For kids in the 50s and 60s, the official nutrition pyramid consisted of three food groups: peanut butter, jelly and Wonder Bread. As a preschooler, I turned up my nose at evil bread crusts, but I never refused the peanut butter that clung to me and my clothes as if it really liked me.
Elvis Presley loved peanut butter and banana sandwiches grilled in bacon grease. Yuk! That would not have impressed me. Plus, his gyrations outraged my kindergarten sense of propriety — I thought he had ants in his pants. Still, Elvis and I shared peanut butter passion. I built peanut butter towers, monumental edifices of crackers cemented with peanut butter and butter, to eat while watching TV.
Peanut butter even entered my theology. The Bible story of a widow, her hungry son, and their never-failing flour canister and oil pot translated into an everyday miracle at our house. When refrigerator raids offered mostly coagulated catsup and fuzzy maraschino cherries, an angel slipped a bottomless peanut butter jar onto the door’s shelves.
Once, I unscrewed the jar, only to gawk at the flawless surface of untouched treasure. That it had escaped my brothers made me bow my head in reverence.
The peanut butter that sustained us starving barbarians blessed my mother with glassware. Companies packaged it in lovely crystal goblets and drinking glasses decorated with flowers, dogs, birds, athletes and cartoon characters. We kids improved geography grades drinking from peanut butter tumblers adorned with state maps, birds and songs. (Did you know the state song of Maine is called “State Song of Maine?”) However, Mom should have focused on hockey glasses because a 1961 York Peanut Butter glass featuring Phil Goyette of the Montreal Canadiens recently was auctioned for $17,925.
If only I had hoarded those jars or the thousands we emptied while my husband attended medical school! My peanut butter habit could have created a substantial IRA. But I wasn’t thinking much about investments then; mostly, we were just trying to eat.
Years after medical school, I avoided the peanut butter aisle in grocery stores. When my brother-in-law, hearing of my acquired “allergy,” bought us two jars for Christmas, I nearly threw them at him.
But in my late middle age (ahem!), I have returned to my roots. I love peanut butter. As I face the misery of a pre-bathing-suit diet, I’d give anything to build a soda cracker tower or stick a big spoon into yummy peanut butter.
Especially if Phil Goyette smiled at me from the jar.
What’s your favorite peanut butter memory?