When I married into my husband’s family, I was taken back by their love of peanut butter. They incorporated peanut butter into their meals and snacks in ways I had never even considered. They loved the stuff!!

I have never been a big fan of peanut butter myself, although when I was young, my maternal grandma, Grandma Maud (McDaniel) Hostetter introduced me to the peanut butter and dill pickle sandwich and I do like to have one every so often. (Try it before you knock it!)

So I chuckled when I came across the following entry in my paternal grandma’s life history. Speaking of her new school teacher, Grandma Hazel (Mickelsen) Ganus said:

“He was a tall slim man from Texas. His wife didn’t know how to cook, that evidently was his job as he came to class with grease on the front of his trousers. This made more of an impression on me than his teaching did. 

He introduced me to the peanut butter sandwich. The class had gone on a picnic and he and his wife had brought some. I thought it was a poor substitute for a sandwich. But later liked it and have eaten many sandwiches made of it.”

I found it interesting that Grandma apparently had not seen a peanut butter sandwich before her Texas teacher brought it to the picnic that day. Grandma was born in 1900 and he was her seventh-grade teacher, so it was probably about 1912-1913 at the time. It made me curious about the origins of the peanut butter sandwich.

I learned that originally peanut butter was patented in 1895 as a healthy protein substitute for those without teeth, but it would take years before the process would be improved, making it smoother and tastier. Turning to the Chronicling America website, I read through newspapers published in the early 1900’s and found a variety of articles, many of which appeared to be an attempt to convince people of the merits of peanut butter. One article even went so far as to suggest it was a great substitute for regular butter in all kinds of recipes, including gravy!! Sacrilege!

Among the least appealing recipes I came across was a “Peanut Butter Loaf” made of bread crumbs, rice, stuffed olives, celery, onion juice, eggs, milk and 1/2 c. of peanut butter. It was then baked and served with tomato sauce! Various articles seemed to imply that eating peanut butter was slow to catch on and, given some of the recipes I came across, it isn’t hard for me to imagine why.

Some articles touted peanut butter as a great solution for vegetarians or those concerned with their dairy intake and one article even went so far as to call it “Nature’s Meat for Children” and claimed it to be nutritionally superior to steak.

peanut butter, sandwich, family history, ancestry, genealogy
Vernon Parish Democrat. (Leesville, La.), 15 Dec. 1921
Chronicling America 

And with the addition of chopped dates, figs, and raisins, it was deemed suitable for a dainty sandwich to serve at 5 o’clock tea.

The Fairmont West Virginian., May 11, 1915
Chronicling America

Although today many people use peanut butter in sauces, cookies and cakes, the every day “PB & J” likely remains the most common use of peanut butter. While I am confident peanut butter sandwiches have many fans and even Grandma Ganus eventually ate many of them over the course of her life, it still isn’t in my top ten sandwiches and I have to agree with her initial opinion when she called it a poor substitute for a sandwich.

What do you think of peanut butter sandwiches?

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

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20 thoughts on “A Poor Substitute for a Sandwich

  1. I love PB&J sandwiches, especially with extra crunchy peanut butter. However, when we had an exchange student live with us for a year, she was willing to try one, as she had heard Americans liked them a lot, but she didn't much care for it. I am pretty sure her first PB&J sandwich was her last.

  2. Michelle – About peanut butter. Growing up I disliked PB and would never eat it. My brother loved his PB & J sandwiches with grape jelly. I said "Yuk!" Fast forward to adulthood. Somewhere along the way I have grown very very fond of peanut butter, although I still don't like it in a sandwich. I love it on toast or english muffins, in my ice cream at cold stone, in energy bars….well, just about anywhere but a sandwich.

  3. Michelle, The fruit sandwich sounds good. I'm a peanut butter & jelly kind of lady but my husband likes to add sliced bananas to his sandwich.

  4. Hmm, I think my kids need to try their soy peanut butter and pickles! My oldest might enjoy that, or maybe he'll need to add ketchup! *gag* I love pb and js, but with food allergies in our home we dont allow real peanut butter, and the substitute is more expensive, which discourages me from wanting to eat it often!

  5. When I get asked the secret security questions, I often times use the "favorite food" because the answer is easy for me – PEANUT BUTTER! I like it in any way, shape, or form, although I can't say I've ever tried it with dill pickles (and don't think I will). When I was a kid, my mother always kept a jar of peanut butter in her purse when we traveled because she knew that way I would never starve. I can remember eating a slice of bread with peanut butter many times while the rest of the family was dining at a nice restaurant.

  6. Oh I haven't tried the PB & B either! Recently I was babysitting some of my grandkids and they had PB & J with grape jelly. It had been so many years since I had it I decided to give it a try. It was okay, but I am not likely to ask for it anytime soon. I realize I am among the minority though. Most folks seem to love it.

  7. I like peanut butter but I don't do PB&J. My husband likes PB and banana. Eww — banana and bread?? Reading this post, I can suddenly taste the PB & honey sandwiches served at my elementary school. Over the years, I have tried to create that same sandwich but without success. I must have the wrong peanut butter or the wrong honey. I make a delicious peanut butter pie that has become a summertime go-to dessert.

  8. Now I've never heard of peanut butter pie either, but I bet it would be a big hit at my husband's family parties. Sadly we have 4 grandsons who are deathly allergic to peanuts.

    There are a few things that they fixed in our elementary school that tasted different there than anywhere else too and I've wondered what their secret ingredient was.

  9. I grew up taking peanut butter sandwiches to school many days each week. My mom varied the sandwiches by adding mayonnaise, or sweet relish, or jelly. Other variations that I know others like include with honey or with onion. My least favorite is with jelly. My mom also stuffed it in the curve of celery, which certainly improved the celery! I still like peanut butter but usually eat it between graham crackers for breakfast or lunch along with a cup of milk, though sometimes I will cut a banana and put dabs of p.b. on each slice.

    There was a local restaurant that served the peanut butter pie extraordinaire. It had a layer of crushed oreo crust at the bottom, then a layer of caramel, some peanuts, and I think some chocolate. Then a thick, thick layer of peanut butter filling. We have tried to replicate it but have been unable. It was the very best pie ever.

    And you did read John Tew's post (at Filiopietism Prism) about peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches, right? He called them fluffernutter sandwiches. I've thought about trying those but just can't bring myself to do it.

    Fun post, Michelle.

  10. I missed John's post on fluffernutter sandwiches, but I did try one of those sandwiches a few years ago. I know a lot of people like them, but I just did not and it just didn't seem like a sandwich to me! I am not a big fan of sweet sandwiches and maybe that's why the peanut butter and dill pickle appealed to me.

    You mentioned several varieties I hadn't even thought of! It's interesting how much our tastes and preferences are influenced by our upbringing and the area in which we live.

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