A nice person asked me yesterday for advice in living with roommates and a refresher on cross contamination protocols. Roommates pose an interesting problem for those with celiac disease because you cannot control their behavior. You can request certain things and hope they comply, but can never be sure. You have to do your best to stay safe. So, here are some suggestions for keeping safe while living with roommates.
Have a conversation with your roommate about your food issues. Depending on how you handle this conversation will go a long way in determining how the kitchen will work in this roommate situation. Simply explain that you have celiac disease and it isn’t a fad. Let them know that you will handle your own food issues, kitchen issues, and that they don’t need to worry about you.
They will probably be curious about celiac and gluten free living after this conversation. Also, they will want to try your gluten free snacks. Share! They probably won’t like them and therefore will stay away from your foods all together!
It is our responsibility and our responsibility alone to keep ourselves safe. If someone else is willing to help, that is great, but it is up to us to make our homes as safe as possible. You cannot put the burden on the roommate or roommates to keep you safe because they will fail and cause other problems. Know that you can do this and be great at it!
If sharing dishes, then all dishes and silverware need to be run through the dishwasher. Normally this is pretty easy and most people would comply. Even offer to be the one to buy the dishwashing detergent and empty the dishwasher. It is minimal cost and time for maximum benefit.
If not sharing dishes or silverware, then you should be okay. I would probably wash the dishes before using them each time just to be safe.
Washing Dishes, Pots, and Pans
If there is no dishwasher, washing dishes by hand is going to be the route to go. Use a paper towel to wash the dishes, pots, and pans, then throw away the paper towel. My house is not 100% gluten free and I use this method when my dishwasher is full! Works like a champ.
Plastic is going to get scratched and damaged with the potential to harbor gluten. Buy several glass ones. Even if they use the glass storage containers to store gluten, the glass can be cleaned to remove the gluten.
Glass or stainless here are your friends. Again, glass or stainless can be cleaned, will last forever, and it is an investment.
Pots and pans
When I was younger, I had a non-stick pan, a crappy stainless pan, and a non-stick pot. That was it. The trick is the non-stick pots and pans and sharing with your roommate. This might be one where things get a little weird. I cannot think of a situation where keeping your pots and pans in your room would be a bad thing. It’s a small amount of stuff and well, it is a danger zone. Or depending on the quality of the pots and pans, you can always run them through the dishwasher!
Never use wood. Otherwise, make sure it is clean.
Baking sheets, and oven racks
Always use aluminium foil on baking sheets and oven racks. You never know what was on them last and foil will never fail you. Some people worry about convection ovens and microwave fans. I don’t. The cross contamination risk is miniscule and I have a lot of other bigger places I’m likely getting cross contamination from.
Microwave and Countertops
Never put anything directly on the countertops or on the spinning thing in the microwave. Always use a clean plate or foil or parchment between something you will be putting in your mouth and a surface that you don’t know when the last time it was cleaned. Number one, spoons on countertops is gross and unsanitary in my mind. And number two, ew.
If the new roommate is a baker, this might cause a big issue. Flour can float in the air for a long time and land on everything. At that point, I would say that it might be time to find another roommate.
Normal cross contamination rules apply, like using squeeze condiments, not sharing things like peanut butter and butter and buy small, single sized bags of chips or snacks to avoid sharing.
I linked earlier to the discussion about cross contamination. Here it is again.