Make Yourself A Damn Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwich

When’s the last time you made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and put it in a backpack for a day out? If it was recent, congratulations on your satisfaction with that food choice. If it was not so recent, please allow me to ask: Why has it been so long?

Maybe you forgot that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, henceforth referred to as a PB&J sandwich, is an ideal source of calories for people who burn calories: calorie-dense, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and most of all, edible.

You know what no one ever says about PB&J sandwich? “It’s an acquired taste.” That’s because it tastes good, and it always has. You like it from when you’re three years old until you’re 73. Do you think the PB&J is juvenile, or “for kids”? Guess what else is for kids: fun. Making a cape out of a blanket and a sword out of a stick and fighting imaginary enemies, instead of answering e-mails, sitting in traffic, and playing Candy Crush Saga during conference calls. The PB&J is fun, too.

No no no, you say, I need something that someone in a plant compressed into a foodlike brick and then told me it tasted like “Mint Chocolate Chip Zingerberry Delight” or some shit. I need to pay $3 for this, and I need to take it with me hiking/climbing/mountain biking/skiing, and then when I pull it out of my pack, put it back and dig around for other food, something, anything, and save it for “later,” which means “next time,” which means I’ll do the same thing on my next outing, and the next, until that bar has been in my backpack for four months and looks like it’s been run over by a car, upon which I’ll throw it in the trash.

There are many times and places for energy bars, just not necessarily every single time you step on a trail. They are amazingly handy and tasty when you don’t have the means to make yourself a PB&J on, say, every single day of a 10-day backpacking trip. But, as with a lot of things, you get excited about them each time you try a new flavor, and then diminishing returns set in and you begin to enjoy them less and less until you never buy one again, and you replace it with a new flavor. Here is a graph:

OFFICIAL CHART

Maybe your favorite mountain athlete won the Death Race 100 eating nothing but Chocolate-Like flavored Science Gel, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat it, especially if you’re going on a 10-mile hike to go sit on a rock next to a lake instead of running 100 miles. You can chill out and eat a sandwich and look at clouds.

The peanut butter and jelly sandwich will always be there for you, baby, unlike Hostess Fruit Pies and the McRib, which have both been known to go away from time to time. You can always come back to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It is classic, like the bicycle, The Low End Theory, and Al Pacino in Serpico.

The PB&J is simple, and good. It is not getting more complicated, like other American foods such as Cosmopolitan-flavored Wine-a-rita (which is apparently three drinks combined into one disgusting drink in a box) or Chicken and Waffles-flavored potato chips (which contain neither chicken nor waffles). The PB&J doesn’t have to impress you with some new complex flavor created by a food scientist in New Jersey. It doesn’t have to pretend to be a pizza flavor, and it frankly doesn’t have room for much else in between the slices of bread, especially if it’s going to ride in a backpack for a few hours before being devoured.

You can make a PB&J on the cheap, with Wonder Bread and generic peanut butter and jelly, or buy fancy organic bread with eleventymillion nuts and seeds in it, $8/jar peanut butter, and upper-echelon jelly (usually labeled “spread” or “preserves”). You don’t have to Google the recipe, and you don’t have to run out and buy a bunch of spices and ingredients you’re going to use once and then watch slowly spoil in your cupboards. You don’t even have to stop and take a photo of it with your phone—you can just shove it in your face, without pretense.

If you like joy and fun, try a PB&J sometime. Here’s a shopping list:

  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Bread

-Brendan

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47 Comments

  • The PB&J is my go-to staple for any outdoor recreation. Skiing for the day? PB&J in the backpack, much better than a $12 burger and I can eat it on the chairlift (or at the top of the skin track). Going hiking? PB&J. Backpacking? Multiple PB&Js. Sometimes when I’m making PB&Js for my outdoor recreating I have to make an extra one to eat then and there because I can’t stand the wait.

    Oh, and I just added Serpico to my Netflix queue not two days ago.

  • I second this emotion whole heartedly. That mylar wrapped energy bar-f will just sit in your gut like a mud ball. On anything longer than a 1 hour ride I bring along the following:

    Two slices of hearty, preferably whole wheat, bread slathered ON BOTH HALVES (this is key to minimize sog-i-fication) with Teddy’s Chunky PB and some yummy Bon Maman Apricot or Peach Jelly. I recommend eating them deep in the woods at least once a week.

    • Big ups for the Teddy chunky PB!!!
      Worst part of moving from Maine to Colorado? Hands down the lack of Teddy PB in my life. The situation is appalling. Every time I go home I shove as many jars as I can into my suitcase to take back with me!

      • Best thing about moving from Maine to Oregon? Being able to buy the giant jar of Adams peanut butter again. Teddy is a close second for me.

  • You missed a key selling point of the PB&J. The size of your PB&J can easily increase with the size of your adventure with additional slices of bread. Beware the quad…

  • After basically living on PB&Js van-life-ing in New Zealand for the first 2.5 months of this year, I was stoked to get to eat at restaurants every meal now that we are in Southeast Asia (aka cheap food land). And yet, not two days ago, I finished another plate of noodles (albeit, delicious noodles) and thought, “You know what sounds perfect right now? A freakin’ PB&J.”

