I don't think this is the kind of answer Oprah has in mind when she asks the question, but it is a genuine answer. And a good one, I believe.
Furthermore, I truly believe that I am the best person to decide what makes a perfect Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. I know there are many lovers of the PB&J out there, even some over the age of 12, like me.
But I have been dedicated to loving peanut butter and jelly since I first started carrying my Dance Fever lunch box to school. Probably before. My mom would sometimes make me a ham sandwich instead, which was also pretty good, especially if it was oozing lots of Hellman's. But peanut butter and jelly was always my first request.
Sometimes an older kid, or a cousin, or a parent, would try to explain to me that if I ate one every day, that I would soon grow sick of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And that when I grew up, I wouldn't enjoy them anymore.
Totally untrue. Now, in my thirties, I love them as much as ever. I made myself a half-sized one last night with a cup of tea while I watched American Idol.
And get this.There is actually a National Peanut and Jelly Day, which falls on April 2. Do you know what else happens to fall on April 2? My birthday. See? It's destiny.
I am a little sad about how the sandwich has fallen from grace in the last few years. Never in my wildest dreams could I have anticipated dropping my kids off at classroom doors bearing signs with a big red circle and a slash over a picture of some peanuts, and sometimes my beloved sandwich, too, with the ordinance, "Nut-Free Zone."
I was very upset at first, in a very curmudgeonly what-is-this-world-coming-to kind of way. But I totally understand the reason, I've known a couple of moms now with kids who've almost died from a peanut allergy. I'm totally sympathetic. I still don't quite understand where the peanut allergy was when I was a kid, or why it grew to epidemic proportions--and I hope someone somewhere is looking into it. That's plain scary.
So I make my kids Peanut Butter and Jelly at home, as an afternoon snack, a weekend lunch, or picnic/roadtrip fare. In fact, when I recently bid farewell to our best friends as they set off on a Navy cross-country move, I supplied them with a stack of PB&Js for the road. Comfort food for crossing the Mojave desert. (The Mojave's tagline: You Could Die Here.)
When I was a kid, our choosy mom spread chunky Jif and grape Smuckers on Roman Meal wheat bread. Yummy. These days, we moms are now informed about nefarious things like trans fat, hydrogenated oils, and high-fructose corn syrup, so I have gotten even choosier about my PB&J ingredients.
Without further ado, here's my recipe:
1) Two slices of Orrowheat 100% whole wheat bread. I like Orrowheat because it uses NO high-fructose corn syrup, but it is still pretty cheap and in every grocery store.
2) I use Laura Scudders All Natural Peanut Butter, which I do have to stir when I first open a new jar, but then once I refrigerate it, it won't really separate, and it stays soft and spreadable. I prefer chunky, but the commissary stopped carrying chunky about 6 months ago. One of these days I'll remember to put a request in the comment box. I like natural peanut butter because there's no added sugar, no hydrogenated oils, and it just plain tastes better.
3) Brace yourself. I use Polaner All Fruit jams. I know, I know, it comes in a teeny tiny jar and cost more, especially compared to the enormous jar of Smuckers. But I love the taste, and the consistency, of Polaner, and I don't want my kids getting hooked on high-fructose corn syrup. Plus, I buy it at the commissary for something like $1.40 a jar. Oooh, I most love their seedless raspberry, which I also use as a filling in cakes, and even brownies, but all their flavors are delicious.
4) So obviously, you spread one slice of bread with peanut butter, and one slice with jam. But to make a perfect PB&J, I spread it evenly all the way over the edge of the crust. I am very careful to do this, because I am a crust Nazi. Maybe I am just a Mean Mom, but will not let my kids get away with not eating the crusts. Maybe it's because my parents didn't indulge that, or maybe it's because I don't like wasting food. Or maybe that I want them to get used to overcoming illogical food pickiness, which annoys my husband even more than me. So I make the crusts as tasty as possible.
5) Now for the cutting. I cut it twice, diagonally, into triangles. I've learned that if you cut it just once, in half, kids will end up with peanut butter and jelly smeared across their cheeks because the sandwich is too wide for their little mouths. Also, this results in each triangle having only one side of crust. Much easier for kids to tolerate, just one crust per mini sandwich. See, I do try to accomodate them.
6) I've started plating the sandwiches with the triangles standing up on their crusts, with their points pointing straight up, because it shows off the filling, and looks so inviting. And presentation doesn't ALWAYS matter, but it sure is nice to eat pretty food.
So that's my Perfect Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. Other people may make it differently, which is fine, I'm sure, but it's not Perfect.