Sharing a Kitchen.

by , under Mom

The Little Kidlet has a lot of food allergies, and in our very crowded house (we live with my in-laws, which also includes TheBoy’s two adult brothers) LK and I are the only one with food issues- and mine is that I’m allergic to cow’s milk products.

In the last three years, I could count the cross contamination issues we’ve had on one hand. Which all things considered, is pretty darn good.

I thought I’d share some of the things that worked for us- just in case you have someone over with food allergies, and weren’t sure how to keep cross-contamination from happening. Or in case you’re dealing with some new food allergies.

Do you need two sets of things?

Yes, and no. You don’t need to buy a new set of cookware- most pans aren’t porous, so you can simply clean them well (more on that later) and things should be fine. The exception for this is cast iron. It IS a porous pan, meaning it absorbs little bits and pieces of everything you’ve cooked before. I use a cast iron skillet for LK- but it was one that I bought new and seasoned myself so that there wouldn’t be any cross-contamination. And I don’t make anything in it that he can’t have.

Other common porous items in the kitchen are wooden & plastic utensils. I have my own set of wooden spoons, rubber spatulas and plastic spatulas. I also have my own wooden cutting board that we keep away from the main work area (and a couple of plastic ones that are just for his food). I also keep a separate set of plastic storage containers for LK’s food. It’s a different brand from the rubbermaid containers we use, so it sticks out. And I’ve managed to get everything in green- from his lunch containers to the storage boxes (even the plastic serving spoons I use on holidays). It makes it easier to identify.

But surely, with cooking there’s bound to be accidents. I usually make the Little Kidlet’s food first, so that I know the kitchen is clean, and then put it somewhere covered to keep it warm. So far, this has kept us from making a lot of accidents.

Now, cleaning. Before I bake, I clean off countertops using paper towels, so that I can throw them away. Cloth towels are used mostly for drying hands or cleaning up spills (and I do keep a separate set for when I’m making LK’s food). I keep an extra set of sponges and try to wash LK’s cookware using those instead of the sponges that clean everything else. And if I can, I wash his plates & pans in their own batch, instead of with everyone else’s dishes.

We’re lucky- the Little Kidlet’s reactions are limited to when he eats food he’s allergic to. I know a lot of people who can’t even be in the same room as a plate of food they’re allergic to (of course, I’m part of communities for people with multiple allergies, so my pool of people I know has a lot more people with allergies than you likely do).

I also own a label maker and label all the storage containers, just in case.

So these are my helpful hints. For those with food allergies and share a kitchen with those who don’t- what do you do?

  • My wife eats vegan partly due to choice and the rest due to some severe food allergies. Quite honestly I’m not careful enough and don’t have anything to add except that I really need to start following some of these tips. We just got some new wooden spoons, for example, and I’m just going to go ahead and not use them for anything but the allergen-free stuff.

    One thing I’m certainly aware of at this point is the vast amount of awesome vegan options out there, and I see my wife’s allergies as an excuse for our family to eat a lot healthier.

  • It does take some getting used to. If it had just been the four of us- TheBoy, the Kidlets and me… I probably would have just had us eat what LK ate. But since we live in a house with 4 other people, it seemed unrealistic to ask them to make that sacrifice. We did have a lot of issues in the beginning- it took some work to get the system down (especially for the big holidays), but it works.

    With my own dietary issues (I cut out cow’s milk products), it’s been a lot easier for me to cut out a lot of processed products and make my own dinners- which has been a lot healthier. I understand exactly what you mean. 🙂

    Of course- I did have a little help figuring it out. My sister was allergic to wheat (back in the 80s when gluten-free stuff was only in specialty stores) and apples, so I was already used to reading packages for allergens… but making the food was new to me. I still haven’t figured out the baking part yet.