The Priceless Gift of Safety

Today’s post is part of a Little Pickle Press eco-wise, blog-based book tour for What Does It Mean to Be Safe?  by Rana DiOrio. Details on the book are at the end of the post.

Piping HOT fresh-baked artisanal baguettes in Paris, France. These were within easy reach of passers-by, including children. Can you imagine this in America, land of the lawsuits?


It’s at the heart of so many discussions when one first becomes a parent.

Yet when you move past the basic childhood safety devices—car seat restraints, minimizing access to items that will lead to choking, a dizzying array of kid-proof drawer and door locks—one gradually comes to realize that the definition of “safety” is somewhat relative.

Yes, while one parent may cringe quietly at the noise coming from two rowdy small boys tussling in the living room like puppies, another may be convinced that a trip to the emergency is inevitable and rush to stop the kids. Of course whether you think that roughhousing “builds character” or is a fast-track to teenage delinquency depends a lot on your own personal experience and culture.

Now if you remove yourself from your own culture, your own language, and your own comfort zone, then the definition of safety becomes even more slippery. And what do you do when you have an extenuating circumstance, a personal health obstacle like a food allergy, that renders otherwise harmless situations potentially dangerous?

We encountered this situation first hand when we traveled abroad last spring. Eager to show our child more of the world, we arranged to fly to Paris, travel via train to England, and fly home from London.  Our son, like so many children of his generation, is allergic to peanuts. We naively figured that in Europe and England, where governmental agencies are more aggressive about product labeling to protect food allergic citizens, we’d have less to worry about with regard to peanuts.

We were wrong.

You see in Europe lupin flour is increasingly used in mass-market products such as pasta and bread dough. Unfortunately, people with peanut allergies also appear to be allergic to lupin (both are legumes) and exposure can result in anaphylaxis or potentially even death. (Note that lupin flour is increasingly making its way stateside in gluten-free products.)

Thanks to some pre-trip sleuthing on our part, we came up with a game plan to protect our son’s well-being on our vacation. We arranged to carry an extra Epi-Pen. We learned every French word related to peanuts, legumes, lupin, and nuts.  Ultimately, we decided to stay in a modestly priced apartment in Paris so we could prepare most of our own food.

This last decision ended up being a hidden gift wrapped up in our worries. In taking responsibility for our own food choices, we spent more time daily shopping for our bread, fruits, meats, and other items. Consequently, we learned more vocabulary words and came away with a better appreciation of what it means to live as Parisians.

There’s a larger truth revealed here, one much greater than “We played it safe on our vacation and avoided an allergic reaction.” By intentionally putting safety first we didn’t narrow our experience of Paris, we expanded it. Moreover, on the trip we were reminded that cultivating safety is as much about nurturing well-being as is eating right and getting enough sleep.

Which really makes me wonder why we parents don’t openly talk about it as such.

Along those lines,  I can recommend to you an excellent children’s book on the topic of safety that will help you open the door to thoughtful, intelligent, and loving discussions about it.

An illustration from Rana DiOrio's marvelous book on safety. (Click on the image to see it in all its glory.) Image copyright Little Pickle Press. Used with permission.

The book is published by Little Pickle Press, written by LPP founder Rana DiOrio and is titled What Does It Mean to Be Safe?. Sandra Salsbury’s illustrations are warm, colorful, and engaging. The text is direct (“Being safe means… not tolerating bullying… not revealing information from yourself to strangers…”) and therefore easy for parents to riff on the themes at story time.  In short, it’s a winner.

As mentioned above, today’s post was written as part of LPP’s blog book tour. If you’re interested in purchasing the book from LPP, note that there is a free shipping code (BBTSAFE) that you can use at checkout. If you do use it, be sure to add a Safe poster to your book order, and you’ll also receive it free. It’s printed on TerraSkin, a tree-free paper.

Thanks so much for your visit today. You’re invited to subscribe to the feed and to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Wow, talk about turning a safety challenge into a great adventure! I had no idea about the lupine bean issue either. Learn something new every day.

  2. Like, Dani, I had no idea that some flour contains lupin. So glad that I am past the point of having to worry about food allergies with my kids. They are now old enough to manage their own. I have noticed that most of them are gluten intolerant, which is a holdover from severe childhood allergies that had them on restricted diets.

  3. Thanks for the notes, ladies. A curious footnote: This being Central Texas, my backyard is full of bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) in the spring. Yes, a lupin family member. (In the EU, it’s “lupin” and stateside it’s “lupine.”)

  4. I think the increase in gluten intolerance is directly related to GM wheat. Just my pompous opinion, but I bet time and research eventually proves a connection. Other food allergies, too, I believe are related to 1. GMOs and 2. factory production methods.

    • With regard to peanuts, those are both plausible reasons. Something certainly has changed.

      What many people fail to realize about peanuts–and I confess that I didn’t understand fully until I had a peanut-allergic family member, is that an allergic reaction can worsen over time or suddenly in one person. So, you can have a mild reaction once and a severe one the next time.

      Within the last couple of years there have been a handful of cases nationwide where children (at least one in a school setting) have died from “accidental” consumption of nuts or from food prepared in pots and pans with peanut residue in them. Reportedly there have been cases where friends and family members have decided to “test” whether a child really is allergic to peanuts. I can’t fathom that someone would ever lock a bee-allergic child in a room with bees to confirm what a parent has identified as a risk. But people do it–which only adds to parental anxiety about whom can be trusted.

      I think these facts are important ones and ones lost on other parents who think we parents of peanut-allergic kids are all helicopter, hand-wringing types who obsess too much. To them, I’m inclined to say, “Look, I don’t want my child to perish from something as seemingly harmless as a peanut. And I also don’t want your child to have to watch it happen.”

  5. This is very valuable information that connects to Rana DiOrio’s book; What Does It Mean To Be Safe? and the most important message of the book (to me)…realizing that you are the single best person to protect your precious self.

    I learned years ago while working for an allergist that many cosmetics contain dairy and wheat. Read labels and ask questions, stay safe!

    Great post!

  6. Traveling to Europe is a dream of mine, but it’s definitely frightening to consider, as a food allergy parent. Thanks for sharing your experience. We’re headed to Disney in the spring, where they’re known for being tip-top on handling food allergies. I look forward to the first vacation in a decade where I will not be cooking at least once per day. I don’t mind it–I like cooking–but it will be nice for once to have a break from that & be out of town.

    Coincidentally, although I almost never blog about food allergies anymore, I posted an old video of how to use the Epi-pen today. The post is a totally different topic, and I used it simply as an example of a how-to vid. Maybe it can assist someone reading this, though, so I’ll link to it in my comment “name.”

    • Thanks for your note, Leslea. I actually linked to an Epi-pen video in the post and share it periodically via social media.

      Sorry that the spam filter caught your note. Akismet has helped keep almost 19,000 spam comments off my site, but it does occasionally go overboard.

  7. When it comes to allergies, one can never be too vigilant. I have a life long allergy to corn, and it is in everything, in many forms that are not recognizable as such. Be as much of a hovering parent as you need to be, as the allergies and effects of ingesting certain foods can have dire results. And the importance of keeping your child safe cannot be overstated.

    I love the fact that the allergy actually enriched your experience as opposed to diminishing it, and you’ve chosen to embrace that.

  8. Lupines, eh? I have a lot of blue lupines in my flower beds. Can I harvest these and grind them down into flour? No peanut allergies here…

  9. Pamela,
    Thank you for sharing your “good” outcome from something that had the potential to be….not so good….I fully believe that immersing in a culture by living, shopping, conversing and exploring as one really gives you a true sense of the place you are discovering.
    Thank you for the wonderful support of the book, too…..

  10. The quote from the blog “intentionally putting safety first we didn’t narrow our experience of Paris, we expanded it.” When ever I take responsibility to put safety first, my world experience expands and harmony is embedded. There is a natural rhythm that results in life when I take care of myself and those I love. The practice of safety helps harmony and love expand any experience, making life more rich. Thank you for sharing your story!

  11. My aunt (who was more my parents’ generation than your son’s) died young of a peanut allergy. I learned as a teen how important is was to check product labels and ask about hidden ingredients. What I didn’t know was that some people are SO sensitive, apparently, that even inhaling the aroma can trigger an adverse reaction. I’m surprised that any airlines still carry peanuts on board, but have noticed that many no longer do.

  12. I am sorry for your loss, Holly. That’s terrible. And what a horrible way to die.

    Some airlines don’t supply packages–or will at least refrain from so doing if you alert them to your kid’s allergy, but peanuts and other nuts make their way on board in all kinds of ways–trail mix, peanut butter sandwiches, Chinese food. At a recent college sports game, someone dropped a container of peanuts on the ground near us. We can warn our kid now. If he’d have been younger and more prone to roaming around getting into things, we’d have probably left.

    It’s a constant vigil. Even at birthday parties, we have to have an abundance of caution. Many bakeries fail to keep sufficiently clean kitchens. Even cake mixes baked at home can be dangerous since some machines carry peanuts at the factory. Recently at a neighbor child’s birthday, the mother pulled me aside to say that she made certain that the cake and frosting were 100% peanut free. I could have kissed her. It was the first time in a long time that we didn’t abstain from the birthday cupcakes.

    • Thank you – it’s been many, many years, but it was so unnecessary. Back then, in the 1970s, people were not at all aware of peanut allergy (I don’t know if it was rarer, or simply not as well understood); they weren’t terribly sympathetic or concerned, because few had even heard of someone DYING over a peanut. But back then (probably now, too), you’d find peanut oil in strange places – most chips, some types of sauces – the stuff was insidious. As you say, it can creep in on stuff just because the factory processes peanuts. For my aunt, it was an allergy that worsened over time.

      My son wouldn’t eat anything but peanut butter sandwiches in daycare. I had to be very careful – if anyone there had a peanut allergy, my son would have to go without eating all day. 🙂 I’d rather that, than have him kill another child with sticky peanut-butter fingers. He could learn to eat something else; he wouldn’t starve, in any case. Fortunately for him, most of the time, there were no other kids in the center with peanut allergies. But I still hear adults being a bit flippant about the whole thing, as if it’s YOUR son who’s got a problem, so it’s entirely up to YOU to deal with it. Teaching him to be careful, and making sure that HE always has an Epi-pen and knows how to use it, is your best bet.

      • I think if people associate dying with peanuts, it’s in relation to choking. And, as with your aunt, they can become worse over time. Some kids do grow out of it, but we probably won’t.

        I empathize with parents trying to find a cheap, affordable, nutritious meal. Peanut butter sandwiches have served a lot of folks well in their childhood years. FWIW, Sunbutter–made of sunflower seeds–is a decent substitute, if somewhat of an acquired taste. My son ate it so much, though, that he burned out on it.

  13. The spectrum of safety is broad. Thanks so much for your perspective on food allergies, Pam. I love that in being safe you expanded your horizons and enriched your experience. It underscores the point that self-imposed boundaries are not always restrictive and limiting. Thanks also for being such a gracious host(ess). ~ Rana DiOrio

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