you got your salmonella in my peanut butter!

Once again, mothers dear, we are faced with a slightly ridiculous but perhaps quite scary and real threat to our children, and as always, I don’t know which way to play it.

This time it’s peanut butter, and I kind of feel sorry for it, don’t you? It’s already being wiped out from our children’s existence. No traces of peanuts in anything, ever. My sons’ school is “nut-aware,” which means they will take no legal reponsibility for being nut-free, but my God, they’re trying their darndest. And now it has salmonella in it, to boot. I’m not sure peanut butter will ever be the same.

A few weeks ago (before the salmonella scare) it was “J” week in kindergarten, and as on every Monday morning, Cooper was tearing through the house at five minutes to eight looking for an object beginning with the Letter Of The Week to bring to school with him, a task which could easily have been accomplished during the first 63 hours of the weekend.

Now, “B” week, for example, was easy, he took the Bagel right out of my hand and was out the door. But “J” was a tough one, tougher than you might imagine. As the minutes ticked by, Cooper panicked, and I was totally out of ideas– until I opened my cupboards, had a eureka moment, and sent Cooper to school with our jar of Jif.

Later that day, I was met with one long face at pickup, along with our Jif, in a sealed Ziploc bag.

“You can’t bring PEANUT BUTTER to SCHOOL,” he hissed at me, as if no one had ever been so stupid. Well, for 14 years, all I did, every single DAY, was bring peanut butter to school, so excuse me for forgetting myself, for a moment, and thinking that a jar of peanut butter, UNOPENED, sitting in a cardboard box with a jump rope, a juice box, and a tiny facsimile of The Joker, would be in any way acceptable.

I rolled my eyes at the sealed Ziploc bag surrounding the Jif, that additional level of security, as if it were live nuclear waste. This was a sign of our perhaps excessively cautious times. I am certain I would have felt differently if I had a child with a peanut allergy. But I didn’t, and neither did anyone in Cooper’s class. Therefore, peanut butter was cute, harmless, and much maligned, in my opinion.

But now, actually Mom, it’s quite dangerous, having sickened hundreds and killed almost twenty people in the US during the last month. Here’s a list of everything that’s been recalled, so far. I could roll my eyes at the Little Debbie recalls, since those aren’t in my supermarket. (I didn’t realize they were still in ANYONE’S supermarket.) But the list has grown, and now that Trader Joe’s is on there, I probably need to go in my pantry and throw the Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels out.

And why does that feel like a defeat to me? When it comes to these hysteria, I feel like I can’t win. If I give in to the hysteria, and worry about avian bird flu or deadly spinach or whatever the Scare of the Month is, I feel like a sucker. If I DON’T give in, however, I can’t totally ignore those nightly missives from the evening news telling me the danger is growing. People ARE sick, people HAVE died, maybe peanut butter really is bad, maybe I’m a bad mother for NOT having freaked out about it.

So I’ve created a somewhat ridiculous compromise: I am telling all of YOU that precautions may need to be taken. However I have not yet taken any of those precautions myself. I can’t quite bring myself to toss my precious Jif. For me, it is such a potent symbol, justified or not, of simpler times, and Childhood Lost.