Archive | November, 2011

A Little Bit About…

30 Nov

Cc Gluten Freed is a blog dedicated to stream lining the gluten free lifestyle.  This blog provides readers with insights into the social implications of the gluten free diet, reviews restaurants and products and features gluten free recipes.

Unlike other gluten free blogs, Cc Gluten Freed highlights ways that you can make a difference in the gluten free community. On this site, you will find sample letters to restaurant managers and owners that have successfully changed several restaurants across the country.

In addition to promoting and providing tools for activism, this blog aims to provide readers with a guide for navigating a gluten-filled world.  The complex social implications of the gluten free diet are not easy to manage on your own.  This blog seeks to eliminate the need to learn by trial and error and provides nuanced advice about how to successfully be gluten free in any and all situations.

Cc Gluten Freed seeks to empower readers to take control and take ownership of their lifestyle. It is time to put your health first and learn how to effectively advocate for yourself.  Cc Gluten Freed should serve as both a source of information and inspiration because all of the information found here is based on the true life of Cc and her journey to being a gluten free activist.




30 Nov

Traveling by sky for the Holidays?  If so, this post is for you!  Being a gluten free traveller can be very challenging.  Here are some tips for safe and healthy travels.

The task of eating gluten free becomes monumentally more difficult when internet access is taken away.  Personally, I double and triple check ingredients and restaurant menus on my phone (both with GF apps and plain old google).  This luxury is not a reality when you are 40,000 ft in the air.

This is a problem I faced very recently on my flight home from New York to San Francisco.  I was filled with excitement when I realized that the ticket I acquired by using miles happened to be business class.  Not only would my seat be big enough for me to sit cross-legged but I would also get to re-experience the joys of airplane food.  Now, I know most people are thinking, “Airplane food? Joy? What???” but let me tell you, as a kid, back when the economy was functional, all long flights had a free food service for passengers.  As a child, receiving the mystery lunch or dinner box from the flight attendant was the high light of the flight.  You would think, as a seasoned Celiac, I would have known to call ahead to make sure the flight was going to have gluten free options but I did not.  In my defense, I did not actually know there would be a dining service until I was already on the plane and they handed me their fancy little menu.

Unfortunately, my options seemed grim.  Certainly the Lasagna was off-limits but what about he marinated beef filet over mushroom ragout with roasted potatoes in a merlot sauce?  There are several opportunities for gluten in that description:

  1. Marinade – the fillet could have been marinated in a sauce containing gluten eg Worecestershire, soy sauce or a malt vinegar
  2.  Merlot sauce – this could be thickened with flour
  3. Mushroom ragout – Ragout could mean mushrooms cooked in a tomato based sauce, but it could also mean it is a pasta dish
  4. Roasted Potatoes – These could be breaded or dredged

I asked the flight attendant if she knew what was gluten free on the menu.  She did not.  I asked her if she had a list of the ingredients for the menu items.  She did not.  It seemed that the flight attendants had NO idea what they were serving to the people on the flight.

Why don’t airplanes have a list of ingredients that are in their food? Do you know how devastating it would be if someone with an anaphylactic food allergy accidentally ingested their allergen eg peanut allergy while on the plane??  For their sake, I hope they have epipens and lawyers on board!

The point is: airplanes are not typically equipped to accommodate the needs of a Celiac unless you call ahead. The steak dish I encountered may well have been GF but I will never know because the food did not come with ANY information on board.

So, what should you do?

Before you fly:

1. Research to see if your flight is providing a dining service and whether they have special meal options

2. Call ahead and ask for GF options

Here are links to the special meal request pages for several airline companies: American Airlines United and Continental and Alitalia

Sometimes your requests can be lost in the hustle of bustle that is the airport business so it is important to prepare yourself for that possibility.  Two weeks after my diagnosis, I flew from Los Angeles to Rome and did not come prepared…this is a mistake you do not want to make, trust me!

How to be prepared:

1. Bring your own snacks – Most planes offer peanuts but, when I flew Southwest, the peanuts were coasted in malted barley so it is very important that you bring something to munch on in case you get hungry

2. Bring plastic bags – There is nothing more annoying than a half eaten bag of chips that you cannot close but need to stow away because you have a layover or are landing at your final destination.  Pack a few Ziplocs so that you can securely and neatly pack away your snack foods!