    Spot on as always Brendan.

  • So true! I tend to “forget” about pb&j for periods of time – when I “remember” it’s like love at first bite all over again… I recently discovered sunflower seed butter (and jelly of course) and it was almost a religious experience. Highly recommendo although it’s a little goopy, not sure it would hold up well in a pack but damn it’s good!

  • I made my daughter a PB&J for her lunch before taking her to daycare. Now I regret not making one for myself!

  • doooood. you gotta put bananas on that bitch! or the peanut butter banana and honey sammy. or the PBBJH. HOLY CRAP I WANT ONE NOW!

  • …and one more athlete cut off by Clif Bar:)

    Thanks for the awkward out loud laugh in the cubical farm upon reading “you don’t have to google the recipe”

  • I work in a day care, where peanuts are strictly prohibited and sugar is the devil. Some of those kids have never even tasted a PB&J. Isn’t it tragic??

  • After every bike commute to the office:
    Almond butter and honey on earthy wheat. By the time I get to my desk, it’s a mushed up, squished up mangled mess.
    You can take my cliff bar, my perfectly ‘just right’ ripe banana or my apple. But keep your damn paws off my sandwich.
    Not technically PB&J, but I know you can relate.

    • Doug, AB&J (almond butter and jelly) at home, but AB&H (almond butter and honey) on the bike. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

      You just can’t beat the yumminess, the quick(er) energy from the honey, and the long-term fuel from the AB.

      • Velosopher, yes there is a certain sophisticated sort of yum. Like a German almond pastry strudelish sort of thing. Which is amazing considering the 60 seconds it takes me to slap one together. Is there room in the fun and youthful PB&J club for us adulty almond butter types?

  • Sometimes I eat PB&J while answering emails and on muted conference calls…
    But only with Dave’s Killer Bread (the green bag type!), crunchy PB (smooth is for quitters) and Gucci raspberry preserves. And as another wise sage said higher up, PB on both breads, J in the middle to keep it fresh/not sogg-town!

  • I heard somewhere that PB&J is a uniquely American sandwich, and if you suggest it to people in other countries, they think it is disgusting. Like Vegemite in Australia. So, it might be an acquired taste, and we don’t even know it.

    • This needs empirical testing. I would make an actual bet that no foreigner will react with Vegemite-like horror to the first PB&J bite.

  • I never put PB&J in my pack; it’s too messy. I have, however, been known to have a peanut butter & raisin sandwich for breakfast at the trailhead.

  • My go to is the peanut butter, banana, and chocolate chip sandwich. It’s for big days when you need even more sugar than jelly provides.

  • I love this ode-to-a-PB&J!!!

    During my first few months road tripping through Chile with my husband we enjoyed many a PB&J before early morning surf sessions, andes climbs or mountain treks- and sometimes followed for lunch and/or dinner… They definitely made the transition to Chilean road food a bit easier, and always tasted a little like home 😉
    After thru-hiking the AT years ago i had to quit on so many of the power bars/clif bars etc. because I just couldn’t stomach them- but my love of peanut butter never ever waned and man I still love a good ol’ PB&J just about any time. thanks for bringing back so many good memories of this tasty outdoor companion!

  • Anyone else take one of those frozen pre-made pb&js with them for a long run or long ride? After 2/3 hours, that sucker is perfect temperature

  • I always throw a pb&j in my pack and a couple snickers bars too. Used to be an energy bar guy, but flavor rules the day now, Haven’t tried the frozen variety yet, but I am looking forward to it.

  • Peanut Butter and Co. brand White Chocolate Wonderful with tart cherry preserves on store-brand butter-crust wheat bread 🙂 I eat one before I go to the grocery store. Great write up, really made me smile.

    • I have made this on many occassions! The pancakes hold up pretty well and don’t sog out as badly as bread.

  • I’ve had at least 1 PBJ or PB & honey sandwich basically every day for the last 10 years- maybe more. They never get old. 🙂

  • For less squish/sog-ability, I often do roll-ups with tortillas, pita bread, or sturdy rolls.

  • Or if you’re feeling like a cultured world traveler, replace that Jelly with Maple Syrup and relish that you’re now officially part Canadian.

  • The best / easiest trail food for me is the “Peanut-Butteritto”!!

    Flour Tortilla
    Peanut Butter
    Homemade Palisade Peach Jam

    Wrap tightly in a bit of plastic wrap (so that it can be unwrapped from the top). Slip into a plastic produce bag (insurance). Boom. Trail food.

    *I have NOT been taking these along for the past couple of weeks, as there are SO many bears out and about. Don’t want to share a peanut-beartoritto.

  • The PB&J has changed my life as well for the lives of many others. I will forever turn to the PB&J as my go to snack or lunch. Whether I’m going for a hike or whether I’m at home chilling. The PB&J has never let me down and I will never let it down, even if I did let it down, the PB&J will forgive me and still be there for me.

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