Monday, November 22, 2010

The Food Frenzy: Part 1 Safety

I'll be honest, I have ALWAYS loved the holidays. The weather, the family time, the shopping, and of course the food. However, when celiac disease became a part of my life, I began to dread it all. It became a nightmare. All that food became a risk and the daunting task of trying to make a replica of everything in a gluten free version was overwhelming and exhausting.

Even the shopping was no longer enjoyable because it meant frantically running to several different stores trying to piece together enough gluten free items to make a mock [insert occasion here] meal. This frustration fed the dread.

But each year things have gotten a little easier. Each year I've learned new ways to stay safe and tricks to make food replication easier and quicker.

When I started this post I set out to share my Thanksgiving recipes tempted to skip the details on the safety concerns, because they are stressful. But it's important for all gluten sensitive people to know what to be aware of during the food frenzy. The following principles can be applied to all food sensitivities, and all food centered events.

1. If someone offers to make you something gluten free, make sure they are not using any colanders or wooden cutting boards that have previously been used with wheat. These two surfaces retain gluten residue and will contaminate even the best of intentions.

2.  As annoying as it is, you have to request that any utensils, cookware or serving ware to be used during the making and serving of the gluten free dish(es) are first washed (even if they were already 'clean'), with a brand new sponge that has not been exposed to wheat. A sponge is another porous surface that will spread gluten to seemingly clean dishes.

3. This brand new sponge, or a freshly laundered dish rag, should also be used to wipe down preparation and eating surfaces.

4. Double check the ingredients to be used. I know this seems tedious, especially if the generous person seems to have a handle on what gluten free means. Take for example, rice krispies treats. It is a common fallacy that this convenient little treat is gluten free if it's homemade, it is made with RICE krispies after all. However, Rice Krispies cereal (Kellog's brand) contains MALT FLAVORING, which is typically made from barley, which is GLUTEN.

5. Should this be a large gathering, remind the host beforehand that it is very important that the serving utensils not be interchanged between safe and unsafe foods by guests. The safe foods may be marked for clarification or placed in a separate location to reduce this risk. 

6. If the foods are setup buffet style, or even family style, ask your host to clarify which foods are gluten free (or have them marked ahead of time so you don't have to bother him/her during festivities).
It seems tactless to ask all of this of your host and I typically decline even the most generous offers because the effort that gluten free prep in an otherwise glutinous home demands seems just as faux pas. However some golden heart-ed people are relentlessly willing to jump through every possible hoop to prepare food that you can enjoy freely. Those people, my friends, are Angels; cherish them and reciprocate their great and diligent effort, for serving an Angel is blessing.

For tips and trick on joining a party where gluten free food is NOT being served, check out The Food Frenzy: Part 2.

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