Managing the gluten-free diet in the midst of re-opening wariness

June 15, 2020

by Claire Baker, Director of Communications at Beyond Celiac

Twelve weeks. Maybe more. For most of the people in the United States, our worlds got upended by the middle of March due to the spread of coronavirus and the desire to help flatten the curve of COVID-19. For those of us with celiac disease, we were concerned about the availability of gluten-free packaged goods, and rightly so. Gluten-free pasta was as wiped out as regular pasta on grocery store shelves. Gluten-free flour blends weren’t even available online. Now that things are opening back up in some areas, our community members are reporting still feeling the need to be extra cautious. The truth is, we may find ourselves in a coronavirus-related socially distant world for quite a while.

For folks with celiac disease that were diagnosed 10 or 20 or more years ago, we know that there was life before the mainstream availability of gluten-free replacement products. We flexed our creative culinary muscles from our days of living with just the naturally occurring gluten-free foods that are around us: Fruits, vegetables, beans, meats, dairy, and non-gluten grains such as corn, rice and quinoa. Back then, dining out was nearly impossible it’s still hard during regular times because of cross-contamination, of course. Things got easier with the increased availability of gluten-free bread, pizza, crackers, and especially with restaurant options. Once we found a place or two that took the time to truly understand our needs and make good on gluten-free promises, our worlds inched open a bit more.

I am one of the many who are working from home, limiting shopping to once every two weeks or so. My car sat for so long, I had to jump it. Twice. I’ve eaten exactly one restaurant meal in the last three months, and that was because a local friend who also has celiac disease organized the ordering and handled the pick up and drop off. I was grateful for the chance to support the business, but the menu was really limited and I got things that I could eat, not things I would have ordered in the before time.

I’ve heard this same story from others in the community — that the gluten-free options are the options that got cut when restaurants had to pare their menus for pickup-only service. Others have shared that they have questionable confidence that a restaurant with gluten-free options still on the menu would be able to take the same care to avoid cross-contamination, especially when the conversation is all online or over the phone. There is so much to managing celiac disease that involves human-to-human conversation and eye contact. 

So instead, I’ve been cooking. I started out very ambitiously. When there were no gluten-free breads to be found, I created an entire sourdough section for the Beyond Celiac website. I’ve made home versions of pizza, tacos and pasta. I’ve put the Instant Pot to the test with lentils and beans made at least a dozen ways. I’ve pulled out cookbooks and perused websites. I made nearly inedible falafel and ate it anyway because I didn’t want to have to think up something else to make that night. After more than 400 meals and snacks created by my own hands with a summer of cautious water-testing in terms of returning to regular shopping and dining, there’s still time to flip the script.

Here are some ideas of mine — what are some things you want to try your hand at?

I could try making my own crêpes! Traditional savory crepes in France are made with buckwheat. Chef Oognagh has a recipe that uses corn starch and sound really good for sweet crêpes. 

My soups could use a boost — and this one looks great! The Beyond Celiac communications team is quite fond of theCrunchmaster Tuscan Peasant crackers too, but the Tomato and Red Pepper Soup will stand on its own for sure.

Now that I am the official Beyond Celiac pandemic sourdough queen, I kinda want to try making other bread too. Now that yeast is back on store shelves, I might give this brown bread recipe a twirl!

In all my life I’ve never made a scone, gluten-free or otherwise. If not now, when? Here’s one with ingredients I’ve already got on hand!

Beyond Celiac has organized many recipes and ideas for the summer season to help get your ideas flowing! 

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