The Rules For PB And J Sandwiches

Some time ago Richard posted his rules for revising movies.  I thought listing the rules was a good idea and I decided to do the same for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches:

1.  No orange marmalade permitted. Some years ago I was interviewing a candidate for a position at the law firm and asked him what he thought was the best PB and J combo.  He said the jelly had to be orange marmalade.  Just the thought of it made me gag.  Orange marmalade, the veiny, goopy concoction, combined with peanut butter?  Heresy!  You might as well use marmite.

2. Keep it neat. I hate it when people make the sandwich with too much jelly.  We can argue about whether you should use grape jelly or strawberry preserves, creamy or crunchy peanut butter, white bread or wheat — but can we all agree that the sandwich should be constructed so that you can take a bite without jelly leaking out the sides and falling onto your lap?  It’s messy and wasteful.  A great sandwich is a well-constructed sandwich, and you should be able to enjoy every morsel without scraping ingredients off your pants leg.

3.  It’s a sandwich, not a dessert. I don’t get people who put bananas, sugar, and similar items in their PB and Js.  Don’t make the sandwich into some sickeningly sweet combination, and don’t try to overpower or mask the peanut taste.  Let the peanuts leave their mark on your taste buds!

4.  No fancy bread, please. In many restaurants (and even in Subways) they try to jazz up routine sandwiches by putting things on focaccia bread, oregano/cheese flatbread, and similar high brow breads.   Please resist the temptation to experiment with weird breads when you make your PB and J.  The bread is an important component of the sandwich, but it cannot and should not be the focus.

5.  Keep your butter to yourself. When I was a kid I went to a friend’s house for lunch.  His Mom served PB and Js that she prepared by first slathering butter on the bread on the jelly side of the sandwich.  I asked about it and she politely explained that the butter acted as a kind of barrier against dreaded seepage of the jelly through the bread.  I think the butter makes the sandwich a bit too slimy, plus I think a little seepage is a good thing.  Meaningful interaction between the bread, the jelly, and the peanut butter should not be avoided, but encouraged and celebrated.

The Perfect PB and J

The Perfect PB And J

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.

The perfect PB & J

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.

Voila!