We’ve gotten carryout for dinner several times during our shut-in period, but lunch — with one exception — has been a homemade affair. That means that I’ve eaten more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches over the past few weeks than I’ve probably eaten in the last 10 years. My regular consumption of this legendary member of the sandwich family has increased my already high regard for this brilliant culinary invention, and also made me reflect on the elements of the perfect PB and J.
As with any sandwich, bread is a key element. Although I cut my teeth on PB and Js made with Wonder Bread, my adult tastes definitely favor a hearty wheat bread, preferably with a few seeds. I like the bread toasted, too, because the toasting gives the sandwich an additional texture and crunch, and the warmth from the toasting makes it easier to get a uniform spread on the peanut butter, without ripping the bread to shreds. Making sure the spread is uniform, and also appropriately thin, also is important in order to avoid the dribble factor when biting into the sandwich.
As for the peanut butter, I’m an advocate for crunchy, also for texture reasons. My jelly tastes, just like my tastes in bread, have changed since childhood. Back then, the jelly was inevitably grape jelly, with an occasional foray into strawberry jam on special occasions. Now, I favor raspberry or blueberry jams or preserves, also spread carefully to avoid running the risk of dropping a blob onto your pants or shirt front. In fairness, however, I think there is only one wrong choice on the jelly: orange marmalade. I once new someone who zealously argued that orange marmalade was the preferred ingredient for a PB and J. (I think that person has long since been committed.)
Cut the sandwich diagonally, serve with a glass of ice cold whole milk, and you’ve got a pretty good homemade lunch that makes the shut-in period more agreeable.
- After I wrote this, I thought perhaps I had written about PB and Js before, and found that I had addressed the weighty topic of the perfect PB and J almost exactly ten years ago. I’m glad to see that time and the coronavirus haven’t caused me to materially change my views since those early days of the blog.