Well, it looks like peanut/nut allergies are becoming part of the American cultural psyche alright. But in what way?
I got a lot of comments and e-mails from readers to let me know about the ABC show Brothers and Sisters that opened (I didn't see the show) with a harried mom trying to pass off "peanut butter" as soy or sunbutter for her child's school lunch. When the child protested that she attended a peanut-free school, the mom's reply? "Your brother ate all the turkey. Just tell your teacher it's soy butter."
This is unfortunate to say the least, but I could name several examples of peanut or food allergies being used as a punchline on TV and in films (or in books). Apparently, it's just hilarious or just a silly inconvenience for some folks who don't deal with it on a daily basis. And that's kind of understandable--many people don't get what it's all about!
Still, many, many moms and dads of non-allergic kids will comply with a peanut ban and for that, we all thank you. But as this TV episode illustrates, this is purely an "honor system" policy. Are peanut bans always the best way to go? (FAAN doesn't think so. Most doctors don't think so. Many food allergy parents do--who can blame them?) Who'd have thought that a fictional TV series would throw the harsh light of reality onto this issue?
But I'm glad to report that I have some good news about the cultural perceptions of nut allergies. I recently posted about culinary mystery writer Joanna Fluke who alerted her readers about peanut/nut allergies in two recipes that appeared in her bestseller: "Cream Puff Murder."
I wrote to her, thanked her for allergy awareness and asked if she had personal experience with food allergies. I got a reply from her husband who is currently handling her correspondence (apparently the author just back from a book tour and is really sick!) Here's what he said:
"We find the peanut allergy really scary considering the American love of peanut butter. It has gotten a lot of press of late. There was a TV piece the other night about a program for building a tolerance that the story said shows much promise. One never knows about medical things on the evening news. I'd ask my doctor." (How right he is about the latter!)
So, it's a mixed bag as it always is for food allergies. Public perceptions take a long time to change. All we can do is keep plugging away and educating those around us. And it does work--eventually. Don't give up.