20 09 2008

I was allergic to peanuts back before it was popular to be allergic to peanuts.  These days it seems like everyone is allergic to peanuts.  There’s warnings on everything, school lunch programs are afraid of getting sued over having peanuts on the menu and kids are making the news for killing their significant others with peanut kisses of death.  Back in my youth there were no peanut-free lunch programs, there were no special peanut-free Mars bars or granola bars and when I was really young they didn’t even have the “may contain traces of peanuts” disclaimers in the product ingredient lists (which I usually just ignored anyway).  

After a couple of close calls with peanuts as a very young child, I became an expert at avoiding them everywhere.  I suffered the disappointment of knowing that half of the chocolate bars at the store were always off-limits.  Halloween was particularly painful; my dad and siblings would divide up all my peanutty treasure between themselves as I watched with envy.  I became the annoying person at parties that would have to track down each questionable treat’s creator to verify its peanut content.  Most of the time, though, when in doubt, I just didn’t eat it.  The tan color of peanut butter became a warning sign to me along with its unmistakable scent, which, because it had been connected with death in my mind for so long, always made me a little nauseous.  

And yet, peanuts were regularly consumed in my home.  My dad could not eat pancakes without peanut butter, nor could he do a road trip without a bag of peanuts to keep him occupied, and my mother loved her peanut butter toast.  Cruel you say?  It wasn’t so bad.  In fact, I think that it made me even more vigilant and probably saved me from many other close calls.  We had the rule in my house that you always used a separate knife for the peanut butter.  (And I would also like to point out that, during my high schools days, at my good friend Makea’s house, they set aside an entire 5 gallon bucket of honey that you could not contaminate with peanut butter, just for me.  I love the Lowry’s)  And peanutty baked goods were basically never made at my house.

But I think my vigilance has waned a little since those days.  In the beginning, death was always the looming consequence of any lapse in attention; so I did pretty well at paying attention.  But then, starting with my mission, I’ve had an increasing number of close calls, none of which have resulted in death, and each of which have caused me to lower my guard a little, which has then led to more contact with peanuts.  In my



first area on my mission, while I was still learning the language and becoming acquainted with the culture and the cuisine, I scarfed down a meal that was made for us by one of the members in the area.  It was mole (not the animal; it’s a mexican dish).  And after dinner my companion was asking the sister how she made it, and she was listing off the ingredients, most of which I didn’t understand, until she got to ‘cacahuates’, which is spanish for peanuts, and which was one of the first words I learned in spanish.  At that point I started freaking out a little bit.  My heart started racing and I probably looked like a scared little child, but nothing happened and I survived another day.  But I always attributed it to the fact that God didn’t want one of his missionaries kicking the bucket quite yet, so that one incident didn’t give me the courage to want to tempt fate again.


The next one I remember, I was on a camping trip with my dad and brother and some friends at Enchanted Rock, outside Austin, Texas.  One of our friends had brought some MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and we were all chowing down.  I started eating one that had these crunchy things in it that I just thought were water chestnuts or something.  Nope.  They were peanuts.  Again, moment of panic but nothing happened.  And again attributed it to divine intervention because we were in the middle of nowhere and I didn’t have my Epipen with me and I figured I just wasn’t supposed to go yet.

The next one I remember was just about a year ago.  I went to get a Blizzard at Dairy Queen, I ordered my usual chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard at the drive-thru, paid, took the Blizzard and left.  I started eating it as I was driving home and I immediately realized that it wasn’t a cookie dough Blizzard, but, I reasoned, it still tasted good so no big deal.  Then I bit into a particularly large chunk of whatever the flavor the was and I realized, “I know what that flavor is!”  So again, moment of panic and nothing happened.  This time I was feeling a little braver and since I was on my way home which was right across the street from the hospital, I figured, why not?  So I kept eating.  Bite after bite I kept eating.  I didn’t eat a whole lot before my mouth started feeling funny and my face started feeling flushed.  At that point I stopped and I had also arrived home.  First thing I did was have my roommate Darren test out my Blizzard to confirm my suspicions.  He told me it tasted like a Reese peanut butter cup Blizzard.  So there I was, I quarter of the way through a peanut butter Blizzard, with some tingling in my mouth and a reddish face.  I felt invincible!  Peanuts couldn’t kill me anymore!  But it was still uncomfortable enough that I didn’t want to eat anymore.  And I figured I still probably wouldn’t eat a lot of peanuts in the future.  But it was so liberating to know that peanuts were no longer death in a shell.  And I let my guard down a little more.

And as a reminder that my guard has continued to fall, two nights ago I was having dinner with some friends at the Cheesecake Factory and decided to order myself some chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake to finish off the meal.  It was delicious, by the way!  But I don’t know if I just missed it on the menu or if they messed up my order but I ended up getting a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake.  But I didn’t realize it until I got the bill.  So I was just chowing down and wondering what this delicious stuff on top was; my mouth started to feel funny and I started to get suspicious but I didn’t connect the dots.  And then the bill revealed why my mouth was tingling.  And I couldn’t help but think how that never would have happened to me 10 years ago.  Ten years ago, as soon as I saw the color of the topping alarm bells would have gone off, I would have sniffed it, I would have had my friends taste test it, and then I would have ended up watching one of my friends eat it.  I’ve come a long way I guess.  I’m still hoping that I might completely grow out of the allergy.  They say that around 15% of childhood allergies to peanuts disappear in adulthood.  *fingers crossed*




One response

22 09 2008

I really hope you end up being one of the 15%. Peanuts are so good.

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