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THE DAILY LOGISTICS
Celiac and gluten intolerant people constantly think about gluten. In our case, it is our children who are affected, but I can assure you that our attention is always at 100%!
The daily logistics to set up and adopt are fundamental: the more you think about your actual needs, your way of life, the better it will fit your daily habits.
This is the strategic location. The most important. And the easiest too, because it is the only place where you can master everything!
But it all depends on your situation: you can decide to set up a 100% gluten-free environment, what means that any food that goes into your kitchen will be certified gluten free. In this case, it simplifies everything and you have no stress, no worries. In many cases however, the house will not be 100% gluten-free, and some protocols will have to be set to avoid contamination.
TIP: How to share the kitchen between gluten and gluten-free?
If one or more family members continue to consume gluten:
1. First basic advice !! ISOLATE THE GLUTEN! Place all food containing gluten (pasta, biscuits, flour) in a specific cupboard. Do not mix them with the gluten-free versions: this will prevent cross contamination and will prevent you from making mistakes 😉
2. Obviously, do not place 'normal' bread and gluten-free bread in the same bread basket ...
3. Carefully clean the work surfaces and table as soon as you consume food containing gluten.
4. Carefully wash cooking utensils used to prepare food containing gluten.
5. If you continue to cook standard pasta: If possible, invest in 2 strainers, reserving one to strict gluten-free. (it is very difficult to thoroughly clean a strainer).
6. Manage the gluten-free dishes always BEFORE the gluten versions to avoid contamination.
7. Do not use the same butter plates / jams / honey / Nutella jars: if possible, buy 2 plates of butter / 2 jars of jam / 2 jars of honey / 2 jars of Nutella: 1 for gluten free & 1 for gluten - this will help you avoid cross contamination!
If you spread your slice of 'normal' bread of butter, jam or honey and return with your knife to the pot, you 'contaminate' this pot with gluten, which becomes unusable for intolerants and celiacs…
8. Similarly for cheese: Traditionally, we are used to taking a piece of cheese and spreading our slice of bread. And often return with the same knife to take more cheese ... In this case we contaminate the cheese with gluten ... The trick is to use a specific knife for cheese: this one will be used only to take the piece of cheese, it will not touch your bread.
9. TICK YOUR POTS RESERVED FOR GLUTEN-FREE! (with a post-it for instance) : this way, you will identify them immediately. In our case, we ask our children to prepare big post-it with their names and drawings, which are then taped on the pots that are reserved for them. It makes them happy and participate in the protocol 😉
aaah… the first gluten-free shopping! we will not forget it!
We were leaving the hospital. We were without the kids. A little 'stunned' after the announcement of the disease, not very sure what it really meant... So - as the gluten-free diet had to start the same evening - on the way back we stopped at the supermarket to buy something to eat ...Gluten free? Well, what exactly is it already? What did he say? corn? rye? barley? what else? ... in our case, all this was done between English and Norwegian in the hospital, French between us, then different languages in the supermarket according to the origin of the products (Denmark, Sweden, England) ... PANIC! Everything looked like it contained gluten! we spent 5 minutes per article, read and re-read the list of ingredients, do the translations from one language to another, consult together to be sure ... It took us 2h to shop for 3 days ... There, we began to realize the thing. That it would take us time, a lot of time to do it. Our expatriation didn't help.
TIP: the list of ingredients ....
Be careful to always read in detail the composition of a product you do not usually buy - or a product that says 'new recipe' / 'even better': always check that they do not have added gluten in the new version of their product!
Example of ingredient list: the allergens are written in BOLD letters! (from foodlabel.org.uk)
This is where it gets complicated, simply because a number of parameters you cannot control come into play ...
The choice of a restaurant may prove problematic, in some countries, in some cities.
TIP: at the restaurant:
In Norway (where we live), there is always a special allergen menu available where all the possible allergens are listed for each dish (gluten, dairy, nuts, celery ...). So it's pretty easy. Sometimes there are places that do not offer gluten-free options, but it's rare.
From experience we know that it is not the same in other countries, and in France. BUT: ask! When it comes to restaurant chains, the headmaster always has a document listing all the ingredients of the dishes on his menu. If you are lucky, you will come across someone who understands and who will accept to go get it for you. If you are unlucky, if you are not clearly told, if the person you are dealing with does not seem to understand what gluten is, what is an allergen: LEAVE! do not take any risk 😉 Other advice: try a small establishment, with only a few tables - there, it will probably be easier to explain what gluten is, see talking to the chef.
