Writer Eats Words on Allergies

in Food Allergy, Peanut & Tree Nut
Published: September 1, 2010

The humor writer who scoffed at food allergies as “a yuppie invention” has learned the hard way just how real they are.

But let’s remind you first of the scorn Joel Stein heaped on parents of allergic children in a column in the Los Angeles Times.

“Your kid doesn’t have an allergy to nuts. Your kid has a parent who needs to feel special,” he ranted. “Your kid also spends recess running and screaming, ‘No! Stop! Don’t rub my head with peanut butter!’ ”

Well, Stein is now eating those words. In a column in the August 9, 2010 issue of Time magazine, the writer fessed up to a change of heart – after his own toddler had an anaphylactic reaction to mixed nuts.

“The column was not the first thing that came to mind after my 1-year-old son Laszlo started sneezing, then breaking out in hives, then rubbing his eyes, then crying through welded-shut eyes, then screaming and, finally, vomiting copiously at the entrance of the Childrens Hospital emergency room.”

He discusses how a blood test shows his child is very allergic to pistachios and cashews, and reasonably allergic to other nuts and seeds. The writer also describes his son as “totally pissed at his father,” as if the youngster falls into the same category as the parents who wrote Stein angry e-mails following the “yuppie invention” column.

Stein, whose column is now on Time’s site, meets with a friend whose child has food allergies. While the yuppie column left her upset, she’s truly sorry to hear of Stein’s son’s reaction. He “is not the one I wanted to get a food allergy,” she deadpans. We share both her sentiments.

The humor writer concludes that: “The more I understand of other people’s difficulties, the less funny they are.” And that we’re glad to hear. – Gwen Smith, Claire Gagné

See also, Allergic Living’s Analysis of Allergy Backlash in the Media.