Thanksgiving…right around the corner!

18 Nov

Most GF bloggers out there focus on recipes around the Holidays which is great and definitely useful.  I’ll include a few links to recipes that I think sound interesting, but my focus is going to be on socially navigating Thanksgiving as a gluten free dinner guest.

The problem with Thanksgiving dinner, as opposed to typical dinner parties, is tradition.  Asking a host to modify their great-great-great-great grandma’s recipe for stuffing or gravy is simply not a politically correct request.  So how do you approach Thanksgiving?  Luckily, many common Thanksgiving Day foods are almost always gluten free: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, green beans and other veggie side dishes.  The major pitfalls are gravy and stuffing (and, consequently, the turkey).  To guarantee a GF experience, DO NOT eat turkey that was stuffed with any type of bread.  The consensus in the GF community is that the bread can bleed into the turkey and contaminate the entire bird.

What can you do to enjoy a great Thanksgiving meal without drawing too much negative attention to yourself?  Here are some suggestions:


Avoid the gravy, ask your host not to pour it over the potatoes and, instead, have people use a gravy boat at the table.

Offer to make the gravy!  You can tell your host that you have a killer gravy recipe that everyone just HAS to try.  If the host insists that their family recipe must be at the meal then casually suggest that they not pour the gravy over the potatoes and instead keep it in a separate dish so that people can try both types of gravy.  Of course, it is probably best to disclose that you need the meal to be gluten free but if you aren’t comfortable for whatever reason (maybe it is your first T-day at your in-laws or you don’t know the host very well) there are ways to dodge the gluten bullet.


When it comes to stuffing, I will list possible suggestions in the order of least extreme GF option to most extreme.

Avoid the subject altogether. Either simply do not eat turkey and make do with side dishes or bring another protein dish!  It is very common for guests to bring a side dish, why not bring something comparable to turkey?  You can make an herbed chicken dish or a dried fruit chicken dish.  The options are endless.  Pick whatever you think sounds good and go with it.

If you plan to be present during the cooking process on Thanksgiving Day, offer to bring the bread crumbs for the stuffing.  Explain to the host that you are gluten free and can’t eat most breads but that you would be happy to bring the gluten free bread crumbs that they can incorporate into their original recipe.  Here is a site where you can buy GF bread crumbs.  If you don’t have time to order bread crumbs you can easily make them yourself!  Bread crumbs are just a euphemism for diced stale bread.  Grab some GF bread and/or bake some in your bread maker and let the bread dry out.  Here is a tutorial on another method for making your own bread crumbs (not a gluten free tutorial, substitute GF bread).

If you are comfortable, ask whoever is making the turkey to cook the stuffing separately.  This is what my family does for me!  We stuff the turkey with dried fruits and have a separate baking dish to cook the traditional stuffing for the other guests.


Another pitfall is cross-contamination.  If you are around during the cooking process (in my family, people just hang out in the kitchen chatting with the appointed family chefs while all the cooking happens) then keep an eye out!  If you see a cross-contamination threat, intervene.  If you are not around during the process, try to contact your host before the cooking starts and explain about cross-contamination eg a spoon that is used to stir the gravy should not also be used to stir the mashed potatoes.  Ask if they have any questions!


My best advice is to bring your own dessert.  Bring or make a gluten free pie that people can share (watch out for cross-contamination with pie servers!).  You can buy GF pie crusts at most Whole Foods stores in the frozen section.  Pumpkin pie is your best bet because you do not need to make a top for it.  If you want a fruit pie you will need to buy all-purpose gluten free flour and make a top for the pie which is easy to do but time consuming.

If pie seems like too much of a hassle or you do not have access to a GF grocery store or simply want a less expensive option then bring ice cream!  You can bring some fresh berries to go with it if you’d like.

A few more thoughts

I know it is frustrating that as a gluten free guest the burden is on you to make sure you have something to eat.  Furthermore, I know it is frustrating that you have to pay for and prepare so much food just to make sure you can participate in the meal!  Try to put these thoughts out of your head. This is our reality and if you dwell on it…it will drive you mad.  Look up recipes that are cheap to make or recipes that stay away from flour-substitutes if you are worried about cost.  Make something that is naturally gluten free (the ingredients are much cheaper this way).  Think of it this way: it is unfair that you have to bring side dishes AND dessert but think about all the compliments the other guests will pay you and your cooking skills! 

