February 2nd, 2000

Peanut Butter & Jam

by Warren Wilansky • in Food & Drink

eating sandwiches

I’m an adult. I do adult things. I go to work. I’m allowed to vote. I’m of legal age to drink. I’ve lost my virginity.

And I still eat peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Often.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I was talking with a friend of mine about comfort food. You know, when you’re in a bad mood or feel sad, and all of a sudden you get this insatiable urge to eat something very specific? It’s almost as if, if you don’t get that food, you’ll never feel better, you’ll never get out of your mood. For her, mushroom soup. For me, peanut butter and jam sandwiches. And it got me to thinking, why? It may be kinda Freudian, but I blame my mother.

See, my friend grew up in an IKEA-groomed, healthy kinda home. I, on the other hand, grew up with a hamburger in one hand and some candy in the other. My daily staples were meat, potatoes, Kraft Dinner, and peanut butter and jam. So I theorize that comfort food, and, in my particular case, the least healthy kind, has much to do with association — specifically, association with what were good times where you were young. And today, I have a constant hankering for that “secret sauce“.

As a result I see myself as a bit of an expert on the “PB&J” sandwich. A connoisseur, I might say.

I believe there is only one way to eat PB&J. The goal is to create the perfect sandwich. The kind of sandwich from which, as soon as the peanut butter is about to stick to the roof of your mouth, the jam slides in and eases it out of those bumpy crevasses. The kind of food that will never make pretty party sandwiches.

Let me tell you my little recipe.

  1. Squishy White Bread. Only. Forget whole wheat. Forget baguettes. Forget bagels. Forget 36-grain bread. The only way to go is supermarket, in-the-plastic-bag-with-the-little-blue-doohickey-at-the-end, bread. And, always, always, squeeze the Charmin. If it’s not so fresh that you can put finger prints in the crust, don’t buy it.Why the obsession? Because the whole PB&J experience is about it melting in your mouth. It’s about barely having to chew. It’s about ripping at a piece of bread with all this goo on it. And if the bread isn’t gooey too, the experience is shot.
  2. Plain, Kraft or Skippy peanut butter. Again none of the fancy stuff. No chunks. No gourmet fancy homemade stuff. The more processed, the better. You want the kind of peanut butter that stays smooth and creamy no matter what… no layer of oil at the top when it’s been sitting around for a while.. Oh, and a word to the wise, because I’ve seen people do this: peanut butter doesn’t go in the fridge. Ever. It loses its spreadable charm
  3. Jam. Here’s where we can get creative and not, all at the same time. Go out and buy without a doubt the most expensive, fruit filled jar of whatever you want. Although any kind will do, the whole idea here is to create the kind of sandwich that has surprises. The kind of sandwich that will, half way through give you that little smile of, “I just got a prize. I got a chunk of fruit.” So why the more expensive kinds? More fruit.

Which leads us to the fruity no-no’s. One, obviously by this standard: no jelly… ever. It’s not as rich. It’s not as sugary. And dammit, it’s never going to have chunks. Second, you can only use strawberry jam. I’m a purist, who has tried others. No other jam delivers the sugary punch of a good jar of strawberry jam. Nothing. All the others have something tart about them. And tart is for sour candies.

Ahhh…my youth beckons. So does the ’70s biased version of this sandwich. I’m getting hungry. Time to make myself something to eat. Can you guess what it’s going to be?

Peanut butter and jam sandwiches.
1 white bread : $0.99-1.69 CND
1 Kraft smooth peanut butter 500g $2.69 CND
1 Kraft Pure Strawberry Jam 250ml $2.59 CND
makes roughly 5-7 sandwiches, with much condiments left over for the next loaf.


Elysa Monk-Bégin said:

You are sooooooooo funny!!!! I miss you lots!


April 25th, 2007 at 7:25 am

Auntie said:

You are nuts but I read it and laughed and went to make a PBJ sandwich thanks to you. My mouth was watering

May 7th, 2009 at 9:05 am

Jennifer said:

Camp food!

December 22nd, 2009 at 7:45 pm

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