Maybe you’ve heard of it.
You take some bread.
You spread some peanut butter on it.
You put some pickles on it.
You smash that motherfucker together.
And now it’s a sandwich and you eat it.
You’re thinking, as I thought: well, that’s fucking gross.
I mean, shit, I like pickles. I like peanut butter. I am nothing if not a fanboy for bread. But my brain could not get around globbing these things together into a single Combiner Transformer in order to eat it. It seemed like some kind of heresy.
Let’s rewind a little.
The PB & Pickle sandwich got some love thanks to a recent NYT appearance. And initially, I assumed the NYT was just being the NYT, which meant it was offering treasonous nightmare opinions, probably either to troll us or to ruin democracy. And this sandwich definitely felt like a democracy-ruiner.
Just the same, I am wont to chastise my child — you can’t say you don’t like something without first trying it. And in the last ten years, I’ve come happily to terms that most of the things I feared were gross were… nnyeah, actually pretty dang tasty. Sweetbreads? (Spoiler: not actually bread.) Delicious. Spam? Amazing. Sushi? What the fuck was I thinking not eating sushi? Bugs? Hell yeah I’ll eat bugs. I ate a chapulines taco and it was legit wonderful.
So, I thought, I can eat this fucking sandwich, and it’ll be weird, and I can tweet about it, and my Twitter feed for five minutes will be a hilarious respite from the neverending DIPSHIT WATERGATE that is the true Infinity War.
I made one:
You can see what pickles and PB I used — the bread was a sourdough.
I made it.
I took a bite.
And whoa wait what the fuck.
It was good.
No — it was actually pretty great.
Here’s why it’s great — first, it does the thing that you might find in, say, Thai food, or some Vietnamese food — you’ve got sour and savory, plus the fattiness of the peanut butter (not to mention the salt), and the pickles bring some nice crunch. It’s eerily satisfying. And it helps then too to decouple your assumption that PEANUT BUTTER = SWEET, because it ain’t. Think satay. Normal peanut butter is savory as shit, we just happen to use it a lot with sweet things, combining it with jelly or chocolate or honey or whatever.
So, then authors-extraordinaire Kevin Hearne and Adam Rakunas said, no no no, you need food lube for that sandwich, and they said the true magic is adding in mayo to that motherfucker —
What ha ha no, that’s a bad idea, don’t do that, don’t add mayo. Like, what? Who hurt you? How did you get this way? I’m not a mayo-hater, I mean, I’m a white guy, it’s literally in my blood, but at the same time, I’m not cuckoo bananapants. I’m not putting that goop on this already-wonderful sandwich and OH FINE FUCK IT I decided to try it.
Duke’s mayo, of course —
And whoa wait WHAT FOOD FUCKERY IS THIS because…
…because it also was great. Maybe even better.
The mayo was food lube. It made the sandwich even more sandwichy.
So, a week or so later, I ran a couple miles, felt pretty good, decided to have a treat, and weirdly, my mind ran to this sandwich. As a reward. I had been reprogrammed — brainwashed! — by this sandwich to consider it a trophy. My brain said, “That sounds like a way to treat yourself.” So I decided to make one. Except… oh, hey, what’s this? I have some extra bacon in the fridge? Ha ha, okay, listen, I am generally of the belief that bacon is an overdone food fad. “Put bacon in it” is a lazy way of making something hipstery and salty and meaty, and generally a good way to overpower a thing with little nuance. At the same time, it’s… also tasty. Bacon is nummy. I like bacon. And I figured I’d slap some bacon on this mad motherfucker of a sandwich —
And by all the saints and all the sinners, all the gods and all the devils, this is a truly sublime sandwich. It is satisfying on a deeply primal, weird level I can barely begin to describe — salty, crunchy, a bit sweet, a lot sour, it’s like a FLAVOR PINBALL going full-tilt in your happy mouth.
Since then, others have hit me up on Twitter with their attempts at making one of these bastard sandwiches and then eating it — and I’d say 90% of the time, people expected to be revolted, but actually really dug it. A lot of folks also added their own delightful ingredients, too: Spam, bacon-flavored Spam, turkey bacon, other pickled veggies, Miracle Whip, jelly, bologna. And it’s versatile, as well — you can go from sweet to dill, you can use all kinds of different bread choices, different meat, different kinds of peanut or nut butters.
And you have to try it.
You don’t get to say it’s gross until you try it.
Because that’s a lesson even my soon-to-be-seven-year-old knows: you can dislike something after you’ve tried it, but not before. Because a lot of foods in particular seem pretty gross. I mean, cheese? Cheese, if you have never before beheld it, is nasty. My understanding is that some cultures view our consumption of cheese the same way we view the consumption of bugs, or stinky tofu, or rotten fish — I mean, cheese is like, THERE’S A BIG LUMBERING ANIMAL, GO SQUEEZE ITS TEATS, GET THE LIQUID, BUT THEN YOU WANNA CURDLE IT WITH ACID, AND THEN YOU WANNA LET IT SIT WHERE IT’LL GET SOUR AND WEIRD, AND SOMETIMES YOU REALLY WANT SOME MOLD TO GROW ON IT, OR EVEN THROUGH IT, AND SOMETIMES IT SMELLS LIKE A DEAD GUY’S FEET BUT HERE, EAT SOME.
Fish sauce is basically, hey, let fish get so rotten that they liquefy, now, put that rotten fish liquor on some rice, mmm.
Meat is, hey, kill that thing, bleed it out, then press fire to its carcass, then eat its carcass.
Eggs: “Hey, this oblong object fell out of that chicken’s nebulous under-hole, maybe it’s a baby, maybe it’s not a baby, but I’m gonna go ahead and open it up and pour the bird-snot I find inside into a hot pan, get it sizzlin’, see what happens.”
Honey? BEE VOMIT.
So, food is fucking weird.
Get past that.
Make the sandwich.
Try the sandwich.
I’ll wait here. Report back.