I caught up with some friends the other day and one friend – Mzzzzz E (she of “Fi-DIE-lity” notoriety) – began showing off how she had just been to the Friendliest Street in Blahblah-shire. How did she know? Because there was a big bloody sign saying “Friendliest Street in Blahblah-shire 2007”. And, as if to prove a point, as she arrived there was a burst of friendly activity between neighbours all calling out to each other and wishing each other well and handing each other macrobiotic tartlets, fresh out of the oven and probably served in a little hand-woven wicker basket covered with a freshly laundered gingham tea-towel. How perfectly Stepford of them.
This then led to a general discussion about what “macrobiotic” actually meant – another friend at the gathering (the one who actually lives on the Friendliest Street in Blahblahshire) did her street proud by cheerfully educating us. Her explanation went something like “macrobiotic means whole foods, pulses, fermented soy, and possibly gluten-free shit and that”. Actually, she didn’t use the words “shit and that”, it’s just that I sort of glazed over after the mention of “whole foods” and so have had to make up what she said. But she definitely used the word “gluten-free” because it got another friend, Mr MacDonald, all fired up. Mr MacDonald proclaimed: “I don’t know what gluten is but I must really really like it because, quite frankly, food tastes crap without it.” I think he might have even pounded his fist on the table to punctuate his point.
Which must make life pretty grim for the poor souls with coeliac disease, who can’t even say the word “Gluten” out loud without instantly getting the blurts. Their lives are possibly only matched in grimness by my little friends Master L and Master D, who, because of their allergies, live without butter, which as we know from previous posts such as “More than a Matter of Taste“, is the definition of life as I know it. (Although, if you ask Mr Justice, the true meaning of life is apparently in the dictionary – something he has told me with no trace of irony whatsoever). And their lives must also be pretty grim without peanuts, although arguably their life would be considerably grimmer *with* peanuts, because anaphlyaxis ain’t no damn picnic, sister-girlfriend-whatever.
Let me just say now that the whole peanuts-in-school thing gets me riled. Some people get very emotional about potentially being deprived of their Natural Born Right to put peanut butter in their child’s lunchbox. One could argue that they would be a little more emotional should their child’s peanut butter sandwich deprive another child of the right to live. Last year, when all I could get The Pixie to eat was peanut butter, we went away with KC, MM and Master D, as we do every year. As I was packing to go, KC rang to ask us if we wouldn’t mind not packing the peanut butter because they didn’t have an epi-pen for Master D and we were going to be in the middle of f’ing nowhere without mobile reception. My answer? You bet! Of course! I mean, what was the worse thing that would have happened if we didn’t bring her beloved peanut butter? She’d go a little hungry. And the worse thing to happen if we *did* bring the peanut butter? I personally don’t want to go there.
There seems to be some people out there who regard the whole peanut allergy thing as the delusions of middle-class drama queens. Recently Master D touched some minute traces of a cashew-spread which one of his little friends had micro-smeared around the house, and then Master D must have rubbed his eyes because within an instant, he looked like Sly Stallone after having taken a whuppin’ from our man Mr T. Actually let’s upgrade that metaphor and make him more like Sly Stallone just after he’s had work done by his mother’s plastic surgeon.
A combination of this story and the look on KC’s face when she saw the nut-related items on our canteen list, plus some other “shit and that”, has galvanised me into action to get our school canteen nut-free (though by “galvanised me into action” means I’ve written this blog entry and had passing conversations with other mothers in the playground – but watch this space, peoples! I’m a steam train comin’!). I’m not gunning for a total school ban – not yet at least, as I’m sure that might make parents like Mother of Master L and KC sleep better at night. And we don’t have to go as far as giving everyone allergy-free macrobiotic lunches (did someone say…*yawn*…) but we could take two items off the canteen list: Peanut Butter and Nutella.
Two little items. Out of a hundred items. That’s not too high a price to pay for a bit of piece of mind, is it? After all, it really is more than just a matter of taste for these kids. They’re not being fussy or precious or over-indulged by their parents. They’re just trying to stay alive and the Friendliest thing we could do is to let them.