You send your children out into the world and you think you know them. You’ve shared miles of travel together, shuttling between pediatrician, orthodontist, soccer matches in torrential rains, SAT prep commitments, dress rehearsals for the high school musicals. You’ve prepared countless brown bag lunches at ungodly hours of the morning, many crafted from pure imagination and limited refrigerator inspiration. “How about some nice popcorn for lunch? Wait- it looks like an apple back there and, um, what about peanut butter? You don’t want to buy lunch. Why would you want to buy lunch?”
Years later, you find yourself sitting opposite your two children who are now adults, and over dinner the conversation turns to the unthinkable.
Last Wednesday evening, between bites of jalapeno-studded hushpuppies and Korean broccoli, I was explaining my outrage over the current state of the brown bag lunch. “Sure, sure I understand the need for sequestering peanut butter sandwiches in order to protect those with allergies. I understand the marketing genius behind those loathsome lunch-a-ma-call-its, the ones with more plastic packaging than nutrition. The ones I never, EVER purchased. But do you know what really makes me crazy?”
Blondilocks glanced over to Master/Master and I watched the two of them not-so-subtly roll their eyes. “I’ll tell you what makes me crazy- besides those strange squeezable yogurts, it’s those pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. PRE-MADE PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SANDWICHES! With the crusts removed- can you believe such a thing exists?!” I took a sip of water before continuing. “You never carried your lunch in a, what do you call it? A Bento lunch box. You had a Peanuts lunch box, and one year you carried an Arthur lunch box, and in Grad school, Master/Master carried a Phineas and Ferb insulated lunch box. However, for most of your school years, you carried a brown paper bag. And I always, always made your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” I glanced at the eldest adding, “except you always preferred straight-up peanut butter, no jelly.”
Swirling the slightest bit of rosé in her wine glass, Blondilocks took a sip and then said a word that was foreign to my ears; “Crustables.” I narrowed my eyes in shock, thinking I had misunderstood, wanting to hear but dreading to hear what she was about to say. “Sure. Freshman year of college. Remember when the New York City health department shut down the food service because of a laundry list of offenses and it was all over the news? My freshman roommate received a care package from her mother and Crustables were in the box. We kept them in the freezer compartment of our dorm fridge. They were pretty good.”
“WHAT?! You ate circular peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crusts removed?” Blondilocks drained the wine glass dry before replying, “Yup. Out of the freezer.”
I am equally stunned and horrified. “And you are just telling me this NOW??”
The following day, I stripped off the bandana that was suffocating my curls and marched down the street to our Village supermarket. East of the ice cream and west of the frozen fish, I spotted them; Crustables. On the front of the neon grape package was a likeness of the circular peanut butter and jelly ‘soft bread sandwich’ with a bite taken out of it. The image of the sandwich was disturbingly appealing, the crustless edges perfectly crimped, each pleat equidistant, the anemic white bread providing the perfect canvas for the nutty butter and purple jelly. I tried to rationalize the need for the Crustable. Other than being faced with an empty jar of Trader Joe’s crunchy salted peanut butter and a bag of crumbs where there once was Sullivan Street bakery multi-grain bread, I could think of none. Maybe when the Board of Health shuts down your college dining service, that constitutes a valid reason. Maybe.
Seeking solace in my grocer’s freezer, I scooped up a pint of salted caramel ice cream before swinging down the jam/jelly aisle. Pausing for just a moment to grab a jar emblazoned with a familiar blue label, I made my way to the not-so-express check out line. I had plans for one cup of non-organic, classic creamy Skippy peanut butter. Leaving me more than enough in the jar should I have a need to pack school lunches in the morning. Oh so sadly, I don’t.
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