When I was a kid, things were different.
We didn’t have all kinds of packaged foods for lunch. It was simple sandwiches. Peanut butter was the most common filling.
I know what you’re thinking. “Here she goes. Next thing she’ll be telling us she walked uphill to school both ways.” But seriously, 40 years ago, a peanut allergy was rare and peanut butter was a food that fit in everyone’s budget.
I was a Skippy kid. Back then Skippy was a popular brand. It was the one with the peanut on top. We had Kraft, and Jif, and a few brands that were unsweetened, but that was about it.
I remember a brand whose jar had the jelly already in it too. It looked cool with its stripes but my mom convinced my brother and I that it was better to choose your own jam each time.
It could be said that nostalgia makes foods taste better, but the foods of my childhood feed my soul. The comfort of sticky peanut butter and jam, or banana slices between soft fresh bread, is like a warm blanket. And the exact nature of that sandwich is a very personal thing.
The finer points of a PB and J could be discussed in the lunchroom for days on end. Which kind of jam was your favourite? What kind of bread? And, of course, what kind of peanut butter? Smooth or crunchy?
I like smooth peanut butter, with raspberry jam on sourdough for a sandwich, and crunchy with bananas on brown toast.
You can’t buy Skippy in B.C. anymore. I have to stock up when we go to the U.S. in the summer (Walmart sells a one-kilogram tub for people like me).
You can buy many more kinds of nut spreads now. There are cashew and almond butters galore, and hemp butter, too. I wonder if the rise of nut allergies helped inspire these innovations.
The world is a smaller place now too and lunch boxes show that from their contents. Sandwiches are less common as more ethnic foods have become familiar. You can eat anything from soup to nuts, as the saying goes, and even the nuts can be in a new flavour.
Nutella is now a popular condiment, perhaps more common for breakfast than lunch but just as dear to the hearts of European folks as our peanut butter is to us.
Did you hear about the riots in France when a grocery chain put Nutella on sale? The news video showed people pushing and shouting their way to the display to stock up.
I don’t want to see peanut butter riots, but I do hope my soul food doesn’t disappear into the annals of history. I wonder if the inflation of food prices will bring nut butters back into the fold? I know it will be staying on our grocery list.
Good old sticky peanut butter really was the glue of my childhood. It helped hold me together as I grew into an adult, and that feeling on the roof of my mouth as I eat it now has the same value as a cozy hug.
Excuse me now while I go put the toaster on. I have a hankering.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.