My father and stepmother follow the raw diet religiously, so their kitchen is one tree-nut factory: nut milks, sweet nut balls, nutmeats and nut salads. They are nurtz for nuts. For this allergic girl, their kitchen is a potential minefield. When I visit their home, I do my best to further minimize risk by bringing my own food, keeping it segregated in the fridge, and generally washing and rewashing a lot of dishes and hands.
Of late, dad has been buying this organic raw honey. It’s crystallized, spreadable and beyond delicious. He buys it in bulk, in a carton of six big tubs and offered me some. This past Father’s Day weekend, I brought a quart jar to fill up with honey. (Always fun to “shop” at the parents’ house.)
On the counter top (next to lots of open packages of tree-nuts) there was an open tub with deep groves left by the bowl of the spoon scooping out luscious portions of honey for their morning green tea consumption.
I took out a fresh tub from the carton in the pantry and asked if I could open it to take a portion from there.
“Sure”, my dad said. “But why not use the open one?”
“Because you put your used spoons in there.”
“Yes, but just spoons for tea.”
“But what if you ate some nuts and then used a nutty spoon to dip into the tub?”
“But we don’t do that.”
“Never? Ever? You’re saying you never ate some nuts using a spoon and then used that nutty spoon and dipped it into the tub?”
It was an irrational question, I know, and not really probable but it was my deepest fear. I was thinking of the few occasions when he absentmindedly has offered to cut me some watermelon after popping a few Brazil nuts in his mouth without washing his hands. Not neglect per se, just not focusing.
“I don’t think we’ve ever done that”, he said. Then the T bomb: “Don’t you trust me?” He was teasing with a grain of truth.
“No,” I smiled. “Not with this. As it’s all the same to you I’m going to open the new honey and take some with a clean spoon.”
"OK," he said.
I did and it was delish.
But my dad’s question has lingered. Did I go a step too far in saying, “I don’t trust you with this”? Or was that a legitimate precaution? Especially given the lack of hand washing history and/or all the tree-nuts everywhere? At what point does risk management become global distrust? Can a person with food allergies ever let their guard down? Even with loved ones?
Big questions, I know.
I wonder readers: what would you have done? Would you have taken the honey from the already open but potentially contaminated container? Or would you have held your ground for a new fresh container? Is there a third option you can envision?