Good luck on Thanksgiving, readers!  Try to enjoy the Holiday. If things start to get messy with cross-contamination or unsupportive dinner hosts, post here and we can discuss how to navigate the situation.  Don’t forget that you have every right to advocate for yourself and your health.


Airborne Gluten!

18 Nov

As a UC Berkeley student studying public health, I spend a significant amount of time studying biology, chemistry and public policy.  Although none of my classes ever speak about gluten or Celiacs directly, I  constantly   relate what I am learning to my gluten free lifestyle.  Sometimes the best way to make sure you are 100% gluten free is to go back to the basics: biology.

Studying the respiratory system made me realize the real threat of airborne flour for a Celiac.  It should not come as a surprise that we inhale dust and debris on a constant and regular basis.  If flour is in the air then the people within that proximity will inhale it.  So what is the big deal?  Inhaled air goes directly to my lungs, not my intestines, so who cares?  Inhaled debris, dust and flour enter the bronchial tubes and are then pushed away from the lungs by hair-like projections called cilia.  The cilia, working in conjunction with the mucous lining of the passageways, remove debris by pushing it back into the throat where it is then swallowed. The debris only fully leaves the body once it is digested and excreted.  
To guarantee your safety, stay away from dry flour.  Before understanding the biological basis for this phenomenon, I experienced it.  Every Christmas Eve my very Italian family makes ravioli from scratch, an all-day endeavor.  My first gluten-free christmas, I knew I could not eat the food but I was happy that I could still help make the ravioli.  After about two hours in the kitchen I started to feel…foggy.  I felt tired and ill and really wanted some “fresh air.”  I left the room to take a breather and when I reentered the kitchen I noticed that we were working in a dust cloud!  Flour was everywhere!

Try to avoid dry flour.  It takes a long time for flour to fully leave the air.  Some articles that I have read say that flour can remain airborne for up to 24 hours.  If you are going to bake with non gluten-free flour, I suggest wearing a mask and/or gloves.  I know it sounds dramatic but you really do not want flour underneath your nails, not to mention that people absent-mindedly touch their mouths or pick up something to eat while messing around in the kitchen.

Another risk associated with airborne gluten is contaminating surfaces in your kitchen. If you are baking with gluten-containing ingredients, the airborne particles will likely settle on your counters, cutting boards, stove top etc. If you do use dry flour in your kitchen make sure you clean your kitchen throughly afterwards to avoid cross-contamination when using your kitchen!



Glutino’s All-Purpose Flour

17 Nov

My roommate is an avid baker.  So much so, that we were both hesitant to move in together because I require a gluten free kitchen.  Sharing a kitchen with non-gluten free people is certainly manageable but not if there is baking involved.  Read my post about the dangers of being around dry flour for more information on this topic.

Back to the point, what were we to do?  My roommate decided that she would try out gluten free baking and it was a huge success!  Part of this success is due to extensive testing.  She must have made close to 20 batches of cupcakes with different batters and combinations of flours.

Glutino’s Gluten Free Pantry series was the answer to our problems, specifically, their all-purpose flour.  There are many gluten-free flour mixes out there but, that is just the thing, they are mixes.  Premixed cakes, brownies, breads and cookie recipes which simply would not due for a committed baker.

This is by far our favorite gluten free all-purpose flour for several reasons:

1. Cup-for-cup substitution – you can take any recipe calling for flour and simply replace the flour with GF flour without any complicated measurements.  Before I found this product I would have to replace 1 cup of gluten flour with various ratios of brown rice, white rice, tapioca and potato flours.

2. Great for hosts – Ever been invited to a dinner party where the host or hostess offers to bake gluten free dessert for you?  It is always incredibly awkward because the host usually offers before realizes just how complicated gluten free baking can be.  Next time a friend offers to bake GF for you, suggest this product!  The one-to-one substitution in conjunction with the fact that it is premixed/all-purpose simplify the baking process.

3. Affordable – My pantry used to have close to eight boxes of different types of flours that I would mix together in various ratios to produce different types of baked goods.  This is neither financially economical nor space economical…I could hear my bank account and pantry shelves crying out for help!  Gluten Free Pantry’s all-purpose flour is under $5 for 16 oz of flour.