TIP: at the restaurant - 2 :
If you are in our case - namely: non-sick parents with celiac children - and if you order a dish with gluten for you: ALWAYS DEAL WITH YOUR CHILD'S PLATE BEFORE YOURS!
(yes, okay, that's what you normally do as a parent, but okay, that's very important here)
Cut out their meat, vegetables, pizza, sandwich BEFORE touching your dish!
Do not use your cutlery on their plates!
Do not cut your bread next to them! isolate your crumbs 😉
Invitations for dinner and birthday parties & co.
It is not always easy to talk about differences. And sometimes we end in a difficult situation simply because we do not want to 'annoy others'. It has happened to us, and it still happens to us, even if it's often stupid...
After the announcement of our kids' illness, we had to deal with various situations, not easy to manage sometimes. Here is our experience, and the lessons we have learned:
Problem 1: dinner invitations
After a while, we noticed that dinner invitations became rarer.
Well, ok, we were not 20-30 anymore and had young children, it does not help! 😉 But, that was not the reason...
We have friends who confessed they no longer dare to invite us simply because they were afraid making mistakes in food preparations and contaminate our children ... In short, they simply did not know what to eat and how manage a gluten free dish in their kitchen...
This is legitimate, and it shows that they care about us 😉
Solution: Invite them!
or invite yourself to their home by proposing to participate in the preparation of the meal 😉
Note: it also happens that you have really good friends who buy special gluten free food, and everything in double (the butter, the cheese) to avoid contamination, and who wash all the kitchen utensils when you come to eat at their place ... and that, it's really heartwarming (a big thank you to Céline, Liv Sigrid and Katia!).
Problem 2: birthday parties
If you are in our case (parents with celiac children), you will have to go to birthday parties: those for your own monsters, you can manage (well, cakes and sweets, because for the rest in general it degenerates quickly...). For the parties to which your kids are invited, well, you will have to be vigilant, very vigilant.
I will tell you here about our experience in Norway - so about Norway birthday parties. I do not know how things happen in France ... but the bases cakes / shouts / gifts / shouts / chase pursuit in the stairs / crying? / household should not be so different ...
FIRST TIP: contact the organizing parents as soon as you receive the invitation and speak openly about your problem! ask for example what they think to serve as cakes and other sweets. Offer to come with your own gluten-free version of the cake for your child, as well as gluten-free candies
WARNING: even if the candies offered at the birthday party are certified gluten-free, they are most likely to be offered in a bowl, and the hands of the other participants are certainly not 'gluten-free'… do not hesitate to bring your own small bowl of candy for your child.
SECOND TIP: Your child has already understood that he/she is 'different', so help him/her by trying to make these birthday parties the most normal for him/her - yes, it will ask you to try to make the same cake as the other parents, but it will mean a lot to your child when eating it with his/her friends - he/she will feel less different 😉
We are very fortunate in Norway because the population is very well informed about celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Birthday invitations often include the words 'If you have allergies and / or a special diet - contact parents'! brilliant no? So, after these few years, the parents of our children's friends are well aware of their special diet. And most make the effort to prepare gluten-free cakes for birthday parties so that all children are equal (this is very important for the Scandinavians). In these cases, our children are delighted, very happy and relieved to be able to share everything without worrying. It is great, and we warmly thank all these parents (tusen hjertelig takk!).
On the other hand, this kind of situation can also raise another problem ...
Problem 3 : trust...
Trust ... this is not always easy.
You are invited / your children are invited to someone you know, but they are not 'close' friends. You are assured that what is going to be served is gluten-free. You are told again when you ask a second time, to be very sure ... So you trust. Naturally. In most cases, no worries. People understand the importance of allergens.
But for us, there have been 2-3 unfortunate experiences about this. We report them as an example:
At a birthday party where our child is invited, we are assured that everything (ALL) is gluten-free:
- I also do a gluten-free diet (it's much better for our health eh?), so I know what it is, do not worry!
- ….? …. mmmh, yes, ok, very well ...thanks...
