Oh, the nostalgia one bite of these bars brings. Peanut butter and jelly are the classic kid food fondly remembered by allergy moms everywhere, isn’t it?
The irony is I didn’t grow up eating either of them.
Well, ok, that’s sort of true. I ate my fair share of plain old peanut butter sandwiches–sometimes speckled with a slice or two of dill pickles (Don’t knock it till you try it) and I greeted most days smearing peanut butter on toast, but PB&J’s were my last resort–a punishment, almost, as that was the only other option for dinner if my brothers and I rejected what was served. My parents bought Goober Jelly — peanut butter and grape jelly all in one convenient jar–once in a while, trying hard to sell PB&J as a fun food. But PB&J’s weren’t my jam. (Pun intended.) I couldn’t stand the combination.
It wasn’t until late high school I started really enjoying them. What changed? Who knows. My taste buds, perhaps. Or it could have been my vegetarian friend who seemingly only ever ate PB&J’s or macaroni and cheese. I ate them with boysenberry jam a time or two at her house and suddenly they seemed far cooler than Goober jelly ever made them seem. Go figure.
After that, peanut butter and blackberry jam was my favorite until I was a young mom pinching pennies and buying industrial sized jars of strawberry jam at Costco. My oldest daughter spent her toddler years eating many PB&J’s with me–until Mia came along and everything changed. Peanuts and gluten went on the naughty list and PB&J’s were a gift I didn’t appreciate until our go-to lunch together became a memory. We switched to Sunflower Butter, which neither of the girls really liked, until EJ joined the brood. At that point we switched almost exclusively to almond butter and we were thankful for that one safe nut.
We’re in a season of more transition around here these days. Mia and EJ are both on track to challenge peanuts in the not-so-far future, and I feel like allergy life as we know it is changing. PB&J’s might be back on rotation in the next couple years. Other things are changing too–Addie is wrapping up Elementary school and Mia isn’t far behind her. EJ goes to school full time and I’m still adjusting to a quiet house during the day. I’m feeling so much better–physically, mentally, emotionally–and I see my own life changing in positive ways up ahead. It’s all flying by, and I’m not ok. Looking at pictures of the kids when they were super little makes me cry because I desperately miss those hard, slow days, but I’m also glad they’re over. They were complicated and hard and exhausting. But I’m not there anymore. I’m in-between, and so are the kids. It’s weird.
I’ve been spending time revisiting the earliest years of mothering lately, reminding myself what it felt like to be a young mom who knew nothing about food allergies and had to learn on the fly while dealing with the domino effect of new diagnoses. It was a lot. I found myself longing for a few precious moments with my firstborn little girl during pre-food allergy life. Sharing a simple PB&J on whole wheat bread with my sweet little Addie is something I’m only thankful for in hindsight.
But the mom I am now knows ways to satisfy that craving using ingredients the younger mom wouldn’t have known even existed, let alone known how to use. Ready to prove how far I’ve come–if only to myself– I set out to make a soft and somewhat chewy snack bar that mimicked the flavors of the nostalgic PB&J to remember where we came from and celebrate where we are now.
And the best part? Addie loves them. Mia couldn’t care less about them, but there’s something about this little snack bar that makes Addie swoon, and I think it’s because it reminds her of a simpler time when food was simple and satisfying, not complicated or worrisome, back when she got my undivided attention.
Making peace with our stories is a process of silent long-suffering. Sometimes she suffering is loud too, to be honest. Crying tears of fear and frustration come naturally when what you know and count on gets snatched out of your hands without warning. Of course you miss what you knew. Breaking up is hard to do. Nobody understands the heartache until they walk through it themselves.
The good news is we wake up one day and realize we’re still ok, don’t we? We meet new things that help heal the wounds. Our hurt scabs over and scars perhaps, but we survive. You will survive. Your non-food allergic kids will too. And you might all even be better for it, in the end.
Almond Butter and Jelly Bars prove that to me.
Maybe these bars won’t prove it to you, and that’s ok. Something will. Someday you’ll be so confident with cooking differently that you will surprise yourself with how far you’ve come. You will certainly marvel at all the other glorious food options out there ready and willing to bend to your every whim. You’ll celebrate food differently, and that’s valuable in so many ways. And you’ll find new ways to connect with your most favorite people.
Oh, the joy one bite of these bars brings for so many different, delicious reasons.