Early in May, a friend of mine posted on Facebook a link to an article he’d found: “People are losing it over Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwiches.” The concept didn’t just turn his stomach. It seemed to offend his sense of the very nature of the universe.
I wasn’t bothered at all, because I knew that peanut butter and pickle sandwiches were, a century ago, a thing. Old Line Plate, a blog devoted to long-lost Maryland recipes of a century ago or more, had an article about making peanut butter and pickle sandwich filling, Even the New York Times has a recipe. I might not try one — I’d rather mix my peanut butter with banana slices — but the idea was acceptable to me. Tastes change. A century ago, people ate things that we might find gross but were perfectly acceptable then, and a century from now people will judge our foodstuffs as offenses against the universe in the same way friend did.
Then I found the recipe in the Peanuts Lunch Bag Cook Book, a novelty cookbook published in 1970 with recipes and Peanuts comic strips. On a four-page section of peanut butter sandwich recipes, one recipe included standard sweet relish.
I’m not saying that I’m trying this, just that it doesn’t offend me. Fifty years ago, kids went to school book fairs across the country and bought the Peanuts Lunch Bag Cook Book and saw a recipe for peanut butter and relish sandwiches. It may seem strange to us now, but, as the evidence shows, fifty years ago, a hundred years ago, mixing peanut butter and relish wasn’t at all crazy. Fifty years ago! Within living memory for many, many people!
The Peanuts Lunch Box Cook Book is a simple affair, a collection of lunch time recipes, grouped around a particular ingredient — cheese, chicken, bologna, etc. — on the left hand page, a vintage Peanuts comic strip, usually about school and/or lunch, on the right. Schroeder, we learn, has a fondness for ham sandwiches. Liverwurst, which I don’t believe I’ve ever had, is a particular favorite of Linus’. And Charlie Brown? He likes cheese sandwiches; the lead recipe there is not unlike a cheese-and-onions sandwich (grated cheddar, mixed with onions and mayo), only with chopped black olives instead of onions. He’s also quite fond of roast beef.
There’s a section devoted to peanut butter sandwiches. While peanut butter and celery sticks is a delightful treat, one I’ve not had in many years, I’m not sure about peanut butter and celery and ketchup on a sandwich. I’m intrigued by the peanut butter and raisin sandwich; the recipe calls for raisin bread, but I think honey wheat bread would substitute well. Then there’s a peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich.
But back to peanut butter and pickle. The recipe here is simple:
1 tablespoon creamy or chunky peanut butter
1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
Mix and spread on dark bread
Simple enough, I suppose. Wheat bread is probably a good choice. As for the sweet relish, I think lathering up two slices of bread with peanut butter, then putting a row of bread and butter pickles in between would be better.
Interestingly, for a book aimed at school kids, it has recipes for making sandwich bread, mayonnaise, fruit punch, and cheese balls. If you’re going to make a lunch to take to school, the Peanuts Lunch Bag Cook Book was going to tell you how to do everything.
There are a couple of things in here I’m going to try for my lunches for work. Some of the cheese sandwich recipes sound intriguing (there’s one with cream cheese), and I’ve already mentioned peanut butter and raisin, which sounds little weird to these 21st-century ears, but it’s also fiendishly simple.
At some point, I’ll try peanut butter and pickle. Don’t know where, don’t know when. I always have peanut butter around, so it’s really just a matter of having a jar of pickles, which I almost never have. When I do try it, though, civilizations will not fall, the universe will go on, and I’m sure my stomach will be fine. As my parents used to tell my brother, who was (and is) a picky eater and didn’t like food to touch on his plate, “It all mixes in your stomach anyway.”
There’s a lesson in that.