One of my absolute most favorite memories from being a kid starts with a simple, ordinary peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We didn’t have much growing up, but one thing we always had, by the grace of God, were three good, healthy, hearty meals every single day. My mom was a thrifty shopper, and back in the day grape jelly was the cheapest…so that’s what we ate, every single day. Lunch meat was a luxury that was saved for my dad’s lunches out of respect for the hard work he did to support our family and the fact that he was the head of the household. This is something that stuck with me, and we do the same thing in our home to this day.
There are so many stories from my childhood that involve PB&J. My favorite one was when my sister had her friend Mary over. They were sitting on the front porch with their lunches (PB&J of course) and Mary was not too thrilled with hers. She innocently set her paper plate down on the porch and “forgot” about it. When she came back, her sandwich was covered in ants and, “unfortunately” was inedible.
As we got older, my mom must have thought our tastes had matured because one day we went to the fridge to get the grape jelly and much to our surprise it had been replaced by none other than strawberry jam. What the….? Had we won the lottery or something? Could it be that strawberry jam was on sale that week? We were in heaven…but I have to admit, there was still a part of us that longed for our good old standby, grape.
Now that I’m a mom, I have brought a number of traditions from my childhood into the lives of my kids…PB&J being one of them. When you are raising a large number of children, it’s just easier to make PB&J. It’s easy, it’s affordable, luckily we have no one in our family with peanut allergies, and it’s a good, nutritious and yummy lunch option. I, of course, used grape jelly just like my mom had all those years, and my kids love it! When I tried to substitute with something a little fancier…strawberry or apricot jam…they revolted! I mean screaming and tears…”We don’t like the chunks in this stuff! Are we out of grape jelly?” My kids are far from picky eaters. They would eat just about anything you put in front of them, but switching their jelly was clearly not an option.
There is a right and wrong way to make the perfect PB&J. This is a topic that has been the cause of much debate over the years. Do you put peanut butter on both sides to keep the jelly from soaking through the bread? Does the jelly go on the right side or the left? Trust me, it makes a difference. I always put the peanut butter on the left side first, then spoon the jelly onto the right side, spread the jelly and then put the two halves together. I bought neat plastic sandwich boxes in the shape of bread slices so my kid’s sandwiches wouldn’t get squished in their lunch boxes…that and the fact that I can wash them and reuse them; it saves me a boat load of money on sandwich bags. The secret is to make sure to use ample amounts of peanut butter and jelly. This is not the time to be skimpy. And make sure to spread the peanut butter and jelly clear to the edges of the bread so you are sure to get a taste of this delectable combo in each and every bite.
Here’s the best part…
This year, one of my daughters came home from school kind of upset. She told me that a friend of hers never had anything for lunch, so she started sharing hers with him. From that day on I started packing an extra sandwich in her lunchbox just for him. He loves that he knows no matter what he will have something to eat for lunch. He even told her just the other day that if he could give me a hug every day he would, because I make the best sandwiches he has ever had.
Apparently, as the year has gone on, my daughter has shared her extra sandwich with a few of her other friends as well. I am now famous for my PB&J sammies…and quite proud I should say. One friend even offered to pay her $2 for her extra sandwich. I’m seeing a food truck opportunity in my future. Think the cafeteria would mind?
I love how something that I enjoyed and found comfort in as a kid, my mom’s PB&Js, is now something that not only my children but their friends also enjoy. It’s really not so much about what brand of peanut butter, jelly, or bread you use…or even your technique when assembling the sammie…it’s the love that goes into every bite that makes the perfect PB&J something to remember.
Do you have a favorite memory about peanut butter and jelly sammies from your childhood that you would like to share? Maybe you have a unique way of preparing this family favorite for your kids. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please feel free to leave a message in the comments below.
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