April 1st? April Fools shenanigans? You guys! April 2nd is the real holiday: It’s National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. Celebrate early with this history behind the iconic sandwich.
The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is an American favorite. It is delicious, nutritious, and enjoyed by all ages. A 2002 J.M. Smucker company survey found that the average person eats approximately 1,500 pb&js before graduating from high school. However, many do not know the fascinating history of the humble peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The best thing since sliced bread
It all started with Otto Frederick Rohwedder, the inventor of the first commercial automatic bread-slicing machine. After many setbacks, he finally succeeded and sold his machines to multiple buyers including Wonder Bread, the first major company to sell sliced bread. Their original slogan inspired the common phrase: “the best thing since sliced bread.”
A fine dining favorite
Jelly was already a household item, but Paul Welch (the same Welch that you are thinking of) obtained a patent in 1917 for Grapelade, a pureed grape spread. As for peanut butter, Dr. Ambrose Straub is the one we should thank. He created a peanut paste for his elderly patients who had problems swallowing or poor teeth. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, brother of the founder of Kellogg, patented one procedure for making peanut butter. Straub brought peanut butter to both the Chicago World Fair in 1893 and the St. Louis World Fair in 1904, where grocery stores began buying it. The upper class soon took a liking to peanut butter, and upscale tea rooms served peanut butter alongside watercress and pimento sandwiches.
The Boston Cooking School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics released the first recipe for the peanut butter and jelly sandwich in 1901. It was still a high-class food at the time, but that changed during the Great Depression. Families realized that peanut butter was high in nutrition but low in cost. The U.S. Army also noticed this, and soon peanut butter rations were available during World War II. Jelly and pre-sliced bread were also on the ration menus, and soldiers realized that these three ingredients worked great together. They made the sandwiches for their children when they returned, and many American children took fondly to them.
Crunchy, creamy, or bacon?
From HuffPost to Bon Appetit, everyone has their own opinion on what a peanut butter and jelly sandwich should taste like. Whether it is the choice between crunchy or creamy peanut butter, or if something possibly better substitutes the jelly, like how Elvis preferred to add bananas and occasionally bacon. Despite differences, everyone who doesn’t entirely hate this sandwich should celebrate on April 2, National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day.
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