(do you feel the skeptical?)
And there you feel the inquisitive look of your child - kind 'no, mom, pleeeaaase, it's good, stop' ...
...ok I stop.
Everything is going well. Your child is happy to share the same cake, the same sweets as all his friends.
At one point, you realize that you do not have any more coffee (the national drink in Norway!) - you go to the kitchen to look for it. You notice a packet of candy that you do not know (because you know ALL the gluten-free candy packages available at the local supermarket). By habit you take it to read the ingredients ... and there you see that these damned candies contain gluten ... Suddenly you go through several feelings: anger and disappointment. And then you feel null, stupid of having trusted and not having checked everything. But as you do not want to annoy in front of the other parents this mother who 'also knows gluten free (it's too cool!)', you say nothing, you look for your child in the middle of the crowd and ask her discreetly if she has eaten one of these damn sweets ... relief when she says no ...
You are invited to taste 'vaffles' (a kind of flat waffle served with jam and cream - THE Norwegian 'must do'). You are assured that the preparation is gluten-free. Everything is going well, the weather is nice, the afternoon is pleasant. You go home.
You are called:
- uh (small voice) ... I'm really sorry, but I just realized that I was wrong when I prepared the waffles. I took the wrong flour…Your son ate a waffle with gluten.
There you look at your son and you say to yourself … shit ...
So yes you have to check permanently...
DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK!
It is your role as parent to be painful and annoy the others 😉
BUT, you also have to get used to the idea that this kind of situation happens. And will happen again. You cannot cut yourself (or your children) from any social interaction. You cannot stay secluded at home. You also have to 'trust', you cannot doubt permanently of everything. The two experiences mentioned above are unfortunate, but exceptional. In most cases everything goes perfectly 😉
TIP: when you eat outdoor...
DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK AND ASK AGAIN the lists of ingredients and to check how the dishes have been prepared (gluten-free protocol)!
It is better to be the annoying ones rather than get sick !!
In our case of parents of celiac children, it's our role to play the irritating parents who annoy everyone with their list of ingredients. We prefer to be a bit of a nuisance than to have one of our children sick because we would not dare to 'disturb' ...
SMALL TIPS WHEN TRAVELLING…
Traveling ... it's the most stressful.
We have gone through three phases:
PHASE 1. The first one where we were quite stressed, to check everything, to be suspicious, to read 4 times the list of ingredients, to pass 2 hours at the supermarket for 5 things ...
PHASE 2. The second, we relaxed: we are lucky to live in Norway where communication on allergens, and celiac disease is exceptional (better than in France for ex.). The labels of the different products comply with the legislation and it is quite easy to quickly identify the allergens in a list of ingredients. From experience, it can also be said that when a dish is advertised 'gluten-free' in the restaurant, the kitchen seems to follow behind. We did not have - to date - bad experience (cross-contamination type in a kitchen that does not follow strict gluten-free protocol). The waiters and chefs are informed, understanding and will not hesitate to check and propose alternatives.
In short, after a while, we felt less stressed. And we relaxed, a little too much... And we happened to find ourselves in town, with nothing to eat for the children and not find a place to eat, for various reasons. In short, difficult plan. Especially with 2 monsters of 4 and 6 years VERY hungry ...
PHASE 3. Hence the third phase! Now we ALWAYS prepare our trips. It may seem a little heavy and constraining when writing it (maybe reading it too?), but after a while it is just part of normal daily logistics - just like when you have a baby to manage, never forget to prepare baby bottles & spare diapers 😉
Even if we leave at the last moment, we ALWAYS take 3 minutes to prepare a bag with what will allow us to hold 'in case of '(because there is always a 'in case of'...). This bag usually includes: 1. children's water bottles, 2. fruits (bananas, dried fruit), 3. gluten-free dry cakes (ex. Schär's 'Maria' type). That way, we are prepared if we take more time than expected for X reasons.
PRACTICAL TIP: for a small trip
Prepare a small bag with what will allow you to hold 'in case of', with, for example (in addition to the water bottle): fruits (bananas, dried fruits, dried grapes) and gluten-free cakes.
This advice is especially valid for children who do not yet know how to manage the feel of hunger (kind they announce to you that they are hungry when they are already fainting ...), and / or who will absolutely not have the patience waiting until you find a solution (yes, there are a thousand reasons to make a crisis in the street ...).
