Tonight when I drove home I was thinking of the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’m not sure why, but as I was crossing Long Street on my way to the parking garage the thought of the perfect PB & J insinuated itself into my head and there it has stayed, firmly lodged at the forefront of my consciousness.
What is the perfect PB and J? My definition has changed over time. When I was 12 I would have argued vigorously that the perfect PB & J was made with Wonder Bread, plain peanut butter, and grape jelly. When Mom packed my lunch for school that combination was my sandwich of choice. The concoction was prepared, cut horizontally, and put into a Glad bag, and by the time I ate it during lunch period the grape jelly had thoroughly seeped into the Wonder Bread, infusing every pore and leaving it a purple, wet, spongy slice of grape-y goodness that squished out jelly when when you bit down on it. Wash it down with a pint of whole milk that cost 2 cents and top it off with a Twinkie and you had the perfect school meal.
Now I have a different view, although I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a chance to eat another of Mom’s grape specials once more. These days my preferred PB & J is made with a heavy grain wheat bread, toasted so as to better ensure even spreading of crunchy peanut butter and strawberry preserves. This sandwich is a sweet and tasty masterpiece of different textures, combining the crunchy toasted bread, chopped peanuts, gummy peanut butter, and occasional globs of jam with those tiny strawberry seeds. The coarse wheat bread is needed to stand up to the crunchy peanut butter, which would tear ordinary white bread to shreds during the spreading process. And, for the middle-aged guy, wheat bread and strawberry preserves at least seem healthier than bleached white bread and sugary, processed grape jelly.