This past weekend, I made more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than I’ve made in a year. Actually, I haven’t made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches since this weekend last year, when the Fort Davis Lions Club worked as support volunteers for the Permian Basin Bicycle Association’s 40th annual Cyclefest.
Last year, I made the sandwiches onsite and fought bees… this year, I made them at home the night before and didn’t have to worry about bees trying to hitch a ride on my jelly knife.
This year marked the 41st year that about 400 bicycle enthusiasts from all over (some from as far away as Wyoming), set out to ride the beautiful scenic highways of the Davis Mountains. Cyclists rode about 60 miles on Saturday, but it wasn’t a race – it was just for fun. It was a ride. A fun ride that could take about five hours to complete and burn 2600 or so calories. At least that’s what one rider shared after the ride was over.
There were five rest stops strategically set up around the portion of the loop that the riders rode. Did I mention the elevation changed about 3500 feet on their ride? At each stop, Lions served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut fruit, salty snacks, water, Coca Cola, pickle juice and Gatorade… all the things sweaty cyclists needed to consume to make it to the next stop and eventually to the Prude Ranch where burgers and beer awaited.
Never in my life have I seen so much gratitude for PB&J’s. I’ve always liked the classic sandwich, probably more than most of the people I’ve made them for in the past. I’m used to hearing, “Ugh, not peanut butter and jelly…” in the not-so-melodious whine of a young teenager’s voice back in my Mom-makes-school-lunches days. These folks – grown-ups even – were eating neatly cut little PB&Js and groaning with delight.
It’s said that peanut butter hit the scene at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. In the early 1900s, peanut butter was considered a delicacy. It was only served at upper-crust (see what I did there?) parties and in the finest tea rooms in New York City. One coffee house proudly served a “peanut butter and pimento sandwich,” and another famous tea room served peanut butter with watercress.
Yet another tea room served it on toast triangles and soda crackers. Its rise in popularity could be in part because not only did it offer a nutty flavor, it was sticky enough to be paired with many different food items. Personally, I think I’d pass on the peanut butter and pimento sandwich but the watercress would be doable. The combinations are almost limitless. I don’t have enough newspaper page to get into that.
As time marched on, the price of peanut butter decreased and more households were able to afford the formerly-fancy sticky spread. Peanut butter makers added sugar to peanut butter, and it suddenly became a kid-favorite. Pair that with sliced bread that became a staple in the 1920s, and you’ve got the best thing since… well, sliced bread. Low cost, high nutrition and easy enough for a child to make made peanut butter sandwiches a top meal for kids during the Depression era, too.
While I’m probably not going to make and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for another year or so, I will make peanut butter cookies.
My friend Elaine Harmon introduced me to four-ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies that are easy and delicious, and are even gluten-free! I’ve made these cookies a number of times since she gave me her “secret recipe” (which is also on the back of a Skippy Peanut Butter jar), and these cookies are normally gone before they have time to cool completely.
Elaine’s Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
(Note: this recipe appeared on the Skippy label ages ago. It has four ingredients and usually the cookies are a success. A one-pound jar of Skippy makes 4 batches. Generic, cheap brands are too oily.)
1 cup Skippy Smooth Peanut Butter [or, 8 rounded tablespoons]
1 cup sugar (which can be reduced to 2/3 cup plus a light sprinkling)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
(optional toppings: peanut halves and/or light sprinkling of sugar)
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Blend all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Shape dough into one-inch balls. Space them about two inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Flatten each with a fork. Add optional peanuts or a light sprinkling of sugar. Bake 8-12 minutes until light brown and slightly puffed up. Lift each with spatula onto a wire rack to cool. They are fragile.
Yields approximately 18 1-1/2 inch cookies.
Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche