I read a story once about a daughter helping her mom prepare a ham for Easter dinner. The mom instructed her to slice off about two inches on each end of the ham. The daughter asked why and with a puzzled look, the mom said she didn't really know, that was just the way her mother taught her to do it. When Grandma came for Easter lunch they asked her why the ends of the ham have to be cut off...more flavor? is that part of the ham not good to eat?....Grandma, chuckling I'm sure, said...."we had to cut off the ends of the ham so it would fit in my only baking pan...."
Without any thought today I prepared a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It suddenly struck me as odd, because for the first time in a long time while preparing such a sandwich for Emily, I didn't say out loud to myself...."okay, put the knife in the jelly first..." I just did it...didn't think about why, I just did it.
I have taught everyone else in our house to do the same. The reason we spread the jelly first is very important...if we contaminate the jelly with peanut butter...Nate, my two year old son who loves toast and jelly, could die. He is severely allergic to peanuts and eggs. I have spent over a year now, training myself and others eccentricly neurotic appearing procedures to ensure we keep him safe from coming into contact with peanuts or eggs. He doesn't eat from others' plates...he doesn't eat anything in which ingredients are unknown or may have manufacturing processes that could be contaminated...he never has store bought or homemade birthday cake, cupcakes or cookies at events...he doesn't eat pasta or any snack that is not a known safe brand name or that the label has not been at some point meticulously analyzed... we check with waitresses often, recipes and ingredient lists change...we think about what we've just eaten before we share a drink with him...or kiss him or even touch him.
But in that moment of realizing that my habit had become just that...it was now deeply seated in my subconscious..I was reminded of the ham story...and I wondered if a generation or two from now, my descendants will be making PB&J sandwiches, always putting the knife into the jelly first and on some level wondering why am I doing it this way...not having any better answer than this is just the way you're supposed to do it.
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