Our love-hate relationship with peanut butter

Millennials grew up in classrooms where peanut butter was forbidden. We got used to snacking on our PB and J’s at home out of fear of harming someone with allergies – some reactions are deadly after all. Now that we are older, peanut butter seems to be a snack sitting on the edge of social norms.

March 1, National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, is a good time to explore our conflicted relationship with the – delicious – nutty spread. (And if you want to lather yourself up like the toddler in peanut butter baby, today would be the day when we’d say “go for it.”)

Julie Stevenson, a third-year Algonquin College baking and pastry student is a good example of someone who wrestles with the peanut butter dilemma. “I feel like I have to ask a room full of people if it’s okay for me to even eat it,” she says. “I’ve been asked like, six times if I could not eat it where I was in public.”

About 2.5 million Canadians suffer from a severe food allergy. Among this group, 1.93 per cent is peanut related. With allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis (skin irritation, trouble breathing, nausea, lightheaded, feeling of “impending doom”, etc.), it’s no wonder consumers are wary of their surroundings when they eat it.

Jamie Broomfield is an Algonquin College student with an allergy to nuts. He says his coworkers used to bring PB&J sandwiches into this car. “I used to meet up with a group of people in the morning to go to work and one of the guys used to eat peanut butter sandwiches in the truck,” he says. “My allergy is severe enough that being in a confined space in close proximity can bother me.”

So, how can we enjoy this sweet treat without hurting anyone around us?

Gabe Teramura, a business administration student at Algonquin says we can avoid the possibility of affecting others by eating responsibly and taking precautions.

“I wouldn’t say I intentionally avoid eating peanut butter in the public, it’s just kind of something I’ve gotten used to,” says Teramura. “But at the same time, if you’re allergic to something, you shouldn’t force other people to not eat it, or maybe just bring an epi-pen or something.”

When asked if he even consumes the smooth, crunchy and sweet protein-packed snack anymore, he said his father’s severe allergy has yet to stop him.

“Obviously I keep it out of the house cause I don’t wanna kill my dad,” he says, “but if I’m hungry and see a peanut butter cookie at Starbucks, I’ll still take it.”

The nutty spread was more formally introduced to the market in 1895 by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg as a protein substitute for those without teeth. Since then, that market for peanut butter has skyrocketed. With an (almost) infinite amount of possibilities for its use, today’s consumers are looking at a food item that provides an entire days meat and alternatives serving in just 30 ml of Canada’s preferred bread spread.

This is a huge deal for those who do not eat meat.

“I’m a vegetarian so peanut butter or nuts, in general, is a good way for me to get my protein,” says Lorissa Finkenzeller, a student at the University of Ottawa.

Its popularity has garnered success across the globe with an umpteen amount of different brands representing every squirrels’ favourite treat.

Finding a balance for it being socially acceptable and safe to carry around a jar of Jif may be difficult. This said, it’s always great to have the sweetness of peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth.


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