Table of Contents:
- Gluten-Free Kitchen or Shared Kitchen?
- Cleaning out the Cooking Supplies
- Replacing Cooking Supplies for Our New Gluten-Free Kitchen
- Cleaning Out the Pantry and Fridge
- Replacing Food for Our Gluten-Free Kitchen
- De-glutening the Rest of Our Home
Gluten-Free Kitchen or Shared Kitchen?
After your celiac diagnosis, one of the first decisions you will make is whether to have a 100% gluten-free kitchen or to maintain a shared kitchen. A shared kitchen can run the gamut from having a small gluten-free section in your kitchen, to the reverse with a small area reserved for gluten-containing foods.
Our kitchen belongs in a European flat. There is no room for separate gluten and gluten-free zones on the counter, in the tinier-than-a-loaf-of-gluten-free-bread “pantry” (well, it’s almost that small), or in my counter-depth fridge. So, it was an easy decision to make the entire house gluten-free. Plus, the thought of maintaining separate crumbs between a kindergartner and a preschooler made my head spin.
Since our home is gluten-free, when Nonna (my mother) questioned the gluten-free status of a food item in our home the other day, Miss E could respond confidently, “Nonna, everything in our house is gluten-free.” No worries at home for my gluten-free, celiac girl.
Cleaning out the Cooking Supplies
Most of the cleaning took place in the kitchen. I went cabinet by cabinet, removing items (to put back, donate or toss), vacuuming, and wet wiping.
I was on a hunt for porous or scratched items or tools likely to contain gluten crumbs or particles:
- cutting boards
- plastic containers
- toaster – This was the prevailing advice at the time, and I personally still follow it. However, a small, preliminary study published in Gastroenterolgoy in January 2020 suggested that the risk of cross-contamination through a shared toaster may be low. This is something to keep an eye on, if the results are replicated in a future, larger study.
- wooden and plastic utensils
- baking supplies
Consistently erring on the side of caution, I am pretty sure more kitchen supplies were donated and tossed than kept. We kept dishes, glasses, and glass cookware, based on consistent guidance from reliable sources on celiac disease.
Replacing Cooking Supplies for Our New Gluten-Free Kitchen
In some ways, the process felt like a satisfying spring cleaning. In other ways, it was emotional, like when I realized we had to give away cookie cutters with precious memories attached. A couple of weeks later, my sweet neighbor gave our family a basket of gluten-free goodies that included Christmas cookie cutters.
Lately, I catch myself smiling with thankfulness over the little things. With the emotions of ridding myself of half my kitchen supplies, I then consoled myself with a cooking supply shopping spree. I bought a few more aqua utensils to match my beach-themed home, and once again am smiling over the little things!
Cleaning Out the Pantry and Fridge
After a painfully slow label-reading process, the gluten-containing food went to the elementary school food drive.
I underestimated how long it would take to go through all of my existing food. It was actually a couple of days. How could my tiny fridge hold so much food? And how could it have gotten so dirty in the two years since I bought it? Another silver lining is that my near-empty fridge was for once in the perfect condition to clean.
Sugar, baking powder… anything that I may have contaminated with flour while baking was given away.
Similarly, condiments like mayonaise and mustard that may have come in contact with bread by reusing a knife was also given away.
I spent hours searching manufacturer websites for statements on gluten and looking up mysterious ingredients. In deciding what to keep or toss/donate, I again erred on the side of caution. If I could not determine that something was safe for Miss E, it left our house.
Replacing Food for Our Gluten-Free Kitchen
Replacing the food led to many tears. Some were tears of frustration, as I found label reading confusing. Standing in the aisle checking not-so-helpful apps and manufacturer websites took forever!
If my poor kids were with me, it inevitably led to a meltdown or two from boredom. You can imagine the stares I got from other shoppers as I stood there “playing” on my phone while my kids whined.
And some of the tears were (and still are) tears of joy when a much-loved item had the time-saving words “gluten-free” on the label. Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, and Whole Foods quickly became my shopping stomping grounds, as they are pretty good about identifying gluten-free items in the store and with online lists.
It took a couple of months for me to learn to read labels, and this has gotten so much easier. If you are at the beginning of this celiac journey, I promise that identifying safe, gluten-free food will soon become second nature.
De-glutening the Rest of Our Home
There were a few other non-kitchen items that needed to be addressed. Play-doh and all play-doh contaminated toys and tools, including my non-celiac son’s much beloved play-doh dentist kit, had to go. This was particularly sad for me, and I made a point to replace it later.
The kiddos’ play area, where they had played with play-doh and eaten countless snacks had to be thoroughly cleaned. Every toy, and every bin was vacuumed and/or wiped down. I still have homemade gluten-free play-doh on my to-do list. Here’s the recipe I plan on trying.
In the bathroom, I double-checked Miss E’s toothpaste, lotion and bath soap to make sure it was all gluten-free.
Our only issue was Aveeno lotion, which is made with likely contaminated oats, so we switched her to Johnson’s natural lotion. Some celiacs don’t worry about lotion, but with a preschooler, I decided anything that is on her hands could end up in her mouth. Along those lines, I made sure our dish soap, hand soap, and sunscreen were all gluten-free.
Whew! This exhausting job came with Thanksgiving and Christmas on its heels, but it was worth it. I love knowing that our home is a safe haven for Miss E and I LOVED hearing the confidence in my little girl’s voice saying “EVERYTHING in our house is gluten-free.”