1. MAKE A LIST. As you complete each step, it must be documented for posterity.  This sandwich will be remembered.  Keep the list simple--this task should be simple if proper attention is paid.  You have the eye for detail the project requires.  Only you.  You know there should be no more than seven items on this list.  Seven is lucky.  Luck, though, will only take you so far.

 

2. Assemble the tools: butter knife and plate.

 

3. Set the mise en place--peanut butter, jelly, and bread--before you.

 

                        2a. The plate you have is not the appropriate vessel for                                

                        this sandwich.  This paper plate ringed with flowers.  A    

                        run to the antique store produces a Waterford crystal  

                        cake platter, which will allow this sandwich to genuinely  

                        stand above all other sandwiches.  The Mona Lisa would

                        not have been as well received if it had been framed with

                        plywood.

 

4. Place two slices of bread on the platter.

 

                        3a. If this is going to be truly perfect, the bread needs to    

                        be specified.  If this sandwich is to be the peerless

                        representation of all things peanut butter and jelly,

                        whatever store-bought, pre-sliced loaf you have in the

                        house is not going to cut it. Consider making the bread. A  

                        toothsome honey wheat.

 

                        3b. Realize, after staring at a lump of unrising dough for  

                        what felt like hours, that bread-making is impossible.  An  

                        art best left to the professionals.  You must find the

                        makers of the perfect ingredients for this sandwich. The    

                        responsibility of both making the perfect sandwich and

                        making the perfect components for the perfect sandwich

                        would destroy you.  Drive to a purveyor of artisanal

                        bread. Ask for recommendations.  Leave with a loaf of    

                        toothsome honey wheat that the cashier, with prodding,  

                        agreed is likely the best bread for this pursuit.

 

                         2b. You need a bread knife.  Bread such as this should

                         not be cut with any other knife.  One is found in the  

                         wooden block of knives on your kitchen counter.

 

                         3c. Slice the bread, careful that each of the two slices is  

                         an equal half-inch thick.  Discard the first several pieces

                         that look like wedges, also ones that are much too thick  

                         or much too thin.  Realize the use of the phrase,  

                         “greatest thing since sliced bread,” is really saying

                         something.  The highest possible compliment to be given  

                         to any innovation since some luminary in the pantheon

                         of gods among mortals found a way to produce perfectly

                         sliced bread on a global scale.  Worry that the phrase is

                         used too lightly, that even calling a cure for cancer the

                         “greatest thing since sliced bread” would not be fully

                         engaged with the elegant, divine simplicity of sliced

                         bread.  

 

5. Spread the peanut butter on one side of one piece of bread.

 

                        3d. This peanut butter, after another trip to another    

                        store two hours away, is the most peanut buttery peanut

                        butter you can imagine: Georgia Runner Peanuts

                        organically grown to the peak of ripeness, harvested this

                        morning and shipped at great expense, roasted in small

                        batches, tossed with peanut oil and salt before being

                        hand-ground with stone mortar and pestle into a

                        smooth, creamy paste. When you, checking out, say you

                        are committed to making the perfect peanut butter and

                        jelly sandwich, you swear the old woman’s eyes brim with

                        tears.  Had she made a similar venture in her younger

                        days?  You imagine her trying and failing, before

                        overnight shipping and specialty food shops; she not

                        being able to gather the perfect ingredients to make this

                        perfect sandwich.  In her time, before the concepts of

                        “artisanal” or “organic” anything.  Her attempt at this feat

                        would have been a Sisyphean task. You consider turning

                        the car around to beg for her advice, but become

                        concerned that the aura of failure which must envelop

                        her will infect your own endeavor after prolonged

                        exposure.  It is enough that she has made the perfect

                        peanut butter.

 

                                   2c. The plain old kitchen butter knife you use to  

                                   spread the ultimate peanut butter onto the

                                   ultimate bread is not up to the job.  Said butter

                                   knife leaves hills and valleys in the peanut butter,

                                   and any attempts to smooth them only create new

                                   ones.  The knife you should have started with (and

                                   your hand) is a tool perfectly designed for the task,  

                                   which you purchase from a restaurant supply

                                   store. Unlike that person at the bakery, this cashier

                                   has more than polite interest in the project and

                                   finds a hand-forged, stainless-steel spreading

                                   knife, which you purchase after only a moment’s

                                   hesitation at the price.

 

6. Spread the jelly on one side of the other piece of bread.

 

                                   3e. You realize that the type of jelly should have

                                   been specified.  You had intended from the outset

                                   for it to be grape jelly, but when you wrote it down

                                   you had not considered the sheer scope of

                                   available jams and jellies.  Strawberry jelly. Tomato

                                   jelly.  Peach jalapeno jelly. Raspberry jam.  Kiwi jam.

                                   Bacon jam. You pictured grape jelly. But what kind?

