This should really be titled “Anyone that shares your kitchen.” My roommate LOVES gluten filled foods and therefore eats them all the time. Good for her, a headache for me (not that I blame her, I’m just jealous).
Any time that you come into contact with people that eat gluten, it’s going to be an issue. If the person is close with anyone who has food allergies, then you won’t have as much to worry about because they are usually already conditioned to be aware of their actions. If you are like me, this number is small. But, don’t fret, you’ll be ok.
It’s important to remember that if you are a person with a restricted diet, that it’s your responsibility to educate those around you. It’s not the other person’s responsibility to do that for you. It stinks, but most people have no idea what gluten is or how it affects people. It is their responsibility, however, to take the information that you give them and apply it so as not to hurt you.
You have to remember that most people were originally like you: they had no idea gluten even existed and they don’t know how to handle it. They don’t know of things like cross-contamination or what to look for in labels. Be patient.
Now, most people (if they genuinely care for you) will try to accommodate you. Usually, I start by telling them what gluten is, making sure to emphasize that it is in flour and that it can hide in food without necessarily being labeled (unlike soy or milk). You’ll be surprised to learn how many people don’t know that flour is made from wheat and will normally offer you bread. Just sigh with internal frustration and try to smile. I will then tell them what products normally contain gluten and how cross contamination works. Cross contamination occurs when anything that has touched gluten comes in contact with my person. This includes any food, forks, cooking utensils, dishes, pots, etc. Be firm, but not aggressive.
Just be honest with the person that you are living with that a gluten-free lifestyle is really complex and you are still trying to figure out all the odds and ends. This means that the rules in the kitchen might change as you get more information, but that’s to be expected and you aren’t just changing them just to be difficult.
Now, with that said, the person you are living with will most likely not pay attention to their habits in the kitchen as much as you do. Example: my roommate spills wheat flour on the counters all the time and forgets to clean it up (she likes baking and hates cleaning). This means that I will have to clean every surface in the kitchen before I use it, because she just doesn’t notice. Even though I’ve explained cross-contamination before, I know she isn’t trying to hurt me by leaving flour everywhere because she’s a cool person. She just isn’t as aware of it as I am. So I cut her some slack, because living with a gluten-free person isn’t easy.
Knowing my roommate’s habits, I went ahead and labeled everything in the kitchen that is for gluten-only cooking. I took a sharpie and labeled everything with a “GF” meaning “gluten-free.” She can’t use any of those items UNLESS they are used on strictly gluten free things only. I told her that if she uses an item labeled “GF” on gluten, then she has to buy me another one. So… basically, she doesn’t use any of them. ;)
Some people will divide the counter space into areas of gluten free and non-gluten free. So you would only use one counter area and no one else is allowed to use that space. This eliminates having to worry about cleaning up before each use (I would do this, but my current kitchen is too small).
Other people just make their kitchen completely gluten-free. You will have to talk this over with your person. Lots of spouses will go on a gluten-free diet, as well. It’s actually easier if you do it that way because then you just have one set of groceries and never have to worry about cross-contamination issues. Also, you don’t have to worry about kissing your partner after they eat gluten (sadly, they will transfer gluten to you… the kiss of death!).
Unfortunately, some people aren’t that caring about your gluten situation and they will go ahead and ignore all the information you tell them. This is a larger topic all together, so I’ll have to make it into another post (because you will encounter this!). But if this is a real issue, you might need to reevaluate your living situation with this person.
Just be patient. Soon, all of this will become routine for both of you!