Gluten Free Living - a partner's view

by Roger Leather

I have experienced gluten free living for over half of my 60 years, but I am not celiac. My wife is the one on the gluten free diet and I have had to learn how to cope with it from the sidelines.

Being an electronics engineer I didn't let the thoughts of a gluten free life phase me.  Instead I looked at ways to minimize any risk of cross contamination.

We ended up with two separate fridges so that I could store anything "dodgy" (such as my bread - I have never developed a taste for the gf version) away from Carol's food. We also ended up with separate toasters.

The lessons learned when eating out

On our first dinner date, Carol dropped the bombshell that eating out would be more complicated than normal. Having never heard of coeliac disease, I was unsure of what was safe for her to eat and I realized that I had some learning to do.

I had never really thought about the ingredients in food before, and I had to start grilling chefs as to what was in the items on the menu. 

I soon discovered that they knew little more than I did, especially as a lot of the dishes were bought ready prepared, rather than made fresh on the premises.

I remember being surprised at the number of foods containing gluten

For example chips, or french fries, struck me as being safe until I realized that a restaurant would often cook scampi or breaded fish in the same oil. Even the chips themselves, if frozen, may have a coating that would render them unsafe for Carol to eat.

Basic ingredients such as meat, fish, fruit and vegetables were on the gluten free food list so we tried to stick with those, rather than dishes in a sauce or wrapped in pastry.

Together we learned what certain terms on a restaurant menu actually meant and Carol created a gluten free restaurant guide to make it easier to make safe choices.

Family matters

Cooking at home was not without problems either. But what first appeared to be complicated soon became second nature.

I decided to eat the same as Carol, when at home, to make things easier. I saved pies and things for when I ate away from home.

Gluten free living was a little more difficult when the children were younger.

For example a traditional English breakfast ended up needing multiple frying pans (skillets) as the sausages had to be kept separate from the rest of the meal, and if I wanted fried bread that also needed another pan.

A Sunday roast dinner was fine if we omitted the stuffing and yorkshire puddings and used a gluten free gravy.

If I fancied a dessert, I would often buy a frozen apple strudel or similar, to avoid the problems of wheat based flour floating in the air and possibly landing on Carol's food when making one from scratch. Or we would make a gluten free dessert such as Carol's famous apple crumble.

My food is normally cooked on the lower shelf of the oven so that it can't overflow and drip onto the gluten free part of the meal.

Gluten free living in a nutshell

When I look back over the last 34 years, I don't think Carol's diet has really caused us many problems. It is just a way of life for us both now. In fact, I would imagine that my mother-in-law would have found it much more difficult while Carol was growing up.

Not only were there a lot less gluten free products available then, but she had to explain to a hungry child that she couldn't eat the same things as her siblings.

ith a family of six, it wasn't always feasible to cook a separate meal, and too expensive to cook gluten free for everyone, so Carol learned to make do and eat what she could rather than being treated as a special case.

In my opinion she turned out just right. I just have to remember not to kiss her after eating a slice of bread!

- - Gluten free living


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