After several PBJ fits and starts during my stateside travels last century, I adopted PBJ into my breakfast diet about 8 years ago, after I settled in my new country. Since then, I have experimented with different brands and kinds of ingredients. The winning combo: Good Seed Halos bread by Dave’s Killer Bread, Trader Joe’s Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter, and Strawberry Rhubarb Jam by Apple Valley Country Store. My body and I made peace with peanut butter; I thought I had peanut butter down.
Until the assault of a peanut butter pickle sandwich.
Lindsay and I were walking up Portland’s Hawthorne Boulevard to Mt. Tabor one gloomy September afternoon, when she exclaimed, “I have a craving for a peanut butter pickle sandwich!”
Of course, having no idea such a thing existed, I was perplexed. It couldn’t be right, I must have heard wrong. Amused by my bemusement, Lindsay, an avid food writer over at Blue Palate, described the peanut butter pickle sandwich to me and said I needed to try it. It would go well with the pickles I had made a couple of weeks before. Recalling my first PBJ experience—spongy white bread, chemically-sweet jam, peanut butter that stuck to my gums—I got both scared and curious.
Under Lindsay’s culinary supervision, on October 5th, 2011, I assembled my first, open-face peanut butter pickle sandwich for an afternoon snack: a slice of Heavenly Soy & Flax Sprouted Whole Grain Bread by Rainier Organic Bakery, a thick layer of Fred Meyer Creamy Peanut Butter (Lindsay insisted the peanut butter in the recipe had to be “crappy”), and fridge pickles I had made with Czech pickling spices Deko.
The first bite satisfied my curiosity. The texture was amazing: a crunch through the crispy and juicy pickles, then a glide through the peanut butter, and a soft landing in the bread.
From the second bite on, I was able to focus on the flavor, which was, well, different. A unique combination of ingredients provided a unique combination of flavors, all blending into a single experience. America had taught me to enjoy sweet-and-salty food combos (bacon donuts as well as chocolate-covered pretzels and bacon strips come to mind). As unprepared as I was for the peanut-butter-pickle combo, I actually liked it. Lindsay was right: the cheap peanut butter was so sweet it balanced perfectly the mild, salty tartness of the pickles. The bread neutralized the two opponents and cleaned the palate for the next bite. Had the bread been the spongy kind, the landing would have been spongy and flavorless; instead, the Heavenly Soy & Flax created a solid, wheaty foundation.
As with so many new experiences in the new country, the peanut butter pickle sandwich turned from an ambush on the senses into a great experiment. Yes, I survived the great peanut butter pickle sandwich experiment and lived to tell the tale.