It’s not the tastiest – that honor can go to one of the countless grease-behemoth concoctions specialty of Jewish and Italian deli-maestros up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
Nor is it the healthiest: A serving of Welch’s Grape Jelly has 13 grams of sugar. Not exactly a Mountain Dew, but – let’s be honest – if your PB&J only has one serving of jelly, it is probably still being made by your mother.
What the PB&J is, is a product of simplistic, crazy, ingenious beauty that screams America at the decibels of a screeching eagle or roaring F-16 Fighting Falcon.
We all know that George Washington Carver, in all his peanut wisdom, failed to invent the peanut’s single greatest invention: Jif creamy peanut butter. It is even clearer that he did not have a hand in marrying it with jelly between two slices of Wonder Bread. In fact, no one really knows who invented this delicacy, but the first published account comes from Julia Davis Chandler in 1901, according to “American Foods by the Decades.”
What is known is that by the years between the World Wars, the PB&J had become an ingrained part of the American youth.
That is what makes it the greatest sandwich: It was there for you for your first teething, it calmed you when you scraped your knee from a fall from your Razor Scooter, it was the taste on your lips at your first kiss. Heck, you probably even snuck an Uncrustable before shaking your principal’s hand at graduation.
We all share that divine image of the PB&J of our youths. Two skinny strips of purple and tan layered between fluffy white goodness with edges cut off – always out of love.
When you were finally able to reach the counter and butter knifes, and be out of your mother’s watchful eye, those wisps of spread may have evolved into gobs of jelly surfing on waves of peanut butter, the cut crust now an option of your newfound young-adulthood.
As we grew out of adulthood, and the country left the Greatest Generation to a bygone era, the PB&J evolved a rebellious nature to suit its leopard-print, spanx-clad devourers.
Now available with the personal options like bacon and tomato, the PB&J may not always seem like itself: The minimalist combination of two unconventional flavors bound by the simplest of slices.
It may be more important now than ever to remember the one who has been with us longer than our high school perishables or freshman year roommate. When you failed your calculus exam, got left behind in a group project or were unsuccessful in finding a hookup at an AEPi party the ingredients were always there in your room to put together the simplest of meals to calm your flustered nerves.
Having left the safe nest that is our parent’s home – or not – but nevertheless heading out into a real world filled with student debt, high unemployment rates and Honey Boo Boo, it is anything but shameful to go back with open arms to the sandwich of comfort, representative of mother’s love and that for just a few delicious moments, everything will be all right.
So as I sit here, crunched up at my desk, a mountain of work left waiting before Saturday night begins, an empty coffee cup my only companion, I can console myself in the thought that when I finally get home maybe I’ll open the pantry and get the peanut butter.
John Moritz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JCMoritzTU.