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So You Have to Share Your Kitchen…

There may be some of you out there who are lucky enough to have your own kitchen…in which case, allergy-proofing is a bit easier. Once all allergen sources have been eliminated, you’ve purchased a new toaster, a new cutting board, a few new utensils (gluten likes to hide in crevices of wooden ones), and of course a new sponge- you’re pretty much all set.
However, I would predict that for the majority of us, it’s not so easy. Whether for financial reasons or friendship, you may have a roommate and as fantastic as that person is, you can’t really say “Hey, you know I can’t eat bread or cereal or ice cream so I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t either”. I mean I guess you could but I don’t think the friendship will last much longer.
Maybe you’re married…remember those promises you made to love one another “in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, food allergies or no food allergies” (I know, I know, it probably falls under the sickness and health category…but I personally don’t like to think of it as a sickness). That means you and your spouse will have to find a way to safely co-exist in the kitchen. Again, you could try the whole “I can’t eat this so you shouldn’t in solidarity” approach…but I personally don’t think that’s the best route to take. I’d suggest the path of compromise. From what I hear it’s the key to a happy marriage. Well, that and an inordinate amount of patience. And now with a food allergy, so are toothpaste and mouthwash…but trust me, that’s a different post for a different time 🙂
So if one of these is your reality, you’re in luck because I’ve been in the same boat. And by that, I mean the roommate boat…not the marriage one. (By all means, if you know of any kind, upstanding young men, please feel free to let me know:-) So, based on my past 2 years of life in a shared apartment, here are my tips for safely co-existing in a shared kitchen:
1)   Label, Label, Label!: As careful as everyone in your house may be, the last thing you want is someone stumbling down early in the morning, bleary-eyed and half-asleep, inadvertently placing a piece of regular flour-filled toast into your new gluten-free toaster. How can you prevent this? BRIGHT stickers. I went right out and bought neon orange. In our kitchen, that’s the code for “Katie-safe”. It’s on the toaster, my blender, my utensils, my spices, and literally every jar in the fridge that belongs to me. It sounds extreme but think about it: you’re making a peanut butter sandwich on regular bread; how many times will you stick that knife back in the peanut butter jar? Probably at least once. Then I come along and use it…crumbs are in there AKA I’ll be sick in about an hour. So yes, we have 2 jars of peanut butter, 2 tubs of butter (of course now one is dairy-free anyway), labeled bottles of salad dressing. It just makes life easier and keeps everyone from being confused.
In our kitchen, ORANGE means “Katie-Safe”!
I even found orange measuring spoons. Score!

2)   Have your own pots and frying pan: This may seem extreme but I’m telling you, it was the best investment I made. I went to HomeGoods and bought a nice, new frying pan and 3 different size pots. It makes me feel much better to know that no allergen has ever touched those surfaces and then my roommate doesn’t have to worry about scrubbing the other ones like crazy every time she makes pasta. Speaking of which, if you have a gluten allergy, buy your own colander. Make it a different color and voila: you’re all set.
3)   You need your own sponge!!: Think about it: you went to all this work getting your own pots and pans and cooking utensils…but then you wash them with the same sponge as your non-allergy kitchenmate. Suddenly your immaculate tools could be covered in allergens. Buy your own sponges and keep them in a separate place! (As you can see in our kitchen, mine are always pink and hers are always yellow/green). This way, you can ensure that everything stays clean and safe.
Separate sponges = Happy Dishes
4)   Pyrex. It’s Amazing: My college roommates and I still get together every year for our annual Black Friday Shopping tradition and this year I made what is probably my best purchase yet: a 10-piece Pyrex set. 50% off plus a $10 mail-in rebate. (Thank you Kohl’s for making the 5 AM wake-up so worth it!) Not only does it look different than the old Tupperware that my roommate always uses, but it keeps things safe in the freezer so I can make larger batches of Katie-safe foods and save them for later. It also makes traveling with food a breeze. Not to mention, I’ve been hearing for years that microwaving plastic/Tupperware will slowly kill me…so at least now I’m reheating things in glass. Do yourself a favor: if you don’t already have a Pyrex set, go treat yourself. You deserve it 🙂

5)   Do You Remember Your New Best Friend??: 

This drawer has become critical to my life…

That’s right, aluminum foil. You’re good. Well, and parchment paper. Both can be used as a safety layer on baking sheets or on the grill. Because of size constraints in our little kitchen, we only have one set of baking sheets so I just layer some foil or parchment paper when I use them. And I wrap my pork chops in foil before putting them on the shared George Forman grill. Takes a little longer for sure, but it’s worth it to know I can enjoy them with peace of mind.

All in all, I’ve been surprised to see how possible it is to co-exist in a kitchen with a non-allergenic housemate. Now granted it helps if this person truly cares about you and is willing to bend over backwards to keep you safe. If you’re in that situation, you’re in luck. If not, you may want to consider a new living situation…or at least have a serious chat.

Now have fun reorganizing and labeling the kitchen. Not only will it keep you healthy and safe, it really makes for a great conversation starter when guests come over…

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