When I was a kid, like most other children on the planet, peanut butter and jam sandwiches were one of my favourites.
Nearly every day for recess my mother would pack me a PB and J that I would heartily consume every morning at Memorial Park Public School.
That is, with the exception of a three-month stretch in the winter of Grade 1 when I inexplicably decided I had had my fill of the schoolyard delight. But instead of simply telling my mom I wanted something else for recess, I decided it would be a much better idea to dump the sandwiches behind the shed of our neighbour, Mr. Ouellette.
I know, I know - but I was only six.
So for about three months, every time I would trek through our backyard on my way to school, I would fire the sandwich over the fence and it would land with a smack behind Mr. Ouellette's shed.
My plan was sound…until the spring when Mr. Ouellette decided it would be a good idea to move his shed. Imagine my horror, while leaving for school one morning, when Mr. Ouellette exclaimed: "What the hell is this?!" upon discovering three months worth of used PB and J sandwiches behind his shed.
Like I said, I was only six and my world revolved around Star Wars and Saturday morning cartoons – there was little logic attached to my plan to hide the sandwiches.
The only reason I bring this up (beyond the ridicule I'm sure it will create) is that the good old days of peanut butter in the schoolyard have long since disappeared.
Today peanut butter, indeed all things connected to nuts of any kind, are treated like toxic waste as soon as they enter school property.
The reason is fairly simple – children who are allergic face the very real danger of serious injury or even death if they come into contact with nuts of any kind.
I get that. Years after the peanut butter debacle of my youth I had a buddy whose brother was deathly allergic to fish and seafood. One whiff of it would have been enough to send him racing for an Epipen.
School boards have rightly instituted policies that ban nuts, including peanut butter, from the school yards because of the danger it presents to a small number of children.
But what about products that taste and look just like peanut butter – but are 100 per cent free of the sometimes deadly ingredient?
That's where I've got a problem – and I'm not alone.
Parents on both sides of a heated debate concerning the consumption of peanut-free products at area schools are digging in their heels.
Last week the Upper Canada District School Board sent a missive to parents, directing them to avoid packing lunches and snacks that may contain products that are meant to mimic the taste of things like peanut butter - but are in fact soy-based.
Kerry Van Allen, parent of a son and daughter at Rothwell-Osnabruck School, received the message, but she's got another one for the school board - she's sending the lunches anyway.
I say good for her. And if the comments on our Facebook page and our website are any indication, Van Allen's stance on the issue has the support of a number of vocal parents who agree with her and have had enough.
It's not easy making lunches for children. They're as finicky as a cat, often as hungry as a lion and can make life miserable first thing in the morning for any parent who dares change the menu one iota.
Peanut butter, I would argue, is the great equalizer. It's universally loved and relatively cheap compared to other lunch/snack time fare that children consume with gusto – which is why parents love it too.
I would argue, though, that the days of these soy-based are likely numbered. While board policies in many cases prohibit snacking on nut-based products, there's very little on the books concerning products like WOWButter that children can safely bring to school.
You can bet that school boards will very quickly examine this issue and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they make a move to ban soy-based products too because they're worried all hell will break lose if something that even looks like peanut butter makes it into a school.
These parents lining up in support of Van Allen aren't monsters. They readily admit that they won't send nut-based products to school because the danger it possesses to children with allergies is real and needs to be addressed.
But the soy-based snacks are of no danger. They even come with stickers that can be affixed to lunch bags, detailing the fact that they are nut-free and harmless to individuals with allergies.
So why all the worry? Because that's what parents do best – even when there is nothing to worry about.