My pantry: almond meal flour, millet flour, brown rice flour, tapioca flour, xanthum gum, amaranth flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, sweet rice flour, sweet potato flour, buckwheat flour and teff

4. Taste – I hate when people say “Wow! This is great for gluten-free food!” My ultimate baking goal is to simply hear that the food is great without the gluten-free caveat and with this brand of all-purpose flour I always achieve my goal.

Glutino’s Gluten Free Pantry series features many other types of flour mixes! Check them out on Glutino’s website!


Managers vs. Owners

12 Nov

Who should you write a letter to if you had a bad experience at a restaurant?  To have the biggest impact and possibly result in an actual change in policy, you should send a letter to both the manager and the owner of the restaurant in question.

Why? Because they deal with different things and are motivated by different problems.  A manager is interested in the efficiency and success of the service at the restaurant.  Your letter to the manager should be very detail-oriented. The manager is interested in knowing where the problem occurred. What step in the service process failed the customer?  They need to figure out who needs further training. Is it the chef? The waitstaff? A busboy? Was it misinformation on the menu? The manager is interested in the “micro” level of the problem.

The owner of a restaurant is more interested in protecting the integrity of the restaurant either by avoiding bad press or by promoting the mission statement of the restaurant (which many restaurants have, especially in LA).

If you look at the letter sample titled “Letter to the manager – Untrained Waitstaff”, you can see that I am very specific and discuss my step-by-step experience at the restaurant.  If you look at the letter sample titled “Letter to the owner – Untrained Waitstaff”, you can see I discuss the integrity of the restaurant’s mission.

The duality of this approach is very effective.  When the manager is contacted by the owner about a “very disturbing letter” he received, the manager will already be brought up to speed.  Sending two, different and very specific, letters also shows that you are serious and committed to help fix this problem.

In the case of of “Untrained Waitstaff”, I was directly contacted by the manager by telephone.  We discussed what went wrong and she apologized and told me she would make efforts to fix the problem.  I received an email from the owner offering his apologies.  Two months after the fact, the owner sent me another email detailing what actions he has taken since receiving my letter to improve his restaurant. Here are some of the things that were brought up in his email.

“1. We’ve made changes to our wording on the menu to be more clear what the gluten-free choices are (and are not).

2. The servers now have buttons on the computers to alert the kitchen, as well as the server needing to type in the necessary messages.

3. The kitchen printer will alert the cooks to the alert (previously, it was up to the server to type in the necessary adjustments)

4. The servers will then place bright red coasters on the table in front of the guest, which will alert any other person who might be bringing food to double check.

5. When the dish is ready, the kitchen will put in a frilly sandwich pick that will only be used when there is a food alert, and when the food runner sees the pick, will know to check it and deliver to the guest with the coaster.”

The point is that we can actually impact the restaurant industry. Five steps were taken by this particular restaurant to make sure that they did not hurt another customer. These five steps would NOT have been taken if I hadn’t sent in letters describing my experience. This should serve as a message to us all: promoting awareness of Celiac Disease is our burden.  It cannot be done by the medical community and nonprofits alone and, believe it or not, we can make a difference.

Letter to the owner – Untrained Waitstaff

12 Nov

DISCLAIMER: I will not reveal the name of the restaurant. The point is not to place blame but, rather, to see what happened and how I relay that information in a letter. The restaurant in question took steps to correct these problems and were very cooperative.

Dear Mr. *****:

“Eat at your own risk.”  That is the challenging reality of the life of someone who suffers from Celiac Disease.

I was diagnosed with celiac disease several years ago, and my life changed forever.  No longer was food a source of comfort and joy, but rather it became something of which I now had to be wary and even afraid.  The pleasure of eating out and experiencing amazing cuisine was hampered by the fact that I could no longer simply order something that looked or sounded amazing.  Instead, I became that customer – the one with a million questions, the one who seemed to hold servers hostage at the table, the one with whom order taking became a chore.

