You possibly may recall that in my last post, my wife had sent me to the store in search of, among other things, peanut butter. Hold that thought for a moment.
I’m a child of the 50’s, the 1950’s to be specific. Compared to the culture and society that we have decided to saddle ourselves with in the 20-teens, the 50’s were a simpler and more innocent time.
Today happens to be the first day of the new school year in my neck of the woods. As such, traffic conditions have gone from simply being atrocious to approaching near gridlock in many areas. This is largely due to the fact that today’s school age child requires transportation to school with the preferred method being catching a ride with Mom or Dad in the family car. There are some children who ride the school buses which add to the traffic snarl, but almost no students simply find their way to their school of their own accord.
There were school buses in the 50’s, but the predominant method for kids to get to their school was on foot, as in walking, or on a self-powered bicycle. Personally, I alternated between these two methods. From the 1st through 6th grades, it was a rare occurrence for either of my parents to drive my brother and I to school. When I reached junior high school, commonly known as middle school today, I had no choice but to ride in a school bus because of the distance involved.
I completely understand the reasons why kids are chauffeured to school in such great numbers these days. It gets back to that culture and society that we have decided to saddle ourselves with. So, enough said.
Gastronomically speaking, school lunches were similarly simple and innocent back in the 50’s. Our school year was roughly 9 months in length. Assuming a 5 day school week for 9 months, there were approximately 200 days per year on which I took my lunch to school in a brown paper bag.
By the way, where I went to school in the 50’s, there were no teacher work days and the concept of a spring and/or winter break from classes had not even been sighted on long-range radar.
200 brown bag lunches per school year meant the preparation and consumption of somewhere close to 150 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Those were prepared using only creamy peanut butter. My Mother considered crunchy peanut butter to be too exotic for general consumption. Likewise, only white bread was eaten in my family. Whole grain breads, or any bread exhibiting even the slightest tinge of color, were never consumed in my house.
Before spreading the peanut butter on the bread, my Mother would first apply a healthy amount of butter. It was probably margarine, but no peanut butter sandwich I consumed between the ages of 5 and 15 was considered to be complete without a slathering of butter separating the bread from the peanut butter. It’s just the way it was done.
The remaining 50 or so of my brown bag sandwiches typically consisted of a slice of bologna (we knew that it was really called baloney) layered between two slices of the same lily white bread, each of which had been generously coated with mayonnaise.
Keep in mind that those brown bags were not insulated and the schools I attended were not air conditioned. Likewise, these were the days before zip lock plastic bags. Loose fitting waxed paper was the preferred method of wrapping up a sandwich for later consumption. Depending on the weather, there were times when the mayonnaise would take on a sort of yellowish transparency by the time our lunch period rolled around.
In any event, my Mom’s homemade sandwiches were head and shoulders above those made by the lunchroom ladies. Those often featured stale bread which had been lightly misted with water in order to soften them up a bit.
We had never heard of gluten, GMO’s, monosodium glutamate, or the concept of “healthy eating”. Somehow, we managed to survive childhood in spite of that.
Which inexplicably brings me back to yesterday’s trip to the grocery store to get, among other things, peanut butter. As I was scanning the multiple varieties of peanut butters being offered up for purchase, I came across one that I had never seen before. Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter. Now I love peanuts; especially the salted-in-the-shell kind you can get at baseball games, so I threw all caution to the wind and bought a jar of the extra crunchy variety.
It’s been a real game changer for me. Eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with the extra crunchy stuff is the culinary equivalent to walking barefoot over a gravel driveway. I may never go back to plain ol’ creamy.
Back in the day, if my Mother had had access to extra crunchy peanut butter, I would have never needed the token variety in lunchtime fare offered up by those baloney sandwiches with their transparent mayonnaise.