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
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
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
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.
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.
COPYRIGHT 2016 LITERARY JUICE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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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?