Last week in my food studies class, we learned about a true American food icon–the PB&J sandwich. It is rare to find a person who grew up in the U.S. that has not tasted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, let alone someone who doesn’t have a specific and exact way to make their own ultimate PB&J. Even people who don’t cook a lot have a certain way they like their PB&J, down to the type of bread, the ratio of PB to J, what they use to spread it, etc.
For me, my favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich was created in my Hindu Sunday school. I used to have to stay later at my temple because my dad was constantly involved in church meetings. My temple always offered food after classes, but it was Indian food, and at 8 years old, that was the last thing I wanted to eat. My friend and I would sneak into the kitchen, always hungry, and raid the fridge that was stocked only for the Swami of my temple (who lived on the grounds). We always found a loaf of Brownberry wheat bread (I still remember the red wrapper!), a jar of peanut butter and a jar of strawberry jelly. I would make the sandwiches and I still remember spreading the jelly onto the wheat bread with enough pressure so the jelly filled up all the little holes, every nook and cranny. The bread was so hearty, if I didn’t press the jelly into the bread, the bread would taste incredibly dry and heavy. But with the jelly pressed into every nook of the bread, it made it taste like a very textured piece of fruit, and I loved it. I always preferred an equal ratio of jelly to pb, by the way. For class this week, after a riveting lecture about the history/foodway of the pb&j, along with a peek at the sandwich in popular culture (anyone else remember that Cosby show episode where Rudy and the fat boy try to make a PB&J with Cliff’s juicer?!), I set out all the ingredients I could think of that would make the ultimate PB&J, and I let the kids make their own version of the sandwich. It didn’t even have to have pb or j in it, just two of the sweet products available.
I had chunky and smooth peanut butter, grape jelly, strawberry jam, Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread, marshmallow fluff, honey, apples and bananas. Before letting the kids make their sandwiches, I showed them how to write a basic recipe, so that they could write down their recipe of their ultimate pb&j. For the most part, the lab went off without a hitch, and the kids seemed to really enjoy it.
I was reminded, like I am every week, of facts about the average teen that I seemed to have forgotten over the years. Some of them can be really picky. I know, I was one of them! But some of the kids were so picky, they didn’t want the two sides of their sandwiches to touch each other, because ingredient on top of ingredient made them sick. I had to beg one girl to eat more than just jam on her sandwich. She eventually gave in…for the grape jelly. And she didn’t want her slices to touch, so I made her call them open-faced sandwiches because I got tired of arguing.
Speaking of arguing, I had my first misfit students of the semester! Typical misfits, talking during class, throwing stuff, being disruptive, etc. To be honest, I never really thought about how I would discipline the class should misfits arise, but I knew that I didn’t just want to shove them in detention at the first sign of disobedience. I tried various ways to handle these misfits, chatting with them, asking them to quiet down, etc, but if you’ve ever given a speech and had someone talk the entire way through it, it is just the most nerve-wracking thing that could happen. I progressed to yelling, banning them from the ultimate PB&J lab, and demerits. Not my finest hour. And nothing phased the misfits. If you’ve ever seen the Australian series, Summer Heights High, you will remember a troubled ethnic student called Jonah Takaluah, who always drove his teacher crazy. He was the biggest misfit in the school, and the teacher tried every means possible to control his behavior, especially yelling. The teacher gets really upset every time, and crosses the line (at least in my eyes) by making fun of the fact that Jonah can’t read. She eventually gets him kicked out, even though for once, he was innocent, and it just broke my heart to see this kid who really needed to learn lose out because of his bad behavior and because his teacher was unwilling to work with him. I am sure this situation happens often within the school system, no matter what country you are in. While I don’t want the students to walk all over me, I certainly don’t want to let their outbursts anger me, nor do I want to dismiss them as unteachable. Ah, the dramas of being a teacher! Thankfully, the good students far outnumber the misfits, and most enjoyed the food lab. I tried two new kinds of pb&j–pb, strawberry j and fluff (way too sweet), and pb with Nutella, which tastes like a Reeses peanut butter cup sandwich, so it kicked major ass. What would your ultimate pb&j include and how would you make it? ~LTG!