At [Restaurant], however, I thought I had found a culinary haven.  It was a place designed to accommodate different needs and it had a true philosophy on which it based its practices.  Unfortunately, an experience earlier this month has shattered that impression.  I know this all may sound melodramatic, but it is important for you to understand its importance in the life of someone with celiac disease.  We cannot take food for granted – our joy is always tempered by our fear.  That is the burden we bear and finding a place in which we can feel safe and let down our guard for a moment is not something we take for granted.  We share that information with others in the celiac community.  We promote and we praise that restaurant.  To then be harmed by that same institution is very distressing.  When someone with celiac disease ingests gluten, the aftermath is not just a few hours of stomach pain – that is just the beginning for us.  Our physical reactions can take days, even weeks to subside and they are not pleasant.

I am grateful to you, [Owner], for reading the attached letter I have sent to your General Manager concerning my recent experience at [Restaurant].  I hope it will encourage all of you to really take seriously your role in promoting well being and that it will result in better training of your staff.  It can’t just be words on a website – it needs to be actions on the floor.

Thank you very much.


Cecilia Bonaduce

Letter to the manager – Untrained Waitstaff

12 Nov

DISCLAIMER: I will not reveal the name of the restaurant. The point is not to place blame but, rather, to see what happened and how I relay that information in a letter. The restaurant in question took steps to correct these problems and were very cooperative.

Dear Ms. *****:

I am writing to follow up on a frustrating and disappointing experience which took place on June 9th at [Restaurant].

I have been a loyal customer of [Restaurant] ever since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease several years ago.  My family and friends frequently dine at your restaurant, in particular, because of your voiced commitment to providing gluten free food and health conscious service.

On June 9th, however, I was not only flabbergasted by the lack of knowledge of your staff but was ultimately physically harmed by their poor training.  I ordered the vegan Mac n’ Cheese and asked for it to be prepared gluten free.  The waiter took note of that.  As he was walking away, I reminded him to make sure it was going to be prepared gluten free.  Upon receiving the dish, I asked the waiter, for the third time, to confirm that it was gluten free.  The waiter assured me that it was and left the table.  With that assurance, I took a few bites of the dish, but for some reason still felt very uneasy.  Consequently, I called the waiter over one more time and asked him to double check with the kitchen staff.

Upon returning from the kitchen, he then informed me that the dish was not prepared gluten free!  He said that the fried “crispy onions” that were sprinkled on top of the dish were not gluten free, but that the pasta was safe.  Needless to say, I was horrified that I had ingested even (what I thought at the time) was a small amount of gluten.  My nightmare had only just begun.

After returning home, I began to feel sick and woke up the next morning with tell-tale blisters covering my arms.  Consequently, I went back to [Restaurant] to ask some questions about what I had actually consumed.  A different server informed me that [Restaurant] does not have gluten free pasta at all and in fact the ONLY part of the dish that was gluten free had been the crispy onions!  One of your servers got the information completely backwards resulting in my consumption of pure wheat gluten.  I cannot describe how betrayed, not to mention, physically ill I felt.  And while my physical symptoms are abating, the sense of betrayal remains.

I do not want to eliminate [Restaurant] from my list of restaurant choices; however, appropriate action needs to be taken.  Your staff, both servers and kitchen team, need to be properly trained and must be aware of what allergens are in the dishes that you serve.  The customers trust your restaurant, and it is unfair to lure us into a false sense of security.  Your website proclaims that [Restaurant] continues to base its mission on [Owner]’s goal of sharing “well being.”  Unfortunately, my well being was seriously damaged by my experience at [Restaurant].

I look forward to hearing from you with respect to this experience and what actions you are taking to ensure that no one else experiences this level of harm because of inadequately trained staff.


Cecilia Bonaduce

Importance of Letters

12 Nov

One of the unique challenges of adhering to the gluten free diet is dining at restaurants. You’d think that because Celiac patients have such serious reactions to consuming gluten that restaurants would be well prepared to deal with such clients due to liability.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. People with Celiacs do not react immediately nor necessarily apparently.  This delayed reaction is, in essence, a get-out-of-jail-free card for restaurants.

Saying the words “peanut allergy” in a restaurant is quite similar to saying “bomb” at an airport.  Immediately the waitstaff begin to listen more carefully, you can watch as they make a large asterisk next to your order on their notepad.  I hope that one day people with Celiacs will elicit the same response out of waiters, but for now our burden is to learn how to effectively communicate what we need and why we need it in an efficient and persuasive manner.

