The Kitchen Think: Teaching Tolerance in a Nutty World


I wondered when it would happen. I just knew there would come a point when some parents would get tired of catering to the needs of a few children and say “no more.”

In Edgewater, Florida, a group of parents want a first grader kicked out of a public school because her severe peanut allergy requires too many special accommodations that they think are both disruptive and a distraction in the classroom. The 6-year-old girl’s allergy is so severe it is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. To protect the child, students must wash their hands before entering the classroom, rinse out their mouths after lunch and cannot bring food into the classroom. A peanut-sniffing dog has even roamed the halls of the school.

I understand the mindset of the protesting parents—asking 24 students not to pack Reese’s Pieces in their lunches because one child could stop breathing if the nutty aroma reaches her seems, well, nuts. I can assure you…it’s not.

I know it’s crazy to ask these things of other parents because one of my daughters has had a life-long allergy to peanuts and I’ve been asking similar things of other parents for years. Before she could watch out for herself, I had to make sure that she sat at the segregated “peanut free” table in the school cafeteria and didn’t eat any of the treats parents brought in for special occasions like birthdays (even if the item was nut free). As a family, we’ve never been able to eat in any sort of Asian restaurant. As a chef, I’ve never been able to cook with peanut oil… one of the best and most flavorful oils you can use to deep fry.

But you know what? That’s life.

Somehow accommodating the (extra) special needs of one student teaches all of the kids about acceptance and tolerance. When I was growing up, there were no children with Down’s syndrome or physical disabilities in the schools I attended. Not that there weren’t any in the school district… they were just part of special-ed classes, and didn’t interact with the “normal” kids.

But all that has since changed and I believe the children, and all of us, are better for it.

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I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: