Breaking My Peanut Butter Aversion

Peanut Butter

One might have called it a borderline phobia. I called it a strong aversion. Peanut butter and I were not friends. I could not even stand the smell of it, which prompted an automatic gag reflex. For as long as I can remember, the mere whiff of peanut butter would send me retching, gagging and running for “clean air space” away from the smell. There have been traumatizing moments in my life that I can distinctly recall my aversion to peanut butter interfering with my life:

  • In elementary school, I can clearly remember lunch period with trepidation as I would wait to unpack my sack until I saw what everyone within my smelling radius had for lunch. If a peanut butter and jelly sandwich invaded my personal nose space, then I would move elsewhere.
  • If we were doing a craft in class involving peanut butter like making bird feeders with peanut butter and pine cones, then I would sit outside in the hall.
  • At summer camp, there was an option at meals called a “CJL Special” which was a piece of white bread, slathered in peanut butter, sprinkled with sugar and then drizzled with fresh lemon juice [It still does not sound appealing]. The ingredients were always on the table so if you didn’t like what was being served that day, you could eat that. At the end of the meal, cleaning duties were randomly assigned Wheel of Fortune-style. I made careful note of whether or not anyone at my table had a CJL special and if I ended up with washing dishes, I would bargain away all my candy or whatever I had to switch to something else that would not require me to go near the dishes.
  • When I was working as a baker at a local coffee shop while putting myself back through school to become an RD, I had to make peanut butter cookie batter every few weeks. I did it as fast as possible while holding my breath and my eyes averted  mentally blocking the task at hand.

You get the picture. I. DID. NOT. LIKE. PEANUT BUTTER. To my knowledge I have never eaten peanut butter until recently. I didn’t even eat peanuts until about 10 years ago. I’ve asked my parents why I have such a strong and physical reaction to peanut butter. They are stumped, but they think I might have gotten sick after eating it when I was very young with a babysitter. I think that was Chef Boyardee ravioli, which I also remember in very negative terms and why I wouldn’t eat any kind of ravioli for many years either [still have never eaten Chef Boyardee since but no need to overcome that!].

When I became a mom, I used to joke that my child would have to get peanut butter from others as it wasn’t something I was going to buy. After a while though I realized that my strong aversion to peanut butter, which can be a healthy food, not to mention convenient, was a disservice to my son. So one day, I actually bought some peanut butter while visiting Trader Joe’s. I don’t remember how long it actually took me to try it, but probably a few weeks.

Peanut Butter Smeared on Apple

My aversion to peanut butter was largely mental. By taking the first step of buying the peanut butter and telling myself I was going to learn to like it, I was halfway there. I actually do like peanuts now, so it helped that I chose a good natural peanut butter without any other ingredients other than peanuts [the way it should be]. I started out slowly, with just the smallest smear on the corner of a graham cracker. Next I tried a little bit on an apple. Slowly I added more peanut butter each time I tried it. Eventually I tried a thin layer on a piece of my Cinnamon Raisin Sunflower Bread. This entire process took months, by the way. I’m sure I could have done it faster if I had wanted to, but I wanted to slowly desensitize myself as my aversion was so deeply ingrained in my psyche. I had always avoided other nut butters as well.

I have been eating peanut butter for about a year and a half now. Those that know me well are shocked that I can now not only smell, but eat peanut butter. I will say it is still a little touch and go at times as I’m quite particular about how I eat peanut butter. I have only ever eaten one brand of peanut butter – the thought of trying another doesn’t really appeal to me. I’ve still never had a Reese’s peanut butter cup or even tried peanut butter with chocolate, which everyone tells me is the best way to enjoy it. I’ve only had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich once. So while I probably still have a ways to go, I do eat it from time to time and actually enjoy its roasted nuttiness goodness. But most importantly, I won’t unfairly influence my children’s taste buds now when it comes to peanut butter.

Do you have any food aversions?