The November 2015 issue of Good Housekeeping has a running notation of significant dates at the bottom of its pages, a little bonus of fun history. Page 22 listed the 1900 purchase of the magazine by the Phelps Publishing Company and the establishment of the GH Experiment Station, the 1901 invention of the Gillette “safety razor,” and the 1901 suggestion by food writer Julia Davis Chandler to pair peanut butter and jelly to make a sandwich.
The first two GH occasions are fine, but it’s that peanut butter and jelly sandwich that ranks way up there in importance. Its virtues include convenience – doesn’t everybody keep a container of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, and some kind of bread? It’s not shabby as nutrition goes – protein in the peanut butter; fiber, vitamins, and minerals in the bread; and fruit in the jelly. Okay, maybe not the best source of fruit, but it’s in there. Best of all, it’s tasty.
Back in the 1920s Gustav Papendick invented a way to slice and wrap bread. By the time Julia came up with the sandwich, children were able to make their own sandwiches without danger of slicing themselves along with their bread. The next decade brought the Depression where the low cost product provided needed nutrition which was followed by WWII where it became a staple for US soldiers. Jon Krampner’s book, Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food (reviewed in the early days of this blog) gives more interesting history on this topic.
A survey in 2002 said the average American would have eaten 1500 PB&J sandwiches before graduating from high school. Putting my daughter into this picture, somebody didn’t get their share. School days of 180 per year times thirteen years (including kindergarten) would come to 2,540 and that doesn’t include preschool years and holidays. I’m not saying she never ate anything but PB & J, but she was never one for variety in lunch, including sticking to one brand of smooth peanut butter and grape jelly. During her college years, churches provided a sandwich meal for a traveling student musical group that she accompanied on the keyboard or piano. She often lamented that the meals seldom included PB &J.
I know there are a few people allergic to peanuts and a few more who don’t care for peanut butter. I sympathize with the first and am astounded at the second. I’m betting most my readers have their own favorite variety of the old standby.
As with many other important things, peanut butter and jelly, has an official day on April 2. You may wait to celebrate if you like, but writing this has made me hungry. I’m off to make my sandwich on home baked wheat bread with extra crunchy peanut butter and blackberry jam.