I don’t mean to sound like a cynic, but the reason that restaurants are so careful with nut allergies is not, typically, out of compassion, it is out of fear.  Liability is REAL. We live in an incredibly litigious society.  Luckily, this fear of lawsuits can serve as a great motivator.  From my experience, nothing screams lawsuit more than snail mail.

Sending a letter to a restaurant that has “glutened” you can help change the way that restaurant responds, in the future, to customers who cannot eat gluten.  I have had several experiences now where a letter has resulted in a dialogue with mangers and owners about Celiac customers and what they can do to improve.  At one restaurant near my home in North Hollywood, the manager instituted a new policy that all GF meals must be on a different colored plate so that chefs and waiters do not ever get confused.  Colored plates solve the problem of “chain of custody.”  For example, you order a salad to be prepared GF, your waiter sends that order in to the chef who prepares the meal accordingly, another waiter  then goes to deliver the meal and realizes the chef “forgot” to add the croutons so he grabs a handful to complete the order before delivering it to you.

I am not saying you should threaten litigation, what I am saying is that any time a customer sends a letter accusing a restaurant of bad and/or hurtful service they will respond due to fear of potential future litigation threats. Sending a letter explaining what happened and why you are displeased can go a long way towards changing the restaurant industry.

What should a letter contain?

1. The date and time you were at the restaurant

2. Details of your experience (waiter’s name or description, what and how you ordered, any dialogue that occurred between you and the waitstaff)

3. What about the meal was not gluten free (cross-contamination? an ingredient? did the waiter have wrong information about a dish?)

4. Explain why it is important (what happened to you as result of your expereince at this restaurant)

5. Encourage a response (say you would like to speak with them further about your experience and what they can do to make it sure doesn’t happen again)

You can check out letters that I have written to managers and owners of several restaurants over the years and you can see their responses.  I have had a 100% response rate and, in 90% of my experiences, the owner or manager sent me another follow-up letter explaining what steps they took to improve their service.

Being “glutened” is, in all honesty, a victimizing experience that can weigh over you physically and mentally for weeks.  Letters are empowering, the perfect antidote to nonphysical effects of unwillingly consuming gluten.


What you can expect from Cc Gluten Freed

11 Nov

This blog is both a personal narrative and a source of information and support for people living the gluten free lifestyle.

First, a little bit about me: my name is Cc Bonaduce and I have been gluten free since 2008.  Though I am still a relatively young Celiac, only 3 years since I was diagnosed, I have learned so much about the gluten free lifestyle by being active in the community.  I began volunteering for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness shortly after my diagnosis.  I have met and learned from so many gluten free people. Hearing their stories and reading many of the gluten free blogs out there, I realized our gluten free community needs to hear more about the social factors associated with the gluten free diet.  For me, the biggest challenge I face is learning how to effectively advocate for myself.  I wanted to create a blog dedicated to describing how I continue to find ways to be an advocate and, hopefully, inspire readers to feel that they can do the same.

Have you ever gotten wrong information from waitstaff at a restaurant or experienced cross-contamination despite your best efforts to be clear with the chef?  Despite being a veteran gluten free-er and activist in the gluten free community, I still struggle to dine safely.  I started taking actions to correct this problem: every time I have a bad experience at a restaurant I write a letter (yes, snail mail) to both the manager and owner of the restaurant in question explaining what went wrong and why it matters.  On Cc Gluten Freed you will have access to the letters I have sent in the past, what went wrong initially and how to avoid it in the future and more general letter templates that you can use if you have a bad experience at a restaurant.

I find that most of the gluten free literature out there neglects the social implications of the gluten free diet.  One of the greatest challenges of being gluten free is learning to navigate the nongluten free world.  Two simple facts: most social events center around food and most foods contain gluten. This is our reality. How do you, as a gluten free person, navigate these complicated social situations? Birthday parties, professional lunch meetings, conferences, sleepovers, Superbowl parties, dinner parties and the like all require special accommodations for gluten free diners. This blog has personal stories about these situations and how I dealt with them.

In addition, Cc Gluten Freed will review restaurants and products.  Being gluten free becomes much easier when you have a source you can trust telling you what products are great and worth your time.  I will also post recipes that I come across over time that I think other GF people should try out!

Please follow this blog and comment frequently!



%d bloggers like this: