Gluten-free, Wheat-free living

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Gluten-free, Wheat-free living

We wooed each other with food. From the early days of our courting, we cooked for each other until that dance we did around the kitchen table became part of the people we are and the people we would become.

This blog is about the pure pleasures of preparing and sharing a meal: the planning for it, the making of it, the taking in of the smells, the turning out of a humble (or spectacular) spread, and the table talk that issues from each of us as we share.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Making a Clean, Gluten-Free Spring “Sweep”

by Gina Mohr-Callahan, A Fork in the Road

In my Galesburg, Illinois, girlhood home, a thorough spring cleaning was as much a part of the season as tulips and Midwestern mud. To our chagrin (didn’t we JUST do this last fall?), my mother started in early February, when the seeds were still tightly coiled in their woody jackets. She began with the closets, unearthing great mounds of old sweaters, jackets, hats, and socks to be “handed down” to neighbor children.

Then she moved on to the curtains, bedspreads, walls, and even the dreaded Venetian blinds, which she washed systematically in the great claw-foot tub, then stretched out like colossal “Slinkys” on the front porch to dry in the winter sun.

This French-Canadian whirlwind left no corner untouched, and by the blessed vernal equinox (which nearly always coincided with my sister Mary Ellen’s birthday), the house sparkled, everything was put right, and the air wafted with lemon oil and Niagara starch. I’m not sure whether it’s my French-Canadian/German genes, my nesting instinct, or my need for safe/GF digs, but I find myself reprising some of my mother’s frenzied spring-cleaning behaviors. When you’re living the gluten-free life, this is especially important in the kitchen.

Keeping a Clean (Gluten-Free) Machine (Kitchen)
If you’re transitioning from eating gluten to a gluten-free/wheat-free life or if you share your kitchen with wheat eaters, here are a few tips to ensure you’re getting no residual gluten:

Buy New
  • Buy new wooden implements, such as cutting boards, spoons, spatulas, etc. Gluten collects in the cracks of wooden implements. If you’re going to invest in new ones, plastic is best, because it reliably washes clean.
  • Consider replacing cookie sheets and baking pans that are hard to clean well, such as aluminum.
  • Go through your fridge and cupboards and throw away any item that might have been exposed to gluten or wheat. Example: Could your peanut butter or jams have tiny wheat crumbs in them? What about mustard and mayo? Other sauces?
  • Buy new condiments/jams and clearly label if they’re to be kept GF.
  • If you use Sil-Pat or other specialized baking sheets, you many want to replace them. These tend to absorb glutens from past baking and could be a source of contamination.
  • Consider replacing a wooden rolling pin that was used on gluten-rich dough.
Wash Well
  • Thoroughly clean your plastic cutting boards/plastic kitchen implements (running them through the dishwasher works great).
  • Thoroughly clean your cupboard/pantry shelves.
  • Wash your potholders.
  • Clean your pasta maker or bread maker thoroughly.
  • Thoroughly clean your electric mixer beaters/dough hooks, around the mixer housing that holds the beaters.
Educate Your Family
  • If you live with wheat eaters, take some time to teach them healthy, gluten-free behaviors, such as no “double dipping.” Explain how this practice of dipping in with a knife/spreading on wheat breads, then dipping back into the jar contaminates the entire jar with gluten.
  • Establish a GF zone in your kitchen. Here, you can be certain no gluten-rich crumbs will contaminate your food.
  • Identify at least one GF cutting board that’s safe for only your use.
There’s something right about spring cleaning. We need a good sweep to make a welcome place for new ideas, white sneakers (but not until Memorial Day! Midwestern rules!), T-shirts, fresh strawberries, and those new sprouts stirring in our flower beds.

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