Peanut-Free, how I love/hate thee.

I have developed a love/hate relationship with the Peanut-Free symbol.

My youngest is allergic to peanuts. And so, our diets have adapted to this life or death situation. Although I drool at Reese commericals and breathe deeply in the peanut butter aisle of the grocery stores, we have decided that if she can’t have it, neither should we. Except for the Snickers bars whose wrappers magically appear in my truck on lonely trips to Edmonton or the peanut buteer marshmallow squares that sit waiting for my consumption at adults-only parties.

When we discovered she was allergic, I was devastated: I will have to throw out almost everything in my pantry! After a full day of reading and sorting, a jar of peanut butter and a bag of cookies lay in the garbage can followed by relief: apparently not! This was immediately followed by thrill: finally, another excuse to stop eating junk food! It all has traces of peanuts in it, right? And so I avoided the cookie aisle like one avoids people you really don’t want to talk to: don’t even look at it or you end up there for hours… After spending three times the normal amount of shopping time, suffering from eyestrain from inexcusably small print and feeling like I had been deciphering an alien language, I realised this was not the case. However, since my youngest could not read and my oldest had bought into my mother-knows-best routines, I used it as an excuse to not buy most of the crap they wanted me to buy. “It all might contain peanuts.”

Enter the Peanut-Free symbol.

In answer to pleas from squinty-eyed parents, several brands of cookie manufacturers started placing the symbol on the front of their boxes. After having deprived myself (ahem – and the family too) of cookies for so long, I jumped on it and starting stashing boxes of cookies in my pantry like an air-raid shelter. As if somehow, the company would change their mind and I would never find peanut free cookies again. It was like Pavlov’s bell, I was buying almost any product that was bearing “The Mark”. Soon my bingeing was satisfied and I learned the hoarding was not necessary. I also learned that peanut free was not calorie free, but that’s another story, and I digress… It was my little timesaver and sort of secret. Hence, the love part. Until my kids discovered what it meant. Hence, the hate part.

When my oldest was just learning the concept of spelling at about three years old, she was also at an age where she loved baths. However, if you mentioned the word bath and a bath didn’t happen, she would have a meltdown, so we would spell out b a t h. One day, my mother proudly exclaimed that she’d taught Oldest to spell bath! And we had to tell my mother why that put a horrified look on my face. Having to rethink parenting strategies is frustrating, to say the least. Until now, the “it might contain peanuts” statement was like Judge Judy’s verdict. Final. So now, I spend three times the amount of time shopping, arguing about the health implications of all the foods my kids want to buy that according to “that label” we should be able to buy. In every store. In every aisle. Trying not to offend the nice lady beside me who has three boxes of it in her cart. Praying a food/health nut doesn’t correct my inaccurate accusations. Wishing I spoke Latin.

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