14 December 2013

Never Knew It Was That Bad

I tend to go on these cookie-baking benders around this time of year. It goes back to this really crummy place I lived in for far too long where the best way to keep it any reasonable temperature in the winter was to use the oven as often as possible. Strangely, it was very efficient, surprisingly cost-effective, and you got cookies out of the deal. 

This year, I'm going to be doing something a little special. My roommate's nephew has a little girl with a peanut allergy. In fact, I think it's nuts in general. I'm not sure how severe it is in terms of triggering it, but given that the reaction is severe enough to warrant the use of an epipen, the matter's academic. You don't take chances, is the point. 

When my roommate was babysitting her once, she mentioned their having soynut butter in the house. I'd always seen jars of the stuff when I go grocery shopping, and I decided to pick a jar up to see what it was like. For starters, it' kind of ridiculous how expensive this stuff is. Then again, when I get peanut butter, I tend to go for the pricey stuff anyways, quality vs. quantity and all that. As for the soynut butter, I had it with some apples, and it was really good, very distinct, but ultimately as satisfying as peanut butter. 

I thought back on my little venture a few days ago when making some sugar cookies. I'd made peanut butter cookies a few times before, and it hardly seemed unreasonable to substitute the key ingredient. So, the little sweetheart is going to be getting soynut butter cookies as a present: 

I'm not sure how well this will work out, but it's a chance I'm more than willing to take. It should be fine. The only thing hiccup in the plan thus far is that, as cookies go, the flavor may be a bit bland. That's because of a rather startling revelation I got today when getting ingredients. As far as I know, there's only one brand of soynut butter, so that was the easy part. I had coupons for Market Pantry flour and sugar, so there was that choice. Finally, I went to get some white chocolate morsels. I figured that since the flour and sugar were a bit on the cheap side (they don't really need to be otherwise), I'd make up for it by pulling out all the stops when it came to the chips. I found a bag of Ghiardelli "gourmet" morsels and thought, "Aw, Hell yeah!" 

Then I read the back of the bag. 

Peanut/Tree nut warning. 

Okay, peanuts, chocolate, two great tastes that taste great--yeah, true, but that doesn't mean they're joined at the damned hip. After standing dumbfounded in the aisle for what felt like an hour, I thought, "Well, it's Ghiardelli, they're probably using exotic ingredients and/or are too niche to care about nut allergies." I figured I'd have better luck with Toll House; they're more well-known and would probably be the most concerned with something like that. 

Another nut warning. 

Granted, this was a little less ambiguous than the one for Ghiardelli by specifying that these morsels were made on equipment used to process peanuts, but almost anyone with a nut allergy will tell you that's a hair barely worth splitting. Feeling very defeated, I put the Toll House morsels back, rummaged through a few other varieties like milk chocolate or mint to no avail, and finally picked up a generic-branded bag of white chocolate morsels. 

There was no nut warning. 

At first, I think, "Score!" but let's put this in perspective. Ghiardelli and Toll House apparently cannot make any sort of chocolate chip without getting peanuts into the mix somehow, so what are these store brands doing different? Also, if you know anything about how branding works, the only difference between a big name and a no name is often quality control. What doesn't make the cut for the big guys is savings for the little guys to pass on to the less discerning customer. In other words, even if they don't come from the same place (another common occurrence in branding), you still get what you pay for, and if paying more can't even afford the peace of mind that a little girl's throat will not close up from eating your product, again, it's not a risk worth taking. Maybe I'm missing something, maybe I'm overthinking this, but should it really be this hard to keep the damn nuts out of our other food products? 

In any case, I just hope they turn out well, and that she ends up liking them. 
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