As always with the really important news, the news that will actually affect your life, it was buried on the third or fourth page in a small paragraph of a small article. The story detailed the attempt by the US Army to create a peanut butter and jelly pocket sandwich that will last without refrigeration for at least three years – every child’s dream come true. Here’s what a gentleman named Jerry Darsch, who directs the Defense Department’s feeding program, had to say.
“Darsch said his sandwiches are designed to be as resilient as the troops they feed. �This bad boy will last a minimum of three years at 80 degrees, six months at 100 degrees. They will travel to the swampiest swamp, the highest mountain and the most arid desert.’”
I don’t know about you but I’m already salivating. In fact, if the military had any sense, they would use these sandwiches as part of their recruitment campaign. What good old-fashioned American boy or girl could resist. A PBNJ sandwich that lasts a lifetime. The gift that keeps on giving. The meal that will never die.
And best of all, it’s called a pocket sandwich which means you must be able to slip that bad boy right into your pocket in the morning, slog through swamps all afternoon, wipe swamp muck off it in the evening and enjoy the tantalizing taste of a sandwich with so many preservatives it makes mummies look lax.
I personally grew up on PBNJ sandwiches, much to the disgust and dismay of my father and – most especially – my grandpop. My mother was just as happy to have us eat something we could make ourselves without her supervision. I was thrilled at the excuse to eat Wonder Bread instead of that fresh baked crusty Italian stuff my father insisted be on the family table. I loved trying to spread the hard peanut butter, watching the bread stretch but, if you were very careful, never quite break.
My grandpop’s problem with PBNJ sandwiches went deeper than what he saw as my acculturation into a sterile American world through the constant ingestion of stretchy white bread. He worked at a factory that made originally made crackers and eventually made peanut butter crackers. Somewhere along the line, he apparently became convinced that peanut butter was nothing more than vats filled with worms. For all I know, there may have been worms in the vats of peanut butter used for the factory. He worked there, after all, in the early years of the 20th century and food was not built to last three years with no discernible effects.
It became a game of cat and mouse after he and nonna moved in with us. My brother and I would run home from school at lunch and try to make and eat our sandwiches in time to 1. go back out to play before lunchtime ended and 2. avoid running into either of our grandparents while we were making and eating our PBNJ. If they caught us, we would be forced to listen to the worm story again while nonna disposed of the sandwiches we had so lovingly made and made us something absolutely yucky like a salami and roasted red pepper sandwich on crusted, hot Italian bread. Oh the horrors my brother and I suffered as children!
And now the US Defense Department has solved our problem. PBNJ sandwiches that we could have stuffed in our pockets and carried for upwards of three years without anyone catching on. It’s too late for me, I fear. The wonder of Wonder Bread is as long gone as my childhood. No matter how I try, I can no longer pull up the same level of excitement as I once did at it’s amazing ability to stretch like silly putty if you just put the right pressure in the right place. And peanut butter no longer has the consistency of cement unless you leave it in your refrigerator for months. It’s a wimpy substitute for the stuff we used to pry out of jars and attempt to smear on bread and crackers.
However, I am planning to ask that they put some of those military sandwiches aside for me after I die in the off chance cryogenics really works and they can bring me back in some future century healthy, young and beautiful. It will just make the whole event twice as nice to know there will be a PBNJ sandwich waiting for me when I awaken. And I have no doubt it will taste as fresh then as it did the day I died.