as a foreign invader.

Research is still being conducted to try to determine the levels at which its presence will trigger an immune response. Although the current standard varies, as mentioned in my earlier article The Place Of Oats In A Gluten Free Diet – Part 1, levels of around 20 ppm is considered a safe threshold.

With concentrations this small, it is easy to see why extreme precautions may need to be put in place for those who have high sensitivities.

Claiming Your Gluten Free Territory:
Gluten, by its very nature, is a very sticky substance (remember the flour and water glue you made as a child ?) so it is harder to clean off properly, particularly on certain surfaces. Here is a “Action List” of kitchen items that need your particular attention.

Step 1 – Consider Replacing These Kitchen Items:

1. Non-stick pans (they are easily scratched and even the tiny scratches are big enough to harbor gluten particles)

2. Baking Pans, cookie sheets, cast iron cookware are also on our “hit list” because these are harder to clean from baked-on gluten.

3. Wooden Utensils, bowls, trays etc. with their grooved, rough or porous surfaces, need to be replaced for the same reason.

4. Plastic cutlery, serving utensils, bowls and dishes – even though the modern plastic can have harder, smoother surfaces, scratches and cuts can easily create a resting place for gluten from other meals.

5. Pop-up toasters – in fact, virtually any toaster, is very difficult to clean properly if gluten breads have been toasted in it.

6. Colanders, strainers or anything with small holes and/or crevices, for the same reasons.

Step 2  – Remember To Wash Any Shared Pots and Pans Well
Stainless Steel PanGenerally speaking, uncoated Stainless Steel, pans and utensils are OK to share with gluten containing meals as stainless steel is one of the easiest surfaces to clean gluten from.

Having said that, though, thorough washing with soap and water is the key to successfully employing this idea. Remain diligent and attentive to the washing and rinsing process.

Step 3 – Organize and Co-ordinate
With the potential of severe reaction as the “reward” of any slip-up in the kitchen, the more organized you are and the better co-ordinated everyones movements area in the kitchen, the better.

In a large family atmosphere where a celiac is present, set in place a clear kitchen protocol that the whole family is thoroughly versed in (including guests if need be). Here are THREE useful ideas on this subject.

Special Pots and Pans: Designate and set aside, well-marked, “For exclusive-gluten free cooking” for certain pans, pots etc. 

Gluten Free Zones: In the case of a large family with mixed diets, it is an excellent idea to have separate cupboards, (or at least, designated shelves) devoted to “safe” gluten free foods – all CLEARLY MARKED.

Refrigerator: You might also consider extending this idea to certain shelves in the refrigerator.  

Gluten Free Food Areas Create Structure For Kids: You know what it is like with kids ! If they are gluten free, they can feel so much more confident in themselves and feel less “deprived” if their “special shelf” is always loaded with foods just for them.

It is amazing what a difference a little bit of focussed planning and forethought can make. Just like a choreographer co-ordinates the dancers and movements into a visual presentation, so you can choreograph a scene in your new gluten free kitchen space.

It is a safe space, where your kitchen and your family’s activities within it are co-ordinated and structured into a smooth-flowing “dance” where everyone knows the place of everything, its function and their own place within the new dynamic.

To your unfolding gluten free life.
Cheers,
Sven

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