This week's blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 5-year-old daughter, Viva, who once heard tell of something called peanut butter, but has never been anywhere it was legal.
In a radical reversal of thinking, the National Institutes of Health announced last week that, rather than keeping infants and toddler as far from peanuts as possible for the first few years of their lives, babies should be given foods containing peanuts* as early as 4 to 6 months of age**. Researchers have recently discovered that exposure to peanut in this early window causes most at-risk children to build an immunity to the allergen, not a sensitivity.
… and I JUST finished construction on the peanut-free bunker under my house.
For the past two decades, we've kept children in peanut-free bubbles where they've lived like legume-sensitive young John Travoltas. Peanutty birthday treats have become more brazen contraband at schools than the ninja throwing stars we snuck in our Trapper Keepers in the ‘80s. TSA employees have been regularly searching our bags at the airports for signs of peanut loyalty--spats, monocles and walking sticks, for instance. I get it--more than 200 people die every year of anaphylaxis. Severe allergies are genuinely terrifying, and between 1997 and 2010, peanut allergies in children TRIPLED, while staying the same in adults. Why?*** No idea, but doctors figured it best to play it safe, and suddenly schools all across the country named after poor George Washington Carver or Jimmy Carter**** were being renamed. It's possible the precautions made the problem worse!
Now, however, we're living in a brand new day of loosey-goosey peanut exposure. Not sure what we're going to do with twenty years worth of peanut sensitive young adults in a world where everyone older and younger than them eats Skippy with both hands, but the long arc of history bends towards … something.*****
In the meantime, it's time you packed up your kids and headed out for some PB&J, some peanut butter cups, some peanuts and Cracker Jack******, etc. Here is your guide to seven places in the Windy City where you can get some extremely tasty dishes involving PB & something.
Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate
George's Ice Cream and Sweets (Andersonville)
5306 N. Clark
It's January, so how about a Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate? Or two. Or as many as they'll let you have before they call your peanut butter sponsor.
Peanut Butter Blowout
Lickety Split (Edgewater)
6056 N. Broadway or 7000 N. Western
Lickety Split is hopping all year round, and nothing will commemorate your peanut butter binge like their mix of chocolate and vanilla frozen custard, peanut butter, Reese's cups and Butterfinger. Bring an epi-pen.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
First Slice Pie Cafe (Ravenswood, Manor, Andersonville, Evanston)
4401 N. Ravenswood Ave.
4664 N. Manor
5357 N. Ashland
1823 Church St.
First Slice is so adorable you'll expect to see Sara Bareilles sitting in the corner composing twee ballads. What you need to do is try their peanut butter pie that's like having a (better) peanut butter cup big enough to stick your whole face in at once.
Peanut Butter Sandwich
1932 Central St.
The kids menu at cozy American eatery Bluestone gives tots the choice of PB & jelly, PB & honey, PB & pickles or PB & bacon. Options are empowering, peanut butter builds immune systems and bacon is awesome.
Deep Fried PB&J
Hamburger Mary's (Andersonville)
5400 N. Clark
Peanut butter and strawberry jam, battered and deep fried. The National Institutes of Health say Treat. Yo. Self.
Peanut Butter Bacon Burger
Bad Apple (North Center)
4300 N. Lincoln
Okay, we're getting into savories now, and into bars, as well. Bad Apple is good at doing both of these. Their Elvis' Last Supper burger has peanut butter and bacon. It's a hunka hunka heart burnin' love.
5148 N. Clark
All right, it isn't actually peanuts, but this sandwich is pretty much famous at this point. Cashew Butter, fig jam and raclette cheese on sourdough. (With Stilton mac & cheese and housemade chips on the side.) This classed up PB&J brings all the comfort of the classic but with a wildly upgraded flavor palette. You've grown up--let your sandwich grow up, too.
You've got my recommendations, and you've got the NIH's blessing. Now go expose your immune system to some FLAVOR!
*But don't give babies actual peanuts. Peanuts are, like, specially designed to cause choking. Stupid peanuts.
**Children with severe eczema, egg allergies or whose siblings have severe nut allergies should see their pediatrician first. Additionally, all parents should consult a medical professional and not a comedy blog when making health decisions for their children.
***It is worth noting here that children's exposure to the Canadian post-grunge band Nickelback also increased exponentially in the years 1997-2010. Correlation or causation
****Just kidding, there are no schools named after Jimmy Carter.
*****Reese's, I believe.
******Is there still Cracker Jack? Seems really oldey-timey and like it might be racially problematic now or cause cancer. Gotta fact check that one. UPDATE: There is still Cracker Jack and it's cool - MB
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Matt fathers 5-year-old Viva, Chicago's favorite pint-sized diva, and is the author of "Viva Daddy!" - a monthly column in Chicago Parent Magazine.
See more of Matt's stories here.
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