Let’s begin with my ideal scenario that I’m sure anyone free-from can relate to. It’s me, alone in a kitchen that’s completely sterilised. There’s no one else that has cooked in there and no indistinguishable crumbs in the corner by the toaster and no droplets of milk by the kettle. The end of 2018 brought a few weeks of my stomach being a massive issue and at one point I had eight ulcers in my mouth (often when I’m run down with my stomach and I’ve had gluten I get the wonderful side effect of ulcers.)
So, how can we co exist? The unfortunate reality is that I do not have a kitchen all to myself and I find myself resembling Mad Eyed Moody from Harry Potter springing up behind people – instead of shouting CONSTANT VILIGANCE, I’m side eyeing my dad when I’m worried he’s getting a little too blasé pouring milk into his tea.
It’s always a challenge to adjust when it comes to the kitchen and inhabiting the space with people and, not to completely jinx myself, but I think that we’ve got quite a good system.
Over the past 4/5 years since I became free-from, we’ve all had to adjust to not poisoning me so I thought now was the best time to share my top tips on being free from in a shared kitchen in particular; things that have become normal to us now.
- My first tip is kind of obvious – but it’s to explain exactly what’s wrong with you. If you’ve ever had someone blink blankly at you when the word gluten is used, you’ll know what I mean. Letting people know exactly what to not give you is ultimately the most important – that way, when you’re out, hopefully no one will contaminate all your things in the fridge and be a little more mindful. Symptoms are awkward but important to discuss – no one wants to make you ill so it’s worth just letting them know what happens and to please be careful in the kitchen.
- Announcing everyone is going dairy and gluten free. If I was the ruler of a small kingdom I very much doubt I’d have much of a population. I assume they would all get bored of my rules and regulations and promptly leave. However, it just is so much easier if with basic things, everyone eats the same. The worst culprit and enemy #1 in my (admittedly dramatic) eyes is unsliced bread. In slow motion I can see the crumbs spraying everywhere. So, I’d recommend feeding everyone gluten free bread to see if they like it. The Warburtons GF artisan bread is honestly so delicious that no one has noticed the switch and despite the cost of living gluten free requiring an extra mortgage, my stomach thanks my family. Additional switches include things that make sense; everyone eating GF pasta if we’re having pasta for dinner instead of making two different meals, chopping boards are marked gluten and dairy free – plastic apparently retains gluten so it’s one to watch out for.
- Get your own toaster. When I first went GF this didn’t actually occur to me. Probably because I was freaking out about everything else. For a while, I then tried toaster bags. These worked okay but they weren’t very environmentally friendly and crumbs could still get in if they were on top of the toaster between the slots or if the bag wore through. Also one time I used a bag too much and it melted onto my toast; I was kind of done with them after that. I also have my own toaster at work – I cracked my label maker out and wrote a message on to mark it as my GF toaster and please do not use it please and thank you. I keep it near me on the shelf behind my desk so I can keep my beady eyes on it.
- Dettol is your new BFF. If this was the MySpace days when you have to pick your top 6 friends, Dettol would be my number 1. There’s simple things that you would expect – wash things in a dish washer on the hottest you can and throw away scrubbers once you’ve used if they were to clean under the toaster for example. Most of the time, people tend to have a designated tea/coffee making station next to the kettle, so we don’t prepare food near there and be sure to dettol that area very often. The pouring of milk is a horror movie to me, I swear I can hear a woman’s high pitch scream like something off Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho when I see someone pour milk. Also, I hope no movie buffs are reading this and see me compare a movie great to the pouring of milk. If you are, sorry, I tend to err on the dramatic side.
- You’re not seriously going to do that are you…?” I deadpans across the kitchen. Surely my dad isn’t really going to open up his chocolate desert and then put his hand in the cutlery draw, thus spreading dairy allll over the clean forks? Surely, surely not. No one can be trusted. Soap my friends, anti bacterial soap is your only friend now. That, and constant viligance of course.
- Free from at work – I could write a post on this alone. Basically, I try to take all my food from home so that I know it’s all as uncontaminated as possible. I usually also take my own cutlery and plate. If I can’t then I’m quite limited to what I can find in town which ends up being the same few things which is super boring. There’s no dishwasher at work so if I don’t have my own cutlery, I always wash them under boiling water from the kettle to sterilise them – they all think I’m a complete nutter but you never know that there’s no traces on them from a haphazard washing up session by the person using the cutlery before you. It’s also worth doing when you’re round at peoples houses – just make sure to explain it’s not because their cutlery is dirty, it’s just that you’re paranoid that you don’t want to be contaminated. It’s well worth being over cautious because ultimately, you’re the one that suffers.
I joke but ultimately, it really requires everyone to be really mindful. I know it can be a huge annoyance to be free from and to ask everyone to be careful of your requirements, but it sure beats being ill. My friends are all really fab and when I went to my friend Sara’s new house, she even had tinfoil at the ready to cook my items on and kept them all separate.
I don’t think people realise how much a little thought for Laura means to me!
What are your top tips for leading a (hopefully!) uncontaminated free from life?