Ben Kochman | Between the Slices
PB & ...P?
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 08:02
Spread a layer of peanut butter on a slice of bread, add pickles and top with more bread. This is likely not the peanut butter sandwich your parents packed into your grade-school lunchbox.
But after rigorously testing this unorthodox marriage this week, I can say with certainty that although the peanut butter-pickle sandwich strays from peanut butter sandwich norms, it’s surprisingly complex and tasty.
The concept of a peanut butter sandwich is nothing new to most Americans. Peanut butter with jelly is arguably the classic American ’wich. Debates raged, at least in my lunch hall, over what comprised the perfect PB&J. Some folks were Team Creamy, some supported Team Chunky. Some used strawberry jelly, others preferred grape. Weak-chinned folk trimmed the crusts off their sandwiches, and the sweet-toothed subbed out jelly entirely in favor of Marshmallow Fluff.
My experimentation within the peanut butter sandwich genre ended at this point. At least until October, when the New York Times published one writer’s tale of his love affair with his favorite comfort food: the peanut butter-pickle sandwich, a.k.a the PB&P.
At least one storefront in New York, Peanut Butter Co. in Greenwich Village, serves a PB&P, according to the Times’ article. The sandwich has a bit of a cult following — its fan page on Facebook has over 600 likes — but even after October’s national exposure, the PB&P remains decidedly not mainstream.
This is a shame because peanut butter and pickles, two staples of the American diet in their own right, are a natural fit for each other. It’s a mistake to recoil in disgust, as many of my housemates did at first when I explained this week’s topic to them. There’s nothing to be afraid of here.
I put the PB&P through its paces this week, trying four total variations. First, I combined smooth peanut butter, and then chunky peanut butter, with the most inexpensive pickles I could find at the supermarket, Mt. Olive Kosher Dills, pre-cut into long, flat oval slices. The result was satisfying, though a bit more boring than I had hoped for. The Mt. Olives had a mild vinegary dill flavor to begin with, and the peanut butter cut the taste of the brine to such an extent that I was primarily tasting texture and not flavor.
Now this was not totally bad, as I was impressed by the contrasting textures of the crunchy pickle and the creamy peanut butter. Subbing in crunchy peanut butter added one more exciting textural layer, but I was still left craving a pickle with more attitude, more bite, to counter the dulling effect of the peanut butter.
The coin-shaped “hotties” from Rick Pick’s, a smaller pickle company based in New York City, did the trick. The “hotties” are loaded with briny bite, chunks of garlic and a serious kick from habaneros and Sriracha. Lodged in a PB&P, these mini pickle poppers take the peanut butter sandwich to new heights. Eaten directly out of the jar, these pickles are dangerously hot, but the peanut butter softens up the intense flavor, creating a sublime fusion.
I’m a peanut-butter-and-pickles believer. I’m adding the PB&P to my regular rotation. Next time, I think I’ll try a sweet pickle, or something more sour than the Mt. Olives. Big flavor is rewarded here.
So get out there and expand your peanut butter sandwich boundaries, Jumbos. You can make this ’wich at home, and it’s also super easy to construct if you find yourself in a Tufts dining hall.
Let’s put our PB&J days behind us. A more sophisticated, mature and downright scrumptious version of the peanut butter sandwich is just a pair of pickles away.
Ben Kochman is a senior majoring in English. He can be reached at Benjamin.Kochman@tufts.edu