Way back in your College days, no wait!!, before that. Way Back when you were in Grade School, when the cool kids came to class with a Scooby-Doo Lunchbox, a Trapper Keeper, and the Good Pencils, with tip-erasers, you knew him, the once venerable PB&J. You actually pretended that you didn't hang-out with him, as others ponied-up big coin for hot pizza in the school lunch line, you shuffled sheepishly by, head down, passing the final checkpoint (The Milk Lady), before taking a seat in the gym's make-shift cafeteria. You carried a paper bag, with the top folded down and now the crease was torn a bit from sweaty hands, and soiled from your run through a shortcut on your way to school. It was a dry day, (of course), because if it were not, your bag would be torn, and then crushed from safe-keeping in your jacket --Tucked against your stomach, as you climbed a fence, and ran through someone's yard en-route to school.
This humble bag contained simple provisions. Your bag lunch glancing an embarrassed and wanton eye toward the "Hot-Lunch" which came on a tray, in neat compartmentalized foil, and plastic boats. You began to smell the "School Lunch" shortly after Reading, and it's intensity peaked just before the Lunch bell rang. Peak excitement to leave class compounded with the dream of salty pizza, and crispy ice-berg. But... You would be having none of it, as you meagerly handed your dime and nickel to the "Milk-Lady" who pulled your choice of Chocolate or White from a Dairy crate. Really no choice there, as it was always chocolate. I'm sure the stats bear out that most kids preferred the darker varietal, and perhaps this was to rescue the sad contents of your brown paper bag-lunch. Square against the bottom of your bag dwell your old friend, someone who you pretended not to know or even look at while others were slowly flaunting their Piping Hot Pizza. The trick was to eat your bag contents either before or after your friends dined, so that they didn't judge your measly meal. Shame was the word. Broke kid goes to school with bag-lunch, that conceals the generic scarlet letter which showed others that he was without "school-lunch funds". It never mattered really, and was mostly in your head..., Perhaps all in your head?. The other kids barely noticed what you did or did not eat, they were busy chewing, while you were reviewing the existential calculous and economics of being lower-middle class. The Bag lunch was the cuisine equal to non-branded slacks, and knock-off kicks. You'd have been far better off owning your lunch-room strata, than to ruminate about comparatives, but you didn't. No judgement, just take out your old friend and eat him, with relish. You may have a home-made treat in the bag -- Both sitting concave like a pillow beneath a cat, compressed into a nest shape by a much heavier orange, or apple. While others ate their pudding cups and twinkies, you'd make due with something baked at home. Surprised that now at midlife you're eating well whilst your classmates check their blood-sugar? Don't gloat!
PB&J; What is fundamentally wrong with PB&J?... Was it the pickle soaking through wax paper into the side of your sandwich?, was it the blackening banana?, Or the carrot sticks leaking slightly through the side of the bag? Were there chips?, Where are the Chips?... You don't know, because you were too ashamed to check. Was it really so bad?, this kid you'd refused to sit with, who was actually already beside you, or on your lap -- as the room becomes more loudly animated by the frenzied sugar-rush of lunch-room gymnastics? You watch others, calculating the right time to roll the bag open and eat. You are looking for a distraction, a moment to pounce on your brown-bag super-hero friend. The smells, the pure pavlovian power of smells... Alas you can take no more, and you reach onto your lap to reveal Exhibit A: "A Humble Sandwich". Like so many before it, and thousands thereafter, but always a bit unique, the venerable PB&J cut in half on the diagonal, came to your rescue. No shame, No brand-name, just lunch.
These rations were assembled in a factory manner with a conveyor carrying bread across your kitchen counter, each layer added, and then smacked together before being cut, and folded into Wax paper or tucked into a pleated sandwich bag. The sandwich bag of the 'fold-top' variety, ...because zipper bags had yet to be introduced. 'Spread-Ratios' varied, some soaking through, some far too spare. Further variables from Home-baked, to crusty bakery bread, to grocery-store soft white, the foundation of a good sandwich would yield a myriad outcome. Many days this sandwich was perfect. Many more days the meager PB&J would be dry, and un-enticing. Always the PB&J came to work and did it's job, and even, occasionally saved your life, but you give it no thanks now. You rarely consider the option, as if scarred by a memory of some kid shaming your frugal family for not caughing-up eighty cents for Pizza. Today, your PB&J likely costs 80 cents. It is going to be OK, so long as you can reconcile the past. Perhaps it was the time your older sister helped make them by chewing up whole peanuts to make the PB part. Yes, perhaps that's the scar, you need to face.
Today, you are scarred, you are begrudging your old friend , the PB&J which sits idly by like a misplaced toy, waiting to engage. You turn away from him, packing some sort of pre-fab protein bar which claims to be all your body needs. A "meal-bar", with (X) grams of this or that. You need look no further than your cupboard. You needn't overthink this one. That kid with the brand-name jeans is no longer around anymore to sit in judgement, and you are over this lunchroom status thing right? Go Boldly, be low-brow, and take a bite of your past. Own up to the fact that you betrayed your hero for status. He sat in your lap for crissakes, clearly you were there together.
You can surely make two or three of these for the price of one RX Bar. You can likely go farther on the energy gained, and you will likely feel better about yourself. If you could just make up with the lonesome super hero who sustained you through most, (if all) of your formative years. The unsung super hero of youth, the PB&J awaits. If you find the heart to make-up, then you will likely be a richer person for it. Find some new recipes, and get the gang back together. Find a "Grown-up" or "Fancy PB&J" So the next time you are starving, lonesome in a remote place, and craving any calories whatsoever, let your food fantasy be for a PB&J, and remember him fondly, as he was always there for you. Always...
Age and Treachery will overcome youth and skill.