Peanut butter and jelly slathered on two pieces of bread and smashed together sounds pretty simple to prepare, right? It may be, but there’s an ongoing debate about the steps you take before you have that first bite.

Growing up, my family made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches using Skippy creamy peanut butter and Smucker’s grape jelly, on white, untoasted Stroehmann bread. Before taking that first bite, we sliced the sandwiches in half, and left the crust on the bread. Occasionally, my Dad would opt for Smucker’s strawberry jam, but that little white and red checkered jar always seemed to outlast its grape counterpart in our fridge. Later during my childhood, my Dad started buying Skippy Super Chunky peanut butter, and eventually we had both the green-labeled Skippy (creamy) and the blue-labeled Skippy (chunky) in our pantry, with my Dad alternating between the two.

When we made our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we put a thin layer of peanut butter on one piece of bread, and a thin layer of jelly on the other piece of bread, then lightly pressed them together. You never wanted to be the person who was left with an end piece of the loaf, because those bread slices were always a little smaller and more rounded than the others. Because my Dad always made sure we had several loaves of Stroehmann white bread on hand, my siblings and I had a habit of opening a new loaf instead of using the end pieces, so there were often yellow packages of just two odd slices on the top of the fridge.

More Than One Way to Slice It

While in the 3rd grade, sitting in a friend’s kitchen after school, I watched in horror as her Mom sliced a PB&J sandwich in half, then removed the dark brown edges of the bread, leaving only the white, soft middle. Why? I wondered.

As it turns out, I learned, there are many different ways to prepare a PB&J. And there are many different versions (and colors) of those three simple ingredients: bread, peanut butter, and jelly. You can even (gasp!) omit the jelly or the peanut butter. But then, it’s no longer a PB&J, right?

The History of an American Staple

According to the National Peanut Board (who knew this existed?!), the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was first consumed in 1901, after a recipe for it was published in the Boston Cooking School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics. The sandwich was a delicacy, since peanut butter at the time was an exclusive food that was served in upscale tea rooms. Eventually, a creamier, less sticky version of peanut butter was invented, and grocery stores began carrying it. Families stocked their pantries with peanut butter during the Great Depression, seeing it as an affordable, high-protein meal. Separately, pre-sliced bread and a spreadable jelly called Grapelade were gaining in popularity. The three ingredients wound up with American soldiers in WWII, and when they returned from war, PB&J became an American staple.

The Ongoing Debate

But what, exactly, is the best way to prepare a PB&J? The debate is ongoing. Just this June, a Twitter user tweeted this question:

What is the proper way to make a PB & J?

RT for: bread then peanut butter, jelly on top on peanut butter then bread

Like for: bread then peanut butter, jelly on other piece of bread and place together.

The post blew up, receiving thousands of retweets and likes. It currently has 8,400 retweets and 244,000 likes, and is still pinned to the top of the user’s page. You can read the full article from TODAY, with a link to the post, here:

Currently, I’m making a PB&J without the jelly, with sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter, on multi-grain bread. I’m not sure if that still qualifies as a PB&J, but the original led me here 😊

How do you make a PB&J? Comment below!