The maturation of the PB & J
In July, when I’m sweatin’ through my American-in-Korea fashions at work and completely unable to focus on my job, my brain goes aflutter with images of childhood summertime: the backyard! Running through sprinklers! Pool smell in my hair! Hot dogs in the microwave! Oh man, I would kill for a crappy Duplex cookie and some orange soda. And, no, I don’t care about that meeting just now.
But we’re kids no longer, unfortunately, and there are pension contributions to make, toilet brushes to buy and grocery store gift cards to give your friends on their birthdays. Kid-time memories will just have to wait until later, until they can be properly dealt with over beers with friends on the beach ... on a trip that you can pay for with your own money, and go on without asking for permission — Wait a sec! Sprinkler-running aside, being an adult is awesome! So how about we take one of our childhood summer faves and turn it into a grown-up masterpiece? I thought you’d never ask.
Making a PB & J sandwich is pretty self-explanatory, but big-person sammies require a bit more attention in terms of ingredients; white bread and grape jelly can only take you so far.
The PB: Natural peanut butter, the kind made without sugar or hydrogenated oils, is elusive in Korea unless you make it at home. So for this classy treat I use whatever peanut butter I can find, and then I proceed to wail on it. I slam it down so hard. And while I’d usually push for a more natural alternative (easy to find on iHerb, if you swing that way), a little indulgence and convenience are cool once in a while. Creamy, crunchy, natural or not, go with it and love it, just this once.
The J: There are all manner of good jams out there, but some seriously bad ones, too. Steer toward a more inspiring option by taking a gander at the sugar content before you buy; with some of them you’d be better off eating a Snickers bar (look for seoltang). Since a cloying dessert sandwich isn’t my game, I like to ram some fresh berries up under the bread and smash it down instead. Huzzah. Instant jam.
The bread: While white bread may drip with memories of popsicles and Kool-Aid, it may also turn your monster sammy into a big drippy mess. Paris Baguette and Tous les Jours both carry sturdier sandwich breads that’ll do better than squishy “morning toast” stuff, so grab what you can and soldier on.
Gooey grilled PB & J
- 2 slices of bread (or three if you want a double-decker)
- Many many tbs of peanut butter
- Dab o’ jam, or some fresh berries
Heat a dry, nonstick skillet over medium heat. You’ll need it to be hot when you lay the bread down to get that golden toasty color, so let it preheat for at least 5–6 minutes while you prepare your masterful sandwich. Get out your goodies and get busy with a butter knife, making sure to spread the yumminess allllll the way to the edges.
When you’ve achieved your perfect balance of PB on one side and J on the other, put the slices together and lay the whole sandwich in the hot pan. Cook for 3–4 minutes until you can smell the toasty aroma in the air, then flip and cook the other side for another three minutes. Finally, scoop it out onto a plate and slice it down the middle. Watch the ooey gooey goodness smoosh all over your big-time adult life; even with the soggy office clothes, it’s still pretty friggin’ fabulous. Happy summer!