I became a vegetarian at 14 years old—in protest of factory farming, to reduce my ecological impact in the world, to minimize my exposure to biological magnification and in solidarity with animals everywhere.
I did not know any adults who were vegetarians and did my best to educate myself about how to cook properly.
I ardently informed everyone who wanted to listen, or not, about my dietary restrictions. If there was an occasional slip of a meat stock or unseen ingredient in my food, I didn’t get sick and didn’t figure out until I was 20 years old that many soups were made with animal stock.
Like I said, I did my best, and I was adhering to self-inflicted moral obligations as a dinner host. I was vehement in my explanation.
For a variety of reasons, I started eating meat again a few years ago— and now enjoy getting to know as much as I can about where the ingredients I use come from and the life of the animal from beginning to end.
I spent three years glorious years eating everything and anything. If you made it, offered it, suggested it yes was my answer.
Then, on a whim I discovered that gluten and I don’t get along. No longer vehement, but meek and humble I now navigate the waters in fear when I am a guest, ensuring that my host or waitress actually understands what I mean when I say, “I can’t eat gluten.”
I feel pushy serving myself at a buffet style event or hoarding my gluten free crackers. I am embarrassed when I ask a second time about the ingredients in the meal I am ordering, and “No I can’t have anything fried in the same fryer as your breaded things.” I don’t want to be an irritation for an enthusiastic, but un-educated host. I prefer to not make a big deal about this dietary restriction and reluctantly send food back when it has croutons.
“But can’t you just pick them off?” I have been asked.
“No, I am sorry.”
“But I think that is the gluten free one,” the waitress countered.
“No, it’s not. I can smell it. And it is identical to the one that he has.” (Yes, I can smell gluten sometimes, and sometimes I walk through the bread aisle as a treat and tease to myself.)
“Well, it is going to take a long time to remake”, she says, as if my intention is to make her throw away food, work longer and basically annoy everyone else. My intention is to not be sick, and I imagine ne’re a host or restaurant is maliciously out to “get me.”
I want to be able to go to bed without intense cramping waking me up in the middle of the night. I want to be able to wake up in the morning bright-eyed and clear headed, not feeling absolutely hung over because there was wheat in the salad dressing or the green beans were cooked with soy sauce.
If your guest or family member has been diagnosed with celiac or gluten intolerance, the kitchen can become a dangerous place of wheat shrapnel, cross-contamination and land-mines waiting to take a gastronomic toll. Here is a guide of how to host or start cooking gluten free with confidence and awareness, so you can enjoy each others’ company to the fullest.
- If you don’t know, ask your guest what they can and can’t eat. Be ready and willing to share your full ingredient list. The more you inquire, the more at ease they will feel at your meal, as well as suggesting alternatives. Here is a quick cheat sheet
- Read the ingredients—meats, vegetables and fruits are always okay. Double check gravies, creamy soups, marinades and salad dressings. Read the ingredients, the top eight food allergens are listed in bold at the bottom of every ingredient list.
- Feeling overwhelmed? Ask your guest to bring their own ingredients or a dish that they can definitely eat.
- During preparation? Prep and cook your gluten free items first. Keep cutting boards, mixing spoons, spatulas and serving ware completely separate from glutenous ones.
- Hosting a potluck: Have everyone write every ingredient on their offering (use cute/festive labels to make it apart of the décor). Or allocate wheat free and wheat full sides of the table—clearly labeled.
- Hosting buffet style? Encourage your gluten free guest serve themselves first—double dipping between different dishes can lead to cross contamination.
- Condiments. No longer can you dip your knife in the butter/mayonnaise/peanut butter slather on your bread and put it back in the container for a second helping. Solutions”
a. Purchase “gluten free only,” label it profusely with a red sharpie and allocate to the afflicted person.
b. Purchase condiments in squeezey bottles
c. All of the above
Here is a brief and hardly complete list of what contains gluten and doesn’t.
These items contain gluten:
- Wheat, Rye, Barley, Spelt
- Bread, Pasta, Bulgur, Couscous, Pastries, Cookies, Crackers (unless otherwise labeled)
- Breaded and fried foods, such as fried chicken, Mozzarella sticks, tempura
- The base of many creamy soups, processed salad dressings and gravy mixes: New England clam chowder, cream of mushroom soup, ranch and Caesar
- Soy sauce
- Many seasonings
These ingredients do not contain gluten:
- Meat (unless marinaded)
- Vegetables & Fruits
- Dairy and Cheese
- White Rice/Brown Rice
- Soy/tofu (unless marinaded)
- Guar gum & Xantham gum
- In place of soy sauce, use gluten free tamari or Braggs
- Instead of a sandwich, make a lettuce or seaweed wrap
- Rather than pasta, use quinoa
- Make your own salad dressing.
Restaurants & Recipes: https://www.gluten.net/
My Facebook page offers weekly seasonal recipes to help you stay inspired: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Deven-Sisler-Yoga/204776219563367
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Deven Sisler
Editor: Travis May