There is great irony in growing up. And by great, I mean sizeable, not good. Take, for just one example, the problem of breakfast.


Cookies and Lawsuits for Breakfast

There is great irony in growing up. And by great, I mean sizeable, not good. Take, for just one example, the problem of breakfast.

When you are young, you are taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and therefore 1.) needs to be eaten, and 2.) needs to be healthy. As a kid, you neither believe this nor particularly care about it, and long for the day when you can eat anything you want (say, pie) for breakfast . . . if you eat breakfast at all.

But when you finally reach adulthood, and have nobody to tell you that you must eat breakfast or that it must be healthy, you arrive at a sort of elaborate problem, the framework for which has been carefully constructed over the course of 20+ years and can't just be dismantled. As an adult, you've arrived at the reluctant (if skeptical) conclusion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that as such, it should be eaten and should probably be healthy. And all your childhood dreams of guiltlessly eating sweets for breakfast are dashed to smithereens. Cruelty.

My personal solution for this is almond butter. Almond butter can be purchased in multiple forms from practically anywhere you can buy peanut butter now, but if you want the best-tasting stuff, you need to get it fresh-ground. And if you happen to be into Googling your food (yeah, I do that), you'll discover that fresh-ground almonds have become a controversial topic in recent years, making for a fabulous morning read.

I grew up eating fresh-ground peanut butter. I never even knew peanut butter came in a "creamy" option until I was a teen, because my mom always purchased ours from the health food store. Then she mixed it with local honey and put it on crackers for lunch. It was like eating candy for lunch. So much tastier than all the other kids' boring PB&J's. And such a disappointment when, at the age of 15, my first recognized food allergy showed up and was: peanuts. Not a severe allergy. There was no hospitalization, but if I wanted to walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath, it was no more peanut butter for me.

Fortunately, before too long, the place we shopped at was carrying a fresh-ground almond butter option as well, and the nut-butter-and-honey favorite was back in my life.

Interestingly enough, in researching the nutritional value of almond butter this week, I came across a lawsuit of which I was previously unaware. It turns out, the USDA ruled in 2008 that almonds grown in the U.S. must be pasteurized, either chemically or by exposure to high heats, in an effort to eliminate any potential of salmonella after an outbreak was tenuously linked to some contaminated nuts in 2004. Therefore, any truly raw almond products you can currently find (even in "local" markets) are actually imported from out of the country. And if your almond butter doesn't specify that it was heat-treated in some way, there's a reasonable chance it may have been fumigated.

Locally grown almonds labeled as "raw" are likely to be chemically pasteurized. For those of us whose bodies really enjoy being picky and freaking out over previously innocuous foods, this poses a significant concern. Both in terms of health and of health diagnostics, since it can be very difficult to discern (once ill) whether it is a specific food you're reacting to, or a particular treatment of that food.

Since 2008, there has been an uphill lawsuit by American almond farmers against the USDA regarding this ruling. The most recent updates state that, last August, a Federal Appeals Court overruled a lower court's ruling that the farmers had no case, and so the suit may continue. I like this for many reasons, not the least of which is that my breakfast this morning makes me feel like I am part of a TV miniseries in the "legal drama" genre.

Returning to the subject of breakfast, I did successfully marry my youthful longing for junk food with my adult belief that health food is better for me, by making almond butter cookies (take a reliable peanut butter cookie recipe, cut back the sugar, and sub almond butter). I am deeply convinced that things like "cookies for breakfast" is one of the highlights that makes growing up actually worth the trouble. And, having managed to skirt the mandatory "grown up" guilt by making cookies that are pretending to be healthy, I am now studiously ignoring the fact that I don't know whether the label on the almond bin detailed how they were processed, choosing to believe that ignorance will save me if these almonds weren't just roasted.

But I now know to look for next time, and I have an epic tale to follow regarding my food. No back of a Raisin Bran box can beat that!

To read more about the almond controversy or follow its development, check out the Cornucopia Institute's "Authentic Almond Project."

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