Thursday, May 17, 2012

the day I forgot to read the label

Since going gluten-free, I've found it's not enough to assume that everyone understands what gluten-free means. Most people consider it a fad, like wearing bell bottoms, wooden clogs, or underwear on the outside of their clothing, thinking if they just wait long enough, this too shall pass. Those are choices (albeit, stupid ones if I'm being honest here) that will go away once the attention is off of them. But what if being gluten-free isn't a choice?

Recently, while visiting a local health food store, I found out how little people actually understand. There were a couple of gals handing out samples, touting the fact that these were gluten-free samples. Believing that these representatives of these particular companies knew what they were talking about, I sampled without reading the labels for myself.

Then I went to hell and back paying for my lack of attention to detail.

I've never in my whole life felt the kind of pain that I experienced that day. My Mister, who is a registered nurse, asked me what my pain number was. For the record, I've never fully understood rating pain in that way. If I go to the emergency room, it's bad. Period. But apparently, not all who visit the emergency room understand what constitutes an emergency. I did. For the first time in my life, I was a 10. Not a Bo Derek running-across-the-beach-with-my-braids-a-flappin' kind of 10, but the I-don't-care-if-Mr.-so-and-so-is-having-a-heart-attack-in-the-next-room-HELP-ME-FIRST kind of 10. I was literally minutes from heading to the hospital.

Here are a couple of guidelines that I am learning to follow:

1. If in doubt, go without. This has been a difficult one. I really wanted a caramel latte one day. The barista didn't know whether the caramel was gluten free or not. So I took a chance. Then I paid for it. In retrospect, I really didn't want the caramel latte that badly!

2. Wheat free does not mean that it's gluten-free. Wheat is only one of the grains that contains gluten. Others are rye, barley, triticale, semolina, kamut, graham, durum, faro, and spelt. Corn and oats are gluten free, but only if they are certified as such. Don't assume that they are without that label.

3. Call ahead. When dining out, it is important to stay away from restaurants that are clearly not gluten-free. Italian is an obvious one, but did you know that Asian food is not allergy friendly? It doesn't have to be breaded to contain gluten.

4. When dining out, always ask for food to be prepared without the sauce. Many restaurants will cater to special diets because they want your business. A happy customer is a repeat customer! And we usually bring friends when we're happy.☺

5. Food in a health food store does not mean that it's good for you. If you buy a processed, gluten-free cookie, it is still a processed cookie. Make it a treat, not a way of life.

6. Most recipes can be made gluten-free. My favorite "all-purpose" flour is:

1 cup white rice flour
2/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour/starch

Sift together and store in an air-tight container. 

This resembles white flour the best. Brown rice flour can be substituted for the white and will pack more fiber into the recipe. (When baking with it, expect a darker appearance.)

Xanthan or guar gum helps to bind gluten-free baked goods together. The general rule of thumb is 1/2 teaspoon for each cup of flour used in cookies, cakes, muffins, and other quick breads and 1 teaspoon per cup of flour for yeasted breads. 

7. When entertaining, always ask your guests if they have any special diet restrictions. Before my food allergies took me down this path, I never thought to ask. Ever. When I was in grade school, buying a hot lunch was considered a treat. Most of us brought our own lunches. And most of us had the same thing; peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. If you were one of the lucky ones, your mom made them on white Wonderbread. (I was not one of the lucky ones. We usually had the dried out cheap store brand that was purchased 3/$1.00~how's that for dating myself?)

Those were the kids to target for a trade. 

What I wouldn't give for a Wonderbread P.B.&J. now.

On second thought...☺
So, the lesson here is to always read labels. It is to never assume that any person handing out samples at a store, recipes on a blog, or menus in a restaurant understands the true meaning of gluten-free. Never assume that a home you are visiting understands either. The lesson is to look out for yourself. To double check everything. And to get educated. This goes for any food allergy. And while mine may have not been life-threatening (Although, if those sample gals would've been standing before me, I could not in good conscience have guaranteed their safety!), there are people whose allergies can be deadly.

And it's better to err on the side of caution. Always.


Carolyn Renee said...

Sooooo sorry to hear about your "almost emergency room" visit. Education is the key, as is giving a little reminder to those who you know may not be thinking about those dietary challenges. Or, you could just stay home and eat :) But what fun is that all the time?

Tina - Our Rustic Roots said...

I'm sorry that happened. I hope you contacted the company to let them know their employees are giving out incorrect information.

Kim said...

Tina~I haven't, but that's a good idea.

Candy C. said...

I agree with Tina, I hope you let someone know that the "sample givers" didn't know what they were talking about! Sorry you ended up so sick.

Lana said...

Ugh! Sorry! I used to just not eat away from home because it would so often cause me trouble when I was food allergic. The tiniest amount of margarine used to give me a migraine and it is surprising how easy it is get ahold of that. I got so out of the habit that I forget to eat at parties and such because I didn't for 27 years!