Wintertime in Chicago. Bad season to be vegetarian. There’s no good food porn in Brussels sprouts. True raunch would be a Moody’s blue cheese burger, a Bacino’s deep dish sausage pizza, a Wiener Circle dog. Meat, meat, meat. Greasy. Dripping red juice. Burning. On the grill. Voluptuous.
“I must eat something that was once alive,” a carnivore shouts into the wind.
Hey, I’m vegetarian but I totally sympathize. It’s cold out. Our bodies crave stick-to-the-ribs food. For vegetarians that means peanut butter.
One time at Walgreens, I bought 34 jars of on sale peanut butter. Less than a buck per jar. How gleeful my fortyish year old self was! I’d tricked the capitalist system! No more grocery shopping for me– I had meals for a year. Meanwhile, the ol’ minimum wages would pile up until my future glowed with laptops, silver sequin dresses, rent.
Realizing that the mastication of peanut butter sandwiches every single day could be tricky palate-wise, I cleverly chose 17 jars of Chunky, 17 jars of Smooth. By the way. If you are planning to follow in my footsteps, I recommend buying a heavy majority of Smooth. When your taste for peanut butter goes (starting for me on about jar three), Chunky is much more disgusting to hold in your mouth and chew.
“Ugh!” my friend Veronica (not her real name) said, eyeing a Chunky label. “I don’t like eating peanut butter with things in it.”
“But those things are peanuts!”
Still, she had a point.
Peanut butter became my one topic of conversation. Everyone knew about my horrifying experiment.
A phone call one evening.
“Are you okay?” my friend Anna said. “I’m watching the news and they’re announcing a bunch of recalls with the peanut salmonella. I’m thinking of you with all that peanut butter.”
“Nah,” I said. “Not my brand.” My brand was Jif. “Choosy mothers choose Jif,” I’d chant sarcastically while unscrewing the lid of, say, jar 15. And FYI, Jif. This is not some elaborate suck up to your company. Do not send me coupons for any free friggin peanut butter. Just because I’m mentioning you front and center in my highly influential trend-setting blog.
In those dark days of endless brown spread– all of my conversations ended with a heavy sigh and something like “well, 18 jars to go.”
Eating the same thing everyday made me bad-tempered. A friend made the mistake of saying that he wished he liked peanut butter. Ooh, that made me seethe!
“I don’t like peanut butter,” I rasped. “I’m eating 34 jars! I. Hate. Peanut butter.” (This was round about jar 22).
Sometimes I’d stare at my dachshund while he crunched on his interesting-looking kibble and licked his various wet foods. He’d look up at me nervously between swallows.
Peanut butter lasts for aeons, by the way. Peanut butter, rats, and cockroaches can survive nuclear war. Needs citation
Also, peanut butter doesn’t need to be refrigerated though it seems like it should be.
I switched up my jams– apricot, peach, strawberry. Did not help. In fact, the on sale blueberry jams were wearing me down too. I tried different breads. Rye. Seven-grain. Oat bran. Pumpernickel. Hawaiian. I did uncooked. I did toasted.
But peanut butter has a strong flavor. Real strong.
The last jar sat up in my cupboard until eight days before the expiration date on the label. Only then did I begin to eat it. I finished on the exact last day. Although nowadays they say expiration dates are a farce so I probably had a couple more years to go on it.
What is it about peanut butter? Odi et amo, said Catullus. I worship it into the ground and then I’m repulsed by it. After decades of avoiding it, I start to think maybe I like it again. Upon which I run it– ad nauseum.
Right this second, there’s a jar of Smooth Jif in my cupboard. I’ve dipped into it for about three sandwiches. Already I’m pretty damn sick of it.
1) Removes chewing gum from hair.
2) Charlie Brown held it bunched in his cheeks while obsessing about the little red-haired girl.
3) Exterminators assure me it works better than cheese in rodent traps.