For the longer trips, full-day kind, we prepare EVERYTHING before leaving: the sandwiches for the children are for example made before the departure and placed in plastic boxes (the famous Norwegian 'matpakke').
PRACTICAL TIP: the 'matpakke' ?!
When you prepare a picnic: whatever glutenfree bread used for sandwiches, homemade or bought at any brand, this bread is 100 times more fragile than a traditional bread ... (the drama of the gluten-free). So, practical advice: place the sandwich in a box (Tupperware type). Very simple. This will protect it from shocks and other jackets stuffed in the bag during the ride. It would not survive a simple aluminium or plastic packaging ...
This is the Norwegian 'matpakke' concept: the Norwegians only make a small snack in the middle of the day, around 11 am - kind of 2 pieces of bread, a piece of cucumber and it is set (see our pages on Norway!) - and they place it in small plastic boxes. This is what we have to prepare every day for our children 😉
What about travel?... well... it is something different!
When it is in known terrain, like Norway, Sweden or France, no worry. We manage. We know where to find the products we need, which supermarket sells what brand, what chain of restaurants is safe, etc ....
When it is an unknown destination (or not tested 'in gluten-free version'), this is complicated! And it will take some preparation ...
However, it depends on the destination: if we talk about a typical European country, US, Australia & co., it should be ok. If we are talking about a more 'exotic' destination, such as Asia, Africa, South America, we will have to investigate further, as most countries in these areas are not very well aware of the gluten-free issue (or allergens in general).
In short, in practical terms, when we plan such a journey, we go through 4 practical steps:
1. Consult the internet about the destination, jump from blog to site, to find experiences and comments that can help us get a feel for the difficulty (or not) of living there gluten-free. However, it is not so easy to find good / useful comments ...);
2. List the restaurants near our place of residence that advertise serving gluten-free, kind via TripAdvisor and the 'gluten-free' filter. However, it is a good idea to read the customer reviews! It is always interesting to read the experiences of other customers: if the restaurant in question REALLY offers gluten-free for example, if the proposal is limited to a dish or if you have access to the whole menu for example (and whatever, it is always interesting also to know if it is good!).
3. List the supermarkets near our place of residence that are likely to sell gluten-free (like the big brands we're used to). The Schär website also offers an interactive map listing a number of points of sale of their products (http://www.glutenfreeroads.com/en/), which has been useful to us on several occasions.
4. The most important: luggage! we take a certain number of gluten-free products in our bags (and suitcases if we have check-in luggage) to ensure at least the first days on the spot, if we have difficulties finding resellers for example. We usually take: packages of gluten-free biscuits / cakes, gluten-free bread, dried fruit packets (apricots, grapes, prunes), stuff for breakfast and sandwiches like portions of jam, pâté. When our accommodation includes a kitchenette, we also take packages of gluten-free pasta, and other bread bags. So yes, it takes place, and weight in your luggage, BUT: 1. It always serves, 2. A priori it will be eaten during the stay, and so it will make room for you to bring back souvenirs…;-)
PRACTICAL TIP: When you go on a trip ...
1. Consult Mr. Google! He knows everything! (almost ...): google the name of your destination + 'gluten-free' and you should come across a lot of pages (more or less) useful
2. Check out TripAdvisor: List the restaurants in your destination and check the 'gluten-free' option (do not forget to read the customer reviews)
3. Visit the Schär website: list the points of sale of their products in your destination, it can always be useful!
4. If possible, take a lodging with a kitchen: in addition to reducing the cost of your holiday (no need to go to the restaurant for all meals), this will allow you to prepare your meals yourself and thus to fully master the problems of cross-contamination. CAUTION: remember to wash the pots, strainers and other utensils you use! The previous tenants have certainly cooked standard pasta-type foods with gluten, and may not have cleaned these utensils with the necessary attention due to a strict gluten-free diet ...
5. In your luggage: load your luggage with basic products for the first days and for the 'in case of', in order to have something to survive and not stress from the first days of vacation: biscuits, dried fruit, bread, jams to make sandwiches, packets of pasta, gluten-free tomato sauce pots - it takes up space to go, but it will be as much available on the way back for souvenirs!
(check the gluten-free option in the filters!)