gluten-free made in a facility that processes wheat

at ease and well fed

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I’m a little strange, I know, but I actually prefer winter salads to summer ones. Sure, summer salads are glorious, with tender greens I can pull from the garden and walk in the door towards a cherry vinaigrette Danny just made with cherries he pulled from our tree. Who’s going to complain about that? But winter salads? They mean business.

Yesterday, Danny and I took a lunch break from our work and shared this salad: kale, cabbage, apples, celery, roasted chicken, and a creamy parsley dressing. Danny threw it together from the leftovers we had in the refrigerator. Pale winter light fell through the window and we both felt at ease. And well fed.

Seriously, how could you beat winter salads like Molly’s radicchio and radish salad with miso dressing, Emma’s kohlrabi, beetroot, and apple salad with parsley and lime, or Heidi’s little gem salad with delicata squash and avocado? If I could, I’d start a salad blog, just to show folks that there is solid sustenance in vegetables in pale winter light.

The light may be pale in winter but it’s still there.

Here’s some of what has been bringing me light this week.

If you need some joy, this video of a baby laughing uncontrollably at a dog eating popcorn might do it.

I’m not a particular fan of fashion, but the fact that Barney’s asked Bruce Weber to photograph transgender models for its latest catalog gave me hope that we are growing more tolerant as a culture.

This interview with a dad who battled cancer and decided to write notes on napkins for every day his daughter will be in school before she graduates high school left me and Danny breathless and grateful. Grab your handkerchiefs.

I understand there’s some sort of big football game going on tomorrow. My husband is a die-hard Broncos fan, since childhood, so this puts him at odds with most folks in this area. Me? I don’t really care who wins. It’s a good day to gather with friends, eat great food, and lose ourselves in some sort of group excitement for a few hours.

Still, there were a few pieces about this game that really moved me. Frank Bruni wrote an incredible column about the beauty of Peyton Manning’s performance this year, at the mature age of 37. (Goodness, what is considered old in this culture!) But it’s really a piece about the grace of growing older, gaining wisdom, trusting ourselves and our creaky joints. And this video of Seahawk Derrick Coleman, who  is legally deaf, making a surprise visit to his biggest fans made me root for him. (His ad for Duracell is pretty astonishing too, especially for kids with disabilities.)

Now, as for the food, we’ll be making smoked salmon and potato cakes with homemade mayonnaise, coconut-oil popcorn with fresh rosemary, roasted kabocha squash with crispy prosciutto, salami and cheese, a huge assortment of vegetables with homemade ranch dressing, homemade potato chips, and a big winter salad (of course). (We’re having friends over who are bringing food too.) I love that Saveur did a spread of gluten-free snacks for the big game and that Vogue asked our friend Aran to make some gluten-free snacks for the big game too.

Before the big game, however, I’d like to answer a couple of gluten-free questions that have arisen this week.

What vinegars are gluten-free?

Well, like everything in the celiac world, this is inexplicably complex.

Vinegars made from rice or red wine or apples are absolutely, naturally gluten-free. Of course, as with everything else, check your sources to make sure the vinegars are pure and not cut with anything else. But apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, and rice wine vinegar are clearly gluten-free.

Distilled white vinegar is made initially from grains, sometimes with wheat. It’s clear from the myriad of tests and every celiac association there is that the distillation process removes any trace of gluten. These vinegars always test at less than 20 ppm. They are considered gluten-free. I have no problem with distilled white vinegar and I am very sensitive to gluten, immediately. However, some small percentage of celiacs report having gluten-like symptoms with distilled vinegars.  Check out this guide by the Celiac Support Association for more nuance on this.

(By the way, the same is true for distilled alcohols, such as whiskey, vodka, and gin. Even if they began as grains, they are gluten-free by the final product. Good friends on Vashon started a distillery called Seattle Distilling Company and their whiskey, vodka, and gin are made with as many local ingredients as possible. They’re also delicious and gluten-free.)

Malt vinegar contains barley and thus is not gluten-free. (However, the Coeliac UK association says malt vinegar is almost free of barley from the fermentation process.)

So, to sum up: yes to apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, red and white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, and rice wine vinegar. Yes to almost everyone for distilled white vinegar. No to malt vinegar (well, maybe).

There’s one thing about having celiac: it’s never boring.

 

Yes or no to products that are “made in a facility with wheat”?

Maybe.

(I’m full of all the grey area answers today.)

It’s easy to think that, if you have celiac, you should avoid anything made in a facility with wheat. But companies are required by law to print that on a package. (And thank goodness for that. When I was first diagnosed in 2005, that wasn’t true.) Does that mean the food you are holding was processed on the same line as flour? Not necessarily.

That line means just that: somewhere in the facility where they made that food, wheat is also present. It could be in a room on the other side of the factory from where your food was made. Wheat could be used four times a week, and one day a week they clean down everything on the line, completely, and run a gluten-free product, but there is still wheat in the facility on some days. And it could be that they use wheat flour on the conveyor belt and there’s gluten on your food.

So you know what have to do? Give them a call. Investigate. If a company will not tell you exactly that that phrase means, don’t eat their food. Most will, however. And those are the companies to whom I want to give my money.

 

There are more questions and more answers. But frankly, it’s time to make some food for the big game.