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:
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