A gluten-free blog about the life of a celiac in college (and now grad school). Full of personal stories about life with celiac disease and fibromyalgia; gluten free, vegan and paleo recipes; and product and restaurant reviews. Plus, reflects on body image, dating and more with a chronic illness!
Three gluten-eaters and one celiac walk into their college apartment for the first time...you can imagine some of the directions this joke can take. Most of them involving a struggle for the gluten filled and gluten free lovers to live in harmony.
Nearly a month into junior year, though, this celiac has yet to kill over or be killed by gluten. And I'm ready to share my best tips for how to keep your apartment kitchen snazzy and celiac-safe. (Cool roommates not included.)
1. Segregate the gluten and gluten free food. It's much easier to say "hands off" to an entire pantry compared to individual items. Since I was the second roommate out of four to arrive on move in day, I had lots of time to figure out my organization system.
Basically? I get all the cupboards to the right of the oven; the gluten food goes in shelves to the left. I get the lower pantry shelves near the fridge, while the gluten eaters enjoy the top. They don't go into my section, I don't go into their's, and everyone's happy!
My side of the kitchen!
An extra bonus? By keeping everyone's food separate, there's less risk to grabbing and using the wrong product. There's nothing worse than accidentally glutening yourself...or using up your celiac roomie's expensive gluten free Mac and cheese!
2. When it comes to food segregation in the fridge, stick to the top shelves. I keep all my perishable food on the top rack of the fridge or in one of the two "produce" drawers. This first prevents people from accidentally grabbing my things - usually visitors go for the food they see first on the lower shelves.
Upper shelf living...
More importantly, this configuration also keeps gluten crumbs from falling onto my food. For double protection, I always package my food - whether in plastic containers, bags or foil.
3. Bring your own pots, pans, and cooking utensils. Like my food, I store my cooking equipment in a separate cabinet. The amount of items you need depend on how much and the types of meals you cook.
All the gluten free gadgets!
Personally, I brought one sauce pan and one skillet; several baking trays and pans; a full set of (quirky and un-matching) silverware; tools like a kitchen knives, measuring cups and spatulas; and all my favorite bowls, jars and plates! It's also important to remember cleaning supplies. I use my own dish scrubber, which I always store away from the sink immediately after using. Clean and cross contamination free.
4. As part of all the above tips, label everything! Before I left for school, I wrapped the handles of my pots and my big cooking utensils with blue painting tape, which I wrote "Gluten Free" on in permanent marker. On baking trays, I simply wrote my name and "GF" on the bottom. This way, if I accidentally leave something out on the counter, my roomies know not to use it.
To make the kitchen segregation easier for everyone, I also labeled my cabinets and fridge shelves. My roommate, a true organizing ninja, brought a label-maker with her to school, so I printed my own "Casey's Loot" stickers. Strips of painters tape with sharpie writing would work just as well though!
5. Finally, to make sure your celiac precautions last, be honest and keep communication open. When we agreed to room together last year, I immediately told everyone my kitchen requirements. Knowledge = power...especially the power to organize the kitchen!
A smile of full power right there! ;)
And, if people forget to wipe off the counters or accidentally put food on my shelves, I - nicely - remind them. After my diagnosis, it took me ages to remember proper celiac protocol. As long as I'm not being glutened, friends and family deserve the same time to adapt.
Sharing a living space with one person who eats gluten is scary enough...sharing it with three? A joke that could easily turn into a nightmare. With the help of some considerate friends (not to mention a fancy label-maker), though, this celiac is loving her new digs.
Our favorite wall ornament...
The "Babe Cave" is now open for (gluten free) college cohabitation.