Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Recap: Whole Foods GF Cooking Class

Well, our GF cooking class at Whole Foods ended about one and a half hours ago, and here I am blogging about it, not for what went well, but for what didn't. More specifically, within twenty minutes of leaving the store and heading home, I got very sick (still am) with a gluten reaction. To the wonderful people that attended the class, I sincerely hope that you've been spared...that perhaps you're less sensitive than me, or that my source of gluten contamination had nothing to do with the class.

Kelli and I have replayed the evening over in our heads, trying to determine where gluten could have found its way into the food (assuming, of course, that the source of contamination did in fact come from the class). Here's what we can think of:

For one, we were in an unfamiliar kitchen. How well had the mixing bowls and measuring cups been washed from a previous demonstration that may have (or likely had) gluten?

For another, at least two ingredients were different from what we typically use at home. First, we use strictly Bob's Red Mill flours for our blend, which are all certified gluten-free. The store didn't have the brown rice flour, so we used the Arrowhead Mills brown rice flour instead. I double-checked their website, and they list the flour as gluten-free. Secondly, we used a different vanilla extract than usual. I don't recall the specific brand that we used tonight during the demo. This could have been a problem, though there's no way to know at this point. However, for your own reference, at home we use Rodelle Pure Vanilla Extract, which is both superb and gluten-free.

On a positive note, we had a wonderful time at the class. Thank you to Janet at Whole Foods for inviting us, and thanks to everyone who attended. We truly enjoyed having you there, sharing our recipes with you, and chatting about all sorts of gluten-free topics, from the finer points of xanthan gum, to recipes and restaurants and much more. If you have any follow up questions, don't hesitate to let us know. And as promised, we'll be posting additional recipes in the near future.

- Pete


Gluten Free Steve said...

Sorry to hear you got sick. It's always so frustrating to try and figure out where that came from. Sorry we missed the class, but we were in no shape to share our cold germs with the class. Keep me posted on when you might be doing this again! said...

I have had issues with the arrowhead mills flours because of the way the bags are, flour flys in and out of them.... I hope you are feeling better now though!

peterbronski said...

Steve, thanks for the well wishes. I'm slowly recovering today, though it typically takes my body three full days to completely recover from a full-blown gluten reaction. It's frustrating indeed - especially when you can identify no obvious sources. You're left to simply wonder.

Sistercooks, thanks for the heads up, and well wishes! Kelli and I are always reluctant to deviate from our tried and true products, for obvious reasons. Curiously, the Arrowhead website doesn't list the brown rice flour under its gluten-free products category - I wonder if that's simply an error of omission, since the product itself carries the GF designation on its label. We'll be sticking to Bob's Red Mill from here on out (as we always do, except that the Whole Foods where we taught the class last night was out of Bob's brown rice flour).

Healing, Pete

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your honesty. I attended the class at Whole Foods and it was great to meet you and Kelli and some other gluten free people (a first for me). I loved your chemistry and your food! I was so excited about your recipes, but I still got sick. I was diagnosed about a year ago and I have been so nervous about eating away from my house that I thought I was just being paranoid. I am glad to know it wasn't in my head. That is such a relief. My reaction was similar to a cross-contamination reaction, but a little stronger than normal. I will stick to what you guys said in class re: the flour. Thank you so much for taking time to teach us how to make the best waffles - my new breakfast favorite! Also, I saw you on TV talking about your book - You looked terrific and not at all sick (so that is a plus). I am so excited to get my brother-in-law your books. Thanks for changing my life and bringing back breakfast foods! You and Kelli are awesome! Good luck with the baby!

peterbronski said...

Hi Teri,

Thanks for sharing your feedback. Firstly, I'm so sorry that you got sick as well. When I got sick immediately following the class, Kelli's and my first reaction was to get a sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs - what if other people get sick, too? Our worst fear was realized.

On the positive side, I'm very glad you enjoyed the class, and especially the breakfast foods. You can confidently make those recipes safely at home without fear of gluten or cross-contamination. We've made them regularly with Bob's Red Mill and Rodelle products and never had a problem.

Also, at least one of our readers has modified our GF flour mix to remove the sorghum flour and substitute additional rice flour, because she is sensitive to sorghum. That's not a sensitivity I hear of often, but each of us seems to have our own unique set of circumstances, so perhaps that's something for you to look into as well. As I mentioned during the class, my own dietary restrictions are not limited to gluten.

I think it's very easy (and natural) to adopt a paranoid mentality. Only I don't think of it as paranoid. More so, I think it's a reasonable and healthy caution, based on past experience in other settings. It's partly for that reason that Kelli and I go out to eat less and less. Sure, we think we cook some pretty tasty food at home. But we're also concerned about gluten in the food, or cross-contamination, and the consequences of it just aren't worth it.

Lastly, thanks for your kind words about my new book and the TV appearance! I'm glad I looked okay. The show airs live, and in the minutes leading up to the broadcast, I wasn't entirely sure I'd make it through. Thankfully, it all worked out. This afternoon (almost a full 48 hours after the class) I'm finally starting to feel close to 100%.

Cheers, Pete

Gluten Free Steve said...

A TV appearance - do tell!!

peterbronski said...

Hey Steve,

This past Thursday I appeared on Colorado & Company, which airs live from 10-11am on KUSA, Denver's NBC affiliate. I was promoting my new book, Powder Ghost Towns: Epic Backcountry Runs in Colorado's Lost Ski Resorts, which comes out this week from Wilderness Press. You can check out more about the book on my website:


glutenfreeforgood said...

Pete -- so sorry you ended up getting zapped by gluten cooties! What a drag. And I can only imagine how you felt when you realized the people who came for the demo probably got sick too. Ugh! And it's so hard to know where it came from.
Hang in there and get better soon!

Angela's Kitchen said...

I have been swamped and just catching up on my fav bloggers - I am so sorry you got a reaction during your own class! I know that is a huge risk when it is not your own kitchen. I end up taking all my measuring stuff, baking pans, etc. when I teach. It's a pain, but safer in the long run for me (and the class, hopefully, too). There is still the risk, though.

I have had trouble with Arrowhead's also, I think for the same reasons with how it is packaged (also, I think their rice flour is so coarsely ground I just don't like to use it- bleh).

Hope you are feeling better! My kids and I will be making some ravioli for the freezer using your GF pasta recipe in your book. We are planning on 3 fillings making x4 batches each. should be crazy fun! I'll let you know how it goes.

peterbronski said...

Hi Angela... Thanks for your sentiments! Fortunately, the unfortunate incident happened in Oct 2008, more than a year ago, so we're well recovered. =) For the ravioli, check out this page of the blog, which shows step by step pictures:

Cheers, Pete

Angela's Kitchen said...

Oops! I clicked on the wrong October! Hahaaha! That shows how crazy things have been here, I guess! too funny!

Thanks for the link about the ravioli. I will check it out!