What's all the fuss about? Living with a non coeliac

As you read this, you’re probably thinking I am referring to myself with the title, thanks to the trials and tribulations of years of food intolerance. But this post is about the actual fussy eater in the household, Joe. He is vegetarian, but hates eggs and mushrooms with a vengence; as well as not being a huge fan of aubergine or courgette. To me, this is limiting my already tiny vegetarian recipe repertoire, and our combined meal preferences make for some exasperated responses from waiting staff every now and again.

From day one of dating, we have had a very interesting gastronomical journey to establish a varied eating routine; that suits both pallets (and tolerances). But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, and as we approach our wedding, and embark on life as Mr & Mrs, our plans have rekindled a few of the early memories associated with our love of food.

If I could never eat again, I am not sure what I would do with all the spare time this situation would create. It’s a worrying concept, and Joe feels exactly the same about it. Last week it was announced that divorce rates have dropped considerably in the UK, so at least we can agree on something.... much of our dating has been centred upon cooking and eating, and will continue to in the years to come.

I made an early discovery shortly after diagnosis, in relation to how much of a learning curve it can be for anyone you share a house with if you have coeliac disease. I am learning more recently of the experiences of others with family members/partners with food intolerance and allergies, and it is safe to say you are learning all the time. My parents struggled for a while getting their fully gluten free habits established; particularly when it came to the easily missed things like using the same wooden spoon to stir the pans of spaghetti, using malt vinegar for the perfect poached eggs, and getting crumbs in the butter with their toast in a morning. It didn’t help that I wasn’t particularly forthcoming in demanding a safe kitchen, nor the lack of information about exactly how to achieve this. 

The habits of visiting family and friends could in an instant, affect what my party plate would contain if dips and sauces were saturated with chunks of crusty bread. The most dangerous aspect was my laissez faire attitude to contamination; and my absolute determination to not cause a fuss. Time after time I would say, “Oh it’s OK,” or “it’ll be fine, honest”. Though there were times where no immediate or adverse reaction would occur, I realise now, that my actions were enabling a constant influx of gluten; no matter how little the portion.

Joe began cooking for me at an early stage. It is definitely one of his specialities, and was a welcome decision after I stupidly chose to share a non-GF Pad Thai with him on our first dinner date; suffering the consequences of this for hours after. Apparently my first impression was acceptable enough, and nearly 3 years later, we are processing the allergy labels for our festival-style wedding dinner. 

Joe enjoyed the new challenge that gluten free cooking brought, and still does. Combining this with trying to avoid cross contamination with someone who’s chosen staple diet would be pizza, biscuits, bread and pastry has been interesting to say the least. One thing that has rung true throughout these experiences however, was his determination to provide a top-notch meal, and keep me well. 

Joe isn’t expected to have gluten free EVERYTHING in the house, but for the most part he does. The added bonus is that anything poisonous he does treat himself to is all his; and is usually consumed in one go because, you know, that’s got to be safer right?!

The only advice I can give following years of complacency is and a newly established attitude to health is:

Consider separate versions of your staple ingredients i.e. butter/margarine etc. to avoid cross contamination

Consider your own chopping board/other equipment and storing these away until you need them

Ensure you leave wooden spoons in pans while cooking so that cross contamination is avoided

Ask when people visit to use cutlery and serving plates to serve their sauces and condiments/no dunking allowed

Consider fully resealing freezer and fridge food to avoid crumbs/cross contamination

Fully reseal any cupboard items to avoid spillage of crumbs/cross contamination

Use toaster bags if you use a toaster over grill to avoid crumbs, and regularly empty the tray

Have your own GF section of storage in above places wherever possible and stick to it

Don’t be afraid to ask to see the labels of ingredients people intend to use/are using when cooking/entertaining

Try not to be so apologetic (this is something I am still working on) this is your body, and you need to look after it. People who care will want to get it right with you

Have fun with it! It makes for more varied recipes and carefully considering your ingredients... That's only going to taste better in the long run, surely.

Coeliaclass x

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