At the recent Emmy Awards, host Jimmy Kimmel handed out peanut butter sandwiches to the hundreds of celebrities sitting in the audience. Or rather, the cast of a Netflix show called “Stranger Things” cycled up and down the aisles of the Microsoft Theater, tossing paper bags filled with sandwiches to the crowd.
As he handed out a few bags himself, Kimmel joked that yes, in fact, the sandwiches did contain peanuts and that the bread was full of gluten, and advised the stars that the producers could only afford one Epipen (this in reference to the skyrocketing price of the emergency auto-injection device used for anaphylactic shock and allergic reactions), so they should be careful if they had any allergies.
The gimmick, of course, was that the celebrities in attendance were most likely hungry. After a day (or more) of preparing for the awards show, and with several hours to go before the after parties began, the joke was that the beautiful people needed a little snack to tide themselves over until they could eat. Aside from the fact that this joke is getting a bit old (it seems that every American award show for the last two plus years has done some variation on the “feed-em-they-must-be-hungry” routine), what could be the problem?
After the show was done, however, the complaints began. People moaning and commenting about the handing out of peanut butter and (gasp!) regular bread. What if someone had a peanut allergy? What if someone was celiac? Or gluten intolerant? You can’t just do that!
As far as could be seen on the television screen, the vast majority of the audience were adults. Adults who most likely know if they are allergic to peanuts, gluten or any other of the hundreds of known allergens. Why on earth is it important for someone sitting at home and watching others eat to complain about it?
This is an on-going issue in schools across North America, and in some ways, it is understandable. After all, no one wants to be responsible for the anaphylactic death of a small child, and so parents are instructed to make school lunches and snacks peanut and nut free, to keep someone else’s child safe.
But these were not small children who were given peanut butter sandwiches. These were, are, grown-ups who are supposedly able to care for themselves on a day-to-day basis. If they weren’t able to eat the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, wouldn’t they have passed them on to the person sitting next to them?
Somewhere along the line, certain people have decided that there must be food police watching over everyone every minute of the day. (Do these same complainers go into local restaurants to make sure the food has been prepared according to their ideals?) There are advocacy groups against dairy, salt, sugar, fat, peanuts, nuts, wheat, sulphites (wine) –the list seems to grow every day. And proponents of these groups want the rest of society to bend to their needs and desires.
As a person with celiac disease (that means I would not have been able to eat the food in question, even if I were an A-list celebrity), I don’t expect others to look after my health; that is my job. The world doesn’t have to change for me and my dietary needs, I adapt to it.
Instead of insisting that the producers of the Emmys show were negligent in the distribution of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, maybe those complaining should have just enjoyed the joke along with the rest of us of who, though we might have lost our tolerance for nuts or gluten, have not yet lost our sense of humour and can still laugh at the little things in life.
Barbara Lilley is a writer and mother of four living in Ottawa, Canada.