Last weekend I attended the Washington, DC Gluten-Free Expo with Shirley of Gluten Free Easily. I was very pleased that in addition to a vendor hall they were offering a series of educational sessions. There were six speakers that covered topic ranging from the basics of celiac disease and going gluten free to psychology to current research.
I think that attending conferences and workshops can be very educational, but it’s also good to get information from a variety of sources and compare. Old information is all too often shared, even by medical professionals. And when put on the spot while speaking, people sometimes become forgetful or simply don’t have all the right answers on the tip of their tongue, and sometimes they are misinformed.
For the most part, I found the sessions at the DC Expo to contain useful information, especially for the beginner. Unfortunately, there was the noticeable omission of information on labeling, in particular the Food Allergen Labeling And Consumer Protection Act and how to read a label to determine the gluten-free status of most foods. Instead, the out-of-date method of carrying around a list of safe and unsafe ingredients was recommended. You can read my 3 part series on reading labels here.
There was also a blatant error during a question and and answer session where it was stated that dextrin is not gluten free. While dextrin can be made from wheat, it is very rare. And if it is, wheat has to be listed on the label. A blanket statement that dextrin is not gluten free could cause people to avoid a lot of safe foods unnecessarily.
But back to the good stuff. I want to highlight just a few kitchen and baking points that you might find helpful or interesting.
Setting up a gluten-free or shared kitchen (Camilla Saulsbury)
- Replace sponges and rags or have separate ones for gf cleaning
- Replace the rubber gasket in a blender or have a separate blender
- Beware that scratches in non-stick cookware/bakeware can harbor gluten
- Clean kitchen drawers often if a shared kitchen
- If it’s porous (wood, rubber, plastic, etc.) discard it or have separate ones
Gluten-free flours (Vanessa Weisbrod)
- Almond flour – can be used by itself in some recipes, contains fiber and protein
- Coconut flour – needs a lot of liquid because of very high fiber content, also high in protein
- Rice flour – white and brown can be used interchangeably, brown has twice as much fiber
- Teff flour – used to make Injera (Ethiopian flat bread), in the US it is combined with wheat flour
- Millet flour – makes things light and delicate, you can replace about 1/4 of the total flour with millet
- Sorghum flour – good source of fiber and protein, adds sweetness and lightness
- Tapioca flour – combined with other flours, 0 fiber and protein
- Buckwheat flour – can help stabilize blood sugar, contains fiber and protein
There were two doctors who spoke on celiac disease. Most of the information was familiar to me, but I always find it interesting to hear it again. And it was probably new to many people there. However, it’s too much for me to cover here.
The vendor hall was a good size, but not huge, which I think is a good thing. It can be helpful for people to sample products from companies so they know what they are getting when they buy something at the store. Expos are also a good place to find local restaurants that offer gluten-free options and usually have food to sample there. You often find local gluten-free bakeries with delicious goods to offer such those in the photo above.
Jilly Lagasse was there with the latest book authored by her and her sister Jessie: The Lagasse Girls’ Big Flavor, Bold Taste–and No Gluten!. Shirley and I got to speak with her for a few minutes and get a picture together. We had heard Jilly and Jessie speak last year at the Gluten-Free Living conference in Orlando. They are very nice people with a lot of cooking expertise to share.
If you have an opportunity to attend an expo in your area, particularly if it includes educational workshops, it’s worth attending. That’s especially true for newbies, but even if you’ve been gluten-free for a while, it’s good be reminded of things. It’s also a good opportunity to speak to representatives of brands about any questions you might have regarding their products. You’ll love having gluten-free samples that you can actually eat (versus samples of foods that contain gluten which are so often handed out in stores). Just be careful not to overdo it. You can quickly become overloaded with gluten-free sugar and carbs.
What’s your favorite part of attending an expo?