A Small Good Thing

PB&J 2.0

Peanut butter and jelly is the perfect combination of flavors, textures and nostalgia

Have you had a PB&J sandwich lately?

If not, there’s no time like the present. It’s true that you just missed National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month, which was in November (it was also National Raisin Bread Month and National Pepper Month — who knew?), but National Peanut Butter Month is coming up in March.

As far as I’m concerned, every month could be National Peanut Butter Sandwich Month.

I say this as someone who came late to an appreciation of PB&Js, at least as an adult.

My mother would occasionally pack them in my lunch, back when I was a kid in school in the 1960s and '70s. By the time lunch arrived, the sandwich was hopelessly squashed after coming into too close contact with a heavier apple or thermos of soup in my lunch box.

For decades, as I moved on to high school, college and then adult life, peanut butter sandwiches seemed consigned, along with mittens on a string and Double Bubble gum, to my childhood. I didn’t buy peanut butter or eat it or think about it much. Wasn’t it really meant for kids?

I rediscovered peanut butter five years ago, when I spent a summer cleaning out my parents’ house. There was a half-used jar of it in the fridge; it must have been for the grandkids. I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I made myself a PB&J one day and discovered, hey, this is delicious.

It wasn’t, however, until I quit my job a year later that I really got hooked on PB&Js again. Now that I was contentedly working from my couch (and "working" is a term I use loosely) rather than in a cubicle at a corporate office, I was eating lunch at home most days.

Hello, PB&J. How did I ever let you disappear from my life?

I now look forward to my weekly PB&J sandwich, with carrot sticks or some other easy-to-munch vegetable on the side, all washed down with a glass of cold milk, natch.

The appeal of a PB&J sandwich made right is that it’s the perfect combination of flavors and textures: the crunch of the bread, the rich thickness of the peanut butter and the zing of the concentrated fruit in the jam.

We’re not talking about PB&Js made from that sickly sweet Jif or Skippy’s goop, Welch’s grape jelly and bland Wonder bread. No way.

To make the perfect, grownup version of a PB&J, you need:

1) Chewy, whole grain bread. The fresher, the better!

2) Chunky peanut butter. Smooth style is for wimps. It should only be made from peanuts (or almonds or cashews). You don’t want sugar, corn syrup or salt to have been added.

3) Fruit jelly or jam. Grape, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry are all swell choices. Try for a low-sugar or no-sugar version.

Take a slice or two of the bread and toast it. Next, evenly spread a tablespoon or two of peanut butter on the warm bread as if you were a mason applying mortar to a brick. Spread, don’t slather. Finally, drop a tablespoon of jam directly onto the peanut butter and spread it, too, to the edges of the bread.

Now comes the big question: open-faced or sandwich style? Either is fine. The answer may depend on what your bathroom scale reported this morning when you stepped on to it. If you opt for a sandwich, slap on a second piece of toasted whole grain bread.

That’s it. You now have a perfect PB&J. Enjoy.

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