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I’ve talked about this before but I’ve always been a big fan of cooking. I find a certain kind of catharsis while chopping bell peppers that can’t be matched by any sort of work out or drink or drug that I’ve come in contact with. Being able to throw dashes and pinches of different spices into a mixing bowl and elevate the flavor of a dish gets my blood flowing. I guess the best way I can describe it is that cooking is what keeps me grounded. It helps me clear my head by allowing me to focus on something other than work or money or my commute or my anxiety, even if it’s for ten minutes at the end of a long day.
One thing this hobby has helped me develop is an openness to different styles of cuisine. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself saying “no” to unfamiliar food less and less often. My thought is, for all I know, I could be turning down my new favorite dish, so why not give it a shot? Sure enough, this mindset has led me to enjoy tons of new foods. It’s also led me astray a few times. Turns out that Saag Aloo, an Indian dish made with spinach and potatoes, really isn’t for me.
But despite my journey to build out my taste buds and become more of an adult with my eating habits, there’s always one thing that ties me back to my childhood: a classic Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich.
I’m convinced that the traditional, classic PB&J is the best sandwich of all time. I’m sure you’re probably questioning my logic on this, and that’s totally understandable. I don’t typically take strong stances on things, but this is the first one where I’m confident in my stance. Hear me out.
The sandwich itself is incredibly simple. There are three ingredients: bread, peanut butter, and jelly. But between those precious three ingredients is something that no amount of lettuce or deli meat or cheese can match. It’s love. The sandwich is full of love. Think back to when you first started eating PB&Js. When I do, I find myself reflecting on easier times. Back in the days when juggling projects, looming job interviews, and setting reminders to pay rent on time all were things I couldn’t even pronounce. I remember sitting at the lunch table in second grade and thinking, “Holy shit, why isn’t my mom a world class chef? This is incredible!”
And when it comes down to it, the pairing of peanut butter and jelly is truly one of the best food combinations in recent history. The mouthwatering sweetness of the jelly embracing the savory creaminess of the peanut butter makes endorphins fire off in my brain just thinking about it. As I got older and my parents started trusting me with knives, I began experimenting with my PB&Js. I would tip the ratios one way or another — sometimes adding more peanut butter, sometimes more jelly—to figure out the best way to send myself into lip smacking, tongue sticking nirvana.
(Note: Not to get specific, but the best one I’ve had to date is white bread, about 2.5-3 tablespoons of Jif smooth peanut butter, and 1.5-2 tablespoons of Cherry Berry Jam from Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, Michigan. I had to have been in 7th grade and ate one every day until we ran out of jam.)
I think the best part of this heaven-sent sandwich is that the variables, though few, can completely alter the sandwich. Think I’m kidding? Let’s talk bread. White or wheat? Are you keeping those crusts on? Do you want to use the heel of the bread loaf? What about toasting it for an easier spread? All of these factors impact the taste and texture of your PB&J experience, and that’s just the bread. I could go further, breaking this shit down by crunch or smooth peanut butter or by jellies and jams, but I’ll let your mind drift blissfully to think about those options.
It’s not fancy. It’s not an “adult” meal by any means. In fact, one day I was eating one at work and was swiftly reminded that I am a child. But you know what? If we can have bougie taco restaurants and turn burgers into borderline fine dining, who’s to say that we can’t start that trend with Peanut Butter and Jelly? After all, it’s only three ingredients and a whole lot of love. Let’s make it happen. .