Yesterday I started to indulge in a rather informative gluten free diet book. I know that sounds corny, but as any of you many friends would know, I have a allergy to gluten. As I read through this book I realized that maybe I should be explaining my condition better to everyone around me so I don't have to feel so awkward when declining food from other people; sometimes I have to be quite picky.
My condition is called Dermatitis Herpetiformis and it's a form of gluten intolerance that manifests itself in the skin in the form of severe itchiness and blistering.
Now how about some more information on just what gluten is to help all you bakers out there. I am learning some new things from reading this book and I plan to be more strict on my diet in the future so don't be surprised if I turn down some things I have accepted from you before. Sorry.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye contaminated oats (oats that have been grown, harvests, or processed in a gluten-containing facility), and a bunch of other products I'll try and mention later. So basically, gluten is the substance that gives breads and pastas their elasticity and texture. Now because gluten is a stabilizer and thickener, manufacturers add it to a wide range of consumer products. Medication, marinades, condiments, coffees, packaged spices, envelop seals, lipstick, hair sprays, and even daily multivitamins can contain gluten.
Now before your collective heads starts spinning, remember there are things I can still eat. There are some things that are naturally gluten free and I'll list them below for quick reference and reassurance:
- many types of rice
- and many others
Spices in their pure form
To jump back to the matter of things I shouldn't be eating, there are many foods that I have to watch out for that have more hidden sources of gluten. By that I mean, the labelling of the ingredients are not so clear as to label them with wheat or other allergens in them. In these cases, reading the ingreients is the best idea so when I'm out don't be surprised if I avoid a lot of things. A lot of foods I have to be weary of include:
Brown Rice Syrup (this syrup usually has malt in it)
Deli meats (sausages, hotdogs salami especially)
Seasoning and spices (labelled to have declumping agents or are "ground spices")
Now I want to make a little mention of cross contamination while I have your attention (if I still do). I had never thought about it much before, but avoiding using the same spacula or pot that has had a glutenous product in it and has not yet been washed is also important. This is just a an obvious example, but the more you think about all the things something with gluten could touch and then be used for something gluten free, well, it can get a little scary. Now this is something new for me, I want to try harder on watching out for cross contamination in the future so I'd love some help and understanding from all of you to get onto this more diligently. This being said, don't expect me to ask a lot of questions while we are out at restaurants, I know how dumb the general populace is so I won't waste my time explaining myself to every waiter that comes in contact with me. I'll likely eat out less often and frequent places that serve more gluten free foods, like Thai and sushi. It beats eating at a fast food joint any day so I'm not complaining.
As a final note, anyone who stumbles onto restaurants that serve gluten free foods, please let me know. I appreciate having a wider variety of places to eat out. Now I try and frequent (though I do it poorly right now) this blog called http://torontoceliac.blogspot.com/ for my information on places to eat in Toronto and area. The blog is really nice and the person who runs it is obviously dedicated so anyone who wants to eat out sometime with me, just remind me of this list and let's try something. It will be an adventure!
I'll keep reading and the more I learn, the more I can hopefully teach you so dealing with me should become even easier.