By P.B. Johnson
Recipe Contributor, Treemont Register
Here’s a recipe that’s near and dear to my heart. Growing up, I loved nothing more than playing baseball, practicing my drums, and family picnics in the park. But no matter what I did, or where we went, Mom always made sure I had one of her signature peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with me.
This timeless recipe will transport you back to the good old days, when Mom would make a PB&J just for you, with peanut butter, jelly, bread, and motherly love – the special kind of love that moms have for their own children and no one else.
A note before we begin: If you are planning to make more than just one sandwich, adjust the ingredients accordingly. For example, to feed a whole baseball team, like Mom used to do when I played on Coach Bob’s little league team at Treemont Elementary, you’ll need at least two loaves of bread and whole jars of peanut butter and jelly each.
- Peanut butter
- White bread. You can use “healthier” multi-grain bread, like Mom started doing after Coach Bob wouldn’t stop bringing up his “high cholesterol,” but it won’t be as good.
1. Place two slices of bread on a plate.
2. Using a knife, carefully spread peanut butter on one slice of bread.
Tip: Spreading the peanut butter evenly will help prevent any of it from dripping out and getting stuck in Coach Bob’s beard.
3. Use the knife to spread jelly on top of the peanut butter layer, gently, like the way you saw Mom dabbing Coach Bob’s filthy beard with a napkin.
4. Place the two pieces of bread on top of one another in the same position you saw Mom and Coach Bob in that day you came home from school early and finally understood the real reason he always offered to drive you home after practice.
Tip: No need to add any extra ingredients here, even though Coach Bob suggested that Mom be “adventurous” and “try new things.” Doesn’t he get it? A banana is not a part of the family.
5. Cut the sandwich in half, the same way your alone time with Mom was cut when Coach Bob moved in. Cut in half, like the amount of space you had to give up in the spare room to fit Coach Bob’s bowflex instead of your drum set. Coach Bob would say that sometimes you have to just “take one for the team, champ” but you’re a big boy now, and these are your directions, not his.
6. Wrap the sandwich in crinkly wax paper to trap the signature smell and feel. Later on, you can unwrap it gleefully and pretend it’s one of the sandwiches Mom made special, just for you, and that she did not make a second one for Coach Bob as he sat on the couch re-watching VHS tapes from his “golden years” on the Treemont Community College baseball team.
Recipe yields one peanut butter and jelly sandwich, just like the ones Mom used to make before your step brother Stephen with the “peanut allergy” moved in. Eat while imagining that Stephen never ruined your family picnics with his “peanut allergy,” and that you still have your drumset. Even though now it’s probably too late to go to music school, you never know.
Tip: Buy the family size jars of peanut butter and jelly so you can make a whole loaf of sandwiches at once, and then put them back in the plastic sleeve. That way, if your real dad ever comes back to play catch, like he promised he would that day he dropped you off at baseball practice, you’ll be ready with Mom’s sandwiches.
Taking the form of a recipe, our translation of the PB&J is more literal than most. But it comes with layers of satire and pastiche. Our recipe-story was inspired by the idea that a PB&J is an iconic symbol of childhood in America, and for some people, is inextricably associated with nostalgia, family, and a “simpler” time in life. We invented a character who takes his love for PB&J too far – he’s unable to separate sandwich tips from his other childhood memories. This piece also explores recipe-writing as a form of storytelling, because when the food-related steps are simple, what exactly is the story being told? Our translation used the PB&J as a gateway into childhood, and turned into a profile of a man who is stuck in the sticky peanut buttery past. Sweet turns bitter, and the result is darker, more real, and, hopefully, much funnier than the way PB&J is normally portrayed in popular culture.
Nicole Wong, Editorial
Ysabel Yates, Strategy