If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably already have a sense of this, but let me remind you: I’m kind of an anxious person.
That said, I’m also a forgetful person. This combination means that sometimes I forget to be anxious until after something has already happened. It’s like my brain decides, “Hang on a second, I didn’t hear your heart racing. Let’s try that again.”
Throughout my school years, this tendency manifested itself in anxiety dreams about tests and report cards after I’d already received my grades. And, not to brag, but they were generally good ones—so what was I so worried about? Today, I keep up the tradition at work by hitting “send” on emails only to immediately scroll through them to check for typos or misaddressed salutations or other pernicious little errors—too late to take it back, but not too late to stress about it.
And, of course, if I run out of fodder for my after-the-fact fretting, there’s always gluten.
Take this recent example: my sister and I bought a table.
“What’s so stressful about that?,” you might ask (if you didn’t read the post’s title, that is; otherwise, you’ve probably already guessed, you smartypants, you). Here’s what’s stressful about that:
It’s a used table.
A used wooden table.
Now, a used wooden table is not in and of itself stressful. In fact, when my sister and I were at the store picking it out, I was quite relaxed. We spotted the table almost right away, so I didn’t have to worry we wouldn’t find one that day. We’d thought to take measurements of our kitchen before heading out, so I didn’t have to worry that it wouldn’t fit. We haggled down the price a bit and got some chairs thrown into the bargain, so I didn’t have to worry about price. And Salvation Army delivers—every few weeks, at least—so we didn’t have to worry about transport.
I didn’t even think to worry about gluten.
But yesterday, the table arrived (no returns allowed), and all of a sudden I thought to worry. People (including me) throw out wooden spoons and cutting boards after diagnosis, after all. How many times have you read that “wood is a porous material that can trap small amounts of gluten” (on sites like About.com). Wood is pretty much the first thing to go, after, you know, the sack of semolina you’ve been hoarding to make your own pasta with one day. And here I’d gone and introduced a big hunk of used wood right into my gluten-free kitchen sanctuary.
I thought it over. Just how much gluten could be in that table? Had its previous owners used it as a cutting board for bread, or rolled out cookies directly on its surface? Was there a baby in its former home who mashed her cereal—or Play-Doh—into its wooden grains? Did the family eat dumplings or empanadas or pierogies at this table? Pasta or pizza or pie dough? And how much of it, if so, would have gotten into the table itself? Was the table, even now, dropping crumbs onto the floor beneath it? (It didn’t seem to be…but gluten is small.) Would I gluten myself just by touching the table or eating at it? Should we leave it wrapped in the plastic in which it came? Or should I simply avoid eating at my own table? If I didn’t, would I steadily lose the gains I’ve made, and gain the antibodies I’ve lost?
In short: What. Had. We. Done?
I chewed my lip, wrung my hands, and ambushed my sister the moment she got home from work.
“We have a table!” she said, happily.
“Yeah!” I said, feigning cheeriness just for a moment. Then I dropped the ruse. “What if it has gluten on it?” I said.
My sister—clever, even-keeled sister—thought that one over for about half a second, and replied, “Well, we could just eat off of plates. And maybe use a tablecloth.”
People use plates and tablecloths, don’t they? Somewhat regularly, even. Nice, comforting things, plates and tablecloths: things through which gluten—real or imaginary—cannot penetrate.
Feeling foolish, I nodded. “Yes, or placemats.”
“Placemats,” Althea agreed decisively. “I like that.”
With that, all my buyer’s remorse and postmortem nerves—suddenly as silly seeming as any of those report card nightmares in the light of day—evaporated.
When buying secondhand, there’s always one thing left to worry about: that is, of course, bedbugs.
Indulge me with your thoughts on whether, say, an Udi’s cookie dropped onto a washed wooden table should be considered cross-contaminated, or tell me about the last time you made a mountain out of a molehill. Otherwise, have a worry-free weekend.