Today, I was out shopping and ran into a dilemma.
I’ve nearly always maintained that the best way to avoid cross-contamination is to just not bring the offending allergen – in our case, wheat – into our home, but the fact is, only one of us, my husband, is gluten-intolerant, so while we love our gluten-free recipes, sometimes idealism and practicality meet head on, and it’s hard to know what to do.
So this afternoon, I finished up my shopping at that particular store, and drove across the street to pick Gabe and the kids up from the Burger King playground.
As soon as Gabe got seated, and we got back on the road, I dropped the question: So if all other things are equal, do I stick with conventional gluten-free, or organic wheat products for the kids?
There was a brief moment of silence before Gabriel answered, and when he did, it surprised me. He said “organic wheat”.
I gotta say I was relieved, because standing there looking at the display of gluten-free pasta, right next to the display of organic wheat pasta that just happened to be on sale for the same price…. I decided to load up on both. (I’ve mentioned before that we don’t go out of our way to buy organic produce, but all else being equal, it just makes sense – especially where grains are concerned).
But the thing with bringing all that wheat into our house is that now we have to be extra careful to avoid cross-contamination.
I know that a lot of you out there are families just like me, and maybe some of these tips will help you keep your loved one safe.
How To Prevent Cross-Contamination In Your Home
Designate certain cookware as gluten-free only – especially cast iron. We have one, and only one cast iron skillet that is allowed to touch wheat (or chicken eggs) – the rest are all gluten-free. In some households, you may do things the other way around, but since we don’t use wheat as often, I just use my chicken egg pan (which I use every morning) to toast bread or what have you on the rare occasion that I want it.
Wash wheat (or other allergen) contaminated dishes last. That way you don’t end up with gluten residue in your wash or rinse water contaminating all of your dishes. (you can probably disregard this tip if you use a dishwasher – I sometimes forget that those are a thing because I’ve never had one!)
Keep separate butter dishes. If you butter bread, or muffins, or anything, you’ll likely want to consider maintaining and allergy-free butter dish, because try as you may, accidents happen, and crumbs get into your butter. Even teeny, tiny crumbs. Those cause damage too.
Teach your family not to let the jelly spoon, or butter knife touch their bread (muffin, bagel, etc) when they’re fixing up their sandwich. My mom was big on this after my sister found out she was allergic to wheat. The deal was, you use the spoon in the jelly jar to drop jelly onto your biscuit, and the spread the jelly with your own fork or knife. It was pretty effective for jelly and honey. Not so much for butter, which doesn’t drop off of a spoon as easily.
Rinse your dishrag out, and put it in the laundry right away if it comes into contact with gluten (or another allergen). It is so easy to get gluten all over everything once you get it on your dishrag. Don’t take any chances! I’m usually a fan of reusable everything, but this might be an appropriate occasion for disposable dish rags.
Get separate rolling pins, or use a non-porous rolling pin such as marble. Wooden rolling pins soak up whatever get on them, and are virtually impossible to get completely decontaminated. So get a second one just for gluten-free baking, or invest in one that’s easy to decontaminate.
Cook your allergy-friendly dish before getting allergens (such as wheat) out. If you’re making two dishes for dinner – one allergy-friendly, and the other not – make your allergy-free dish first, and put it in a safe place where it won’t get contaminated before you start on your conventional dish (it is SO easy to dust wheat all over everything!).
Clean up thoroughly after using an allergen. Many allergens are an easy fix – eggs for instance. But wheat flour is fine and powdery, and has a tendency to go POOF all. Over. Everything. So be thorough in your clean up, wash your dish rag out at the sink when you’re done, and put it directly into the wash afterward. Or better yet, use disposable dishrags. They cost you a few bucks here and there, but it’s a small price to pay to keep your family member healthy.
The bottom line is that you’re going to have to make some sacrifices for people in your life who suffer from food allergies. It’s honestly pretty easy once you get use to it, whether that’s keeping a meticulous kitchen, or putting your whole family on an allergy-friendly diet. Either one can work.
And by the way, you can be like me and buy first, ask questions later, but communicating with your allergy sufferer first is probably a much smarter way to go. 😉