                                   Concord? Muscadet? Merlot? Niagara? And is

                                   grape jelly, the first jelly you considered, really the

                                   best of all jellies in the world?  Have all jellies in the  

                                   world even been discovered?  What if there is

                                   some fruit  lurking deep in the heart of the Amazon

                                   rainforest, which would put sad little Concord

                                   grapes to shame? This fruit, waiting to be  

                                   discovered.  You are in anguish over its lost

                                   potential.  How many of those perfect fruits are  

                                   lying moldy on the jungle floor?  Are they being

                                   eaten by monkeys? What if monkeys could learn to

                                   make jelly?  What if they already had?  

                                   What if the perfect peanut butter and jelly

                                   sandwich had already been made by some gifted

                                   capuchin? What if the crafting of delicious jellies

                                   was what truly set man apart from monkeys and

                                   man had already been surpassed?  What if--

 

                                          1a. Have a stiff drink.  Two fingers of scotch.  

                                          Neat.

 

                                          1b. Have another.

 

Once You Commit to Making the Perfect Peanut Butter and Concord Grape Jelly Sandwich

 

                                     3f. Go to a farmer’s market and find the stand  

                                     with the jars of preserves.  Confirm that these

                                     Concord grapes ripened on a sunny hillside, until  

                                     they were hand-picked and blended expertly with

                                     pectin, turbinado sugar, and fresh-squeezed

                                     lemon juice. This is the best Concord grape jelly

                                     you can find. It is in a neat little glass jar, lid

                                     covered with white muslin, a cross-stitched

                                     bunch of grapes in the center, a ribbon tied

                                     around the rim, reassuring purchasers through

                                     decoration this jelly is loved. Someone gave a

                                     piece of his very soul to this jelly. This is the best-

                                     tasting grape jelly available in the world.  

 

6a. The amount of jelly spread on the bread should be in equal proportion to the amount of peanut butter on the other slice.

 

     5a. Realize you should have further considered how much peanut butter is the perfect amount of peanut butter.  Be haunted by the amount of peanut butter you put on the other slice of bread.  Was it too much?  Not enough? It looked perfect at the outset, but now that the amount of jelly is being considered it seems impossible that it did not occur to you to use caution in your application of the peanut butter.

 

    5b. Scrape some of the peanut butter off of the bread.

 

    5c. Decide the amount of peanut butter remaining looks too skimpy.    

    Add some back.

                                              1c. Have another scotch.

 

5d. Decide that the perfect amount of peanut butter is the amount of peanut butter currently on the bread.

 

7. Put the two slices together so that peanut butter meets jelly.

 

    7a. Realize this step, the actual completion of the sandwich, is the simplest and least debatable.  These elements were meant to be brought together.  You were meant to forge this sandwich, this pinnacle of culinary achievement.  It is done.  The sandwich is before you.  Tears run down your cheek and drop onto your sweat-stained shirt.

Erika Murdey earned her MA in English language and literature at Central Michigan University, where she focused on fiction writing.  This year she will be entering the MFA program in fiction at the University of Alaska-Anchorage.

Erika Murdey

COPYRIGHT 2016 LITERARY JUICE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Fiction

May 2016

8. The recipe for the “perfect” anything never includes the devouring of it.  The recipe will inform how many may be served this piece of perfection, maybe provide suggestions for accompaniments, but never delve in to how it should be eaten.  Knife and fork?  Spoon?  Chopsticks?  Bare hands?  The approach seems obvious for a sandwich, but has the matter been given enough thought?  And now that the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich has been created, what are the consequences?  If something perfect exists in this imperfect world, what will happen if the sandwich is eaten?  When it is gone from Earth will the ground shake?  Will the absence of it, once created, shatter the barrier between this universe and the next?  What right had you to create this perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich? And are you even the most worthy specimen of humanity to eat it?  This sandwich.  Is it made for a president? A king? A god?  The thought occurs--What recipe has ever considered whether or not the creation should even be eaten at all?  This sandwich.  This perfect assemblage of hand-ground peanut butter and beautifully crafted Concord grape jelly on half-inch slices of toothsome artisanal honey wheat bread, displayed atop a Waterford crystal pedestal, would become the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a bite taken out of it, then two bites, soon six, then, consumed, nothing.  Or would that first bite be the deciding factor?  It must.  But, is it possible that you have not made the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich?  What if this list is not a testament to your accomplishment but a warning for others to heed?  Could it be a guide another will follow, a more virtuous and dedicated sandwich-maker?  You had gathered the best man had to offer in making this sandwich; but what if the freshest, best ingredients that could be assembled had deteriorated over several trips to several stores and the scotch-soothed mental breakdown that occurred from the undertaking of such a monumental task?  Had the sandwich’s moment of perfection already passed?  Had it ever been achieved?

Once You Commit to Making the Perfect Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Literary Juice