Brown Bag: The Tough Choices…

Brown Bag: The Tough Choices…

Creamy or crunchy? Crust or no crust? Grape jelly or strawberry jam? In its many forms, it is estimated that the average American will have consumed over 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before graduating from high school.

The first processed peanut butter was a thick paste described by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg as having “a decidedly meaty flavor…(that) may be used as a substitute for meat or ordinary butter.” However, the first mention of a PB&J sandwich appeared in a 1901 Boston Cooking School Magazine that proposed a sandwich made of “three very thin layers of bread and two fillings, one of peanut paste and jelly for the other.” The article suggested the “use of currant or crabapple jelly” creating a “combination that was declared at once delicious and original.” It wasn’t until 1917 when Paul Welch introduced Grapelade, a jelly made from pureed Concord grapes, that the American version of a PP&J became iconic.

The need for a high-protein, belly-filling, inexpensive meal during the Great Depression propelled PB&J into the mainstream. Further solidified into the American diet by its inclusion in our soldiers’ ration menus during World War II and remaining among the few food products not rationed during the war, it was firmly established as an American lunchtime classic by the 1950s.

As a peanut butter addict, my annual consumption of Jif (my favorite, probably because it has more sugar than other brands) far exceeds the average. Peanut butter was a staple of my childhood, often consumed in thick layers on light toast that was already saturated with margarine (we never had butter). And my artery-clogging favorite sandwich of all time is peanut butter spread on two pieces of barely toasted white bread, topped with at least eight slices of crispy bacon—which I admit exists only as a fond memory. Full disclosure, I always have an individual container of peanut butter in my car for those emergency cravings and to augment the small portions often served at breakfast at the local diner.

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