Becca Jane St Clair

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LJ Idol Week 6 Re-Post: Peanut Butter Jelly Time

LJ Idol’s week 6 prompt was “food memory”. My entry didn’t score very high, but scored high enough to keep me in the competition.

I stopped eating peanut butter when I was six. I went from absolutely loving peanut butter and eating peanut butter and jelly (UK: jam) sandwiches nearly every day to refusing to have them at all. No matter if my mom tempted me with my favourite flavour of jelly (strawberry preserve so it had the bits in it), cut the bread into a cute shape, put the peanut butter on a stick of celery for ants on a log…. nothing. I refused to eat it.

This can create a problem when you’re a kid, especially growing up in the US, where PB&J is the quintessential lunch food for a child. Everyone eats it (unless you’re allergic to peanuts), and most parents don’t mind having their child’s friends over because they know all they need to give them for lunch is a good old peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Grape jelly, of course, was the usual, with strawberry being a treat. Some people put bananas on their sandwiches, or a thick, gooey, sugary substance called marshmallow fluff…but not me. I absolutely HATED peanut butter.

When I was little, I had a best friend. She was the same age as me and our parents met through their friends who did not have any children of their own. Their friends introduced our parents because they knew each couple had a little girl around the same age. I was exactly 2 months older than the other girl, almost to the day. She and I did everything together. We took swimming lessons together, our parents took the other one with them when they went to McDonald’s, and we even went away with each other’s families for overnight trips. At the young age of 3 or 4, we were inseparable.

Every day I played over at my friend’s house, her mom would serve us each half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

In the early 80s, wholesale bulk shops like SAM’s club and Costco were becoming famous for opening their doors to the public after previously being restaurant-only shops. People flocked to the wholesale clubs and had no idea what to do because the items were so large. My dad one time purchased a box of 1,000 paper-wrapped straws that my mom and I still find remnants of in the back of the cutlery drawer at her house. People purchased food in bulk – huge bottles of vegetable oil, herbs and spices by the pound, tea bags in boxes bigger than your head…and giant aluminium tins of Skippy peanut butter.

The massive tin was about as wide as a dinner plate, and probably a foot or more in height. I couldn’t begin to tell you how much peanut butter was in the tin, but I am sure it would have been put to good use in a school cafeteria, and not in someone’s house.

My mom was more sensible and continued to buy her peanut butter (Peter Pan brand) in regular sized jars. My friend’s mom…. not so much. She and her husband fully embraced the bulk buying, and their purchase included a giant tin of peanut butter, because well, she knew her daughter and her daughter’s friends liked peanut butter, so why not?

It was around this time that I started refusing peanut butter. I told my mom I didn’t like it, and she just couldn’t figure out why until she was standing in her friend’s (my friend’s mom) kitchen one day and her friend was making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her daughter and me. My mom watched as she peeled back a thin layer of plastic wrap (UK: cling film) and was repulsed by the stale stench of peanut butter that greeted her nose.

After that, my mom stopped offering me peanut butter sandwiches.

I didn’t start eating peanut butter again until I was in my 20s and had gone vegetarian and needed a source of protein. I’m still not a huge fan of it, and the fact that the US brands aren’t available here in the UK doesn’t bother me one bit.

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