How to Be a Gluten-Free Roommate
Finding a good roommate can be a challenge even in the best of circumstances. When you’re a young* adult living gluten-free, sharing a kitchen with a roommate who may not be familiar with gluten-free best practices can be downright frightening. It is possible to (enjoy) sharing a kitchen with your gluten-full roommate…
But it is your responsibility to set your roommate up for success. The following Dos and Don’ts will help you get started:
The first step is to select a roommate who will respect your gluten-free boundaries. Ideally, you would room with a friend who understands the precautions needed for you to stay healthy. However, real life isn’t always that simple. If you are considering rooming with a stranger, it may be worthwhile to include your gluten-free status in the ad and/or have a frank conversation about your needs and expectations before you make a commitment to share a kitchen.
When selecting a place to live, think about what will set you and your roommate up for success. It is always easier to manage a shared kitchen when there is a dishwasher. It would be helpful to have a large refrigerator (versus a dorm-sized one) if possible. Having ample pantry and/or storage space would also be helpful to allow you to separate food and kitchen supplies.
Purchase dedicated gluten-free pots and pans and a toaster—any pots, pans, or appliances that cannot go in the dishwasher should NOT be shared. If there is a toaster oven, you can consider purchasing your own tray instead of a toaster. It’s pretty standard for roommates to have their own pots and pans, so it won’t be an unusual request.
Keep extra sponges, brushes, and dishtowels around. Sanitize or toss them on a regular basis to ensure you are not accidentally contaminating your dedicated pots and pans.
Do…Be Respectful AKA Don’t…Be a Jerk
When setting roommate boundaries, be mindful to prioritize “dealbreakers” over “nuisances.” In essence, stick to normal roommate etiquette rules with extra focus on respecting gluten-free food and supplies.
- Not leaving dishes in the sink or cooking/baking supplies on the counter
- Not sharing any food labeled “GF” or in your special area of the fridge/freezer/pantry
- Not using gluten-free toaster or pots and pans
Not Reasonable Requests:
- Telling your roommate how to clean the kitchen unless they specifically ask or are not respecting normal roommate etiquette (see below)
- Asking your roommate not to cook or bake with gluten-full ingredients (see below)
If there are egregious issues, it is important to respectfully discuss them with your roommate. For instance, a relative of mine had a roommate who routinely spilled (gluten-full) pancake batter over her CLEAN gluten-free dishes. This behavior is unacceptable under any circumstances.
If your roommate is committing egregious or disrespectful acts on a regular basis, it may be worth considering finding a new roommate.
If watching your roommate cook or bake with gluten-full ingredients is stressful for you, it may be best just to leave. Every gluten-free person I know, myself included, has particular gluten-related triggers that cause anxiety or irrational stress. When in doubt, you can always wipe down the kitchen before you prepare your next meal.
*I can’t claim to be young anymore, but I’m fortunate to have sisters who are young and gluten-free—a big thank you to them for helping me compile information for this series.