Throughout the day as we find ourselves beset with life’s daily challenges we sometimes long for the uncomplicated joys of childhood. What fond memories we have of that unpretentious yet delicious PB&J sandwich.
Thick with creamy peanut butter (or crunchy) and sweetened with a layer of crimson strawberry jelly, it just doesn’t get any better than that. But this iconic childhood staple was not always so readily available nor was it served with jelly.
Prior to the commercialization of the peanut industry, these sandwiches were reserved for the wealthy due to the high price of peanuts. Back then the sandwich was sans jelly and made with pimento cheese or watercress and served to the upper crust in the swanky tea rooms of New York City.
The PB&J was first referenced back in 1901 in the Boston Cooking School Culinary Science and Domestic Economics magazine. It referred to a sandwich made with peanut butter and crab apple or currant jelly. The crab apple and currant jelly has since been replaced with strawberry as the jelly of choice, with grape being a close second. While the PB&J is most associated with kids, we probably owe the returning World War II soldiers a debt of gratitude for not only for their service to our country, but also for the PB&J.
Peanut butter and jelly were staples in military rations during World War II, and the soldiers would combine them to make the peanut butter more palatable. The idea stuck, no pun intended. Statistics say the average American will eat close to 3,000 PB&Js in their lifetime.
But alas, they couldn’t leave well enough alone. Some folks up in Oregon decided the simple PB&J needed an upgrade, so they made a version with almond butter, bacon, goat cheese and fig jam.
To each his own, but the PB&J is a classic that has stood the test of time and is better left as is.