It may shock you to hear that there are many things I find morally abhorrent. I know. I know. I threw you a curve ball there. Get off the floor and keep reading. Very high on the list of those things I find morally abhorrent is when “they” invent a new delicacy by molesting a classic. (See my Sweet and Sour post of April 2008.)
Sadly, this happens all too often nowadays. But one of the few things that has managed to remain pure and good in this world is the peanut butter and jelly sandwich (assuming you do not suffer from a lethal peanut allergy). This is something I have loved and enjoyed several times a week for at least the last 30 years. It’s got protein, it’s got fruit (kind of), it’s got saltiness, it’s got sweetness. It can be ingested at all standard meal times and any time in between. It tastes the same as it did in 1977. The ingredients are still made by the same companies. Its creation requires no special planning and no culinary skill. You simply ask yourself a few vital questions and you’re good to go. White or wheat? Skippy (if you’re an Annette Funicello fan), Jiff (if you’re a choosy mom), or Peter Pan (if you like salmonella)? Strawberry (if you’re weird) or grape? Desired ratio of PB to J per bite? Triangle or rectangle halves? Oh and hey, fat America, if you’re too lazy to get up from the couch and prepare your own during “So You Think You Can Dance,” you can still enjoy it. Smuckers sells frozen, pre-made PB & J sandwiches with the crusts already cut off. Pathetic? Yes. Brilliant, albeit freakishly round? Also yes. (Side note – I am very proud of the fact that I figured out how to add a poll to this post. Please take it when you’re done reading!)
In other words, it ain’t broke, so don’t fix it.
Now, Keith is a man of few issues. He doesn’t keep track of when he last barfed and he doesn’t stop wearing certain shirts or ties because he associates them with a really bad day at work. He doesn’t lie awake at night having theoretical arguments in his head and it doesn’t offend his sensibilities when plain nougat is replaced with mint nougat or almonds appear where previously there were peanuts. So it makes sense that he would feel comfortable experimenting with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The other night, we both came home late from work and had an unsatisfying dinner of soup (don’t feel bad – it was posh gazpacho from the upscale market Citarella). Keith decided he was going to supplement the meal with peanut butter and jelly. I sat at the table picking my cuticles while he prepared said item in the kitchen. It occurred to me that it was taking him a long time, but he’s conscientious, so I assumed he was just spreading the ingredients in a loving manner. Finally though, I started to hear the sound of a knife against a cutting board. That didn’t add up, so I went to see what was going on.
“We didn’t have any jelly, so I’m making a peanut butter and banana sandwich,” Keith informed me as he applied the top slice of bread (wheat, in case you care).
A tidal wave of guilt and self-loathing came over me. Did we really not have jelly?! I was sure we’d had it a few nights earlier … What kind of person didn’t even keep JELLY in the refrigerator?!
Frick on a high-fructose corn stick.
I should be arrested or at the very least reported to Social Services. I should change my name to Neglecty McNeglecterstein.
It turns out though, that we did have jelly. I pulled it off the refrigerator shelf and held it up to Keith (and myself) as proof.
Big fat PHEW.
At this point, I, of course, might have taken my peanut butter and banana sandwich out of the kitchen and eaten it with a hint of disappointment, thinking to myself that jelly just wasn’t in the cards for me that night. I might have surgically removed the bananas and applied jelly in their stead. I might even have stashed that sandwich in the refrigerator and made a second one with jelly. I would never, in a million years, have considered doing what Keith did.
He looked at the jelly in my hand. He looked at his peanut butter and banana sandwich, newly cut in half. He looked back at the jelly. And before I could say, “Care for a frosty glass of milk from cows not treated with RBST?” he was squeezing a thick line of jelly … onto the TOP of each sandwich half.
I was SPEECHLESS. Peanut butter and jelly, GREAT. Peanut butter and banana, GREAT. Peanut butter AND banana AND jelly … ?! On TOP of the bread, rather than within it, no less?! It can’t be done! It breaks the laws of nature! It’s just wrong!
But Keith didn’t seem to think so. I stared at him as he enjoyed his creation.
“Is it good?! I mean, is it okay with the … [shudder] … jelly [shudder] …AND the [shudder]… banana?” I asked him.
And again, I would have replied with something along the lines of, “It’s totally gross and I’ll probably puke, but I’ll eat it and then worry about it for a few hours.”
But Keith replied, “Of course. Why not? They’re all friends.”
They are all friends. Sigh.
Editor’s Note: It turns out that JIFF is actually spelled with one F. My apologies!