It’s Time To Talk About The Sandwich

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.

Pineapple lumps? SURE.

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 —

*record scratch*

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.

It’s great.

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.

45 comments

  • (For the record, I recognize that many folks have allergies to various potential ingredients in this sandwich! In which case, it’s perfectly justified to not think it would be good, because… it’ll try to kill you. Don’t eat the sandwich if it’ll try to kill you.)

    • May 7, 2018 at 5:58 PM // Reply

      Ever since this thing exploded I have been contemplating whether it is possible to construct a variant that would not try to kill me.

        • May 8, 2018 at 4:21 PM // Reply

          I did it with cashew butter and dill pickles and am faintly confused as to why it came out reminding me of fancy maki, flavor-wise. (The nut butter parsed like sesame seeds? Vinegar from the pickles for the sushi rice? Sorcery? Let’s go with sorcery.)

  • Awesome. I’ll admit that it DID sound gross. When you added in the mayo it took me back to my childhood when I used to eat peanut butter and mayo sandwiches. Weird. Loved them then, sounds horrible now. But with the pickles (I love the B&B pickles) and the bacon? Damn, that actually sounds good. I’m game. Thanks for sharing, Chuck.

  • May 7, 2018 at 10:48 AM // Reply

    I’ve been eating peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwiches for decades; love them. When you come right down ti it, it’s just sweet and sour; nothing weird about that.

  • Also, I would have immediately jumped to “ew, gross!” at the mention of pickles, except that you used bread and butter pickles. Sweet-ish pickles. (Not Swedish pickles. I don’t think.) I would not go full-on kosher garlic dill, but b&b – I’m with you.

  • May 7, 2018 at 11:07 AM // Reply

    Hi Chuck. When I was somewhat younger I could judge the next day how drunk I was the night before by what kind of sandwich I made- and tried to convince anyone near me to try. It usually consisted of heavy bread made with sesame seeds- toasted or not, butter, peanut butter, pickles or relish, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, canned peaches, (the peaches were absolutely imperative) cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, spam, strawberry jam, sometimes a little mustard and sliced apples. And not necessarily in that order. Cooking bacon would have involved too much effort. And yes, copious amounts of alcohol were a given. If in doubt the next day of my level of intoxication, I’d walk into the kitchen to view the carnage.

    • May 7, 2018 at 8:51 PM // Reply

      That actually sounds like something I’d try. Even with my feelings about mayo and cold cheddar cheese at the forefront. And I’m totally sober at the moment, which probably says a lot about my normal state of mind.

  • Okay, okay. Step 1 has been completed. You convinced me to try a peanut butter and pickle sandwich. And it was delicious.

    I need to get some bacon and mayo, and I will report back once I am fully indoctrinated.

  • May 7, 2018 at 11:15 AM // Reply

    Hmm… I learned to make them with dill pickles. And never in a million years would I have thought of adding mayo to that, because… hmm.

    My MIL swears by PB and grated carrot. I still haven’t tried it, but I must, since I’m trying to eat less sugar, and jam is, well, you know. Sugar.

  • May 7, 2018 at 11:23 AM // Reply

    My ex-mother-in-law loves peanut butter and onion sandwiches. I think that is a step too far, though I did enjoy the peanut butter and pickle combo.

  • Being that I heartily despise both pickles and mayo, I will have to devote a day of internet-screaming about how wrong this is.

    …no, wait. It’s a subjective opinion about food. I’ll just replace the items I don’t like with seedless raspberry jam and slightly more peanut butter, then pin the whole together with a toothpick bearing a tiny flag on which is written A CHACUN SON GOUT.

  • At one school where I worked, the chemistry teacher kept a jar of pickles, a jar of peanut butter and bread in the work room so that she would always have this option. Some days she counted on it, others she just didn’t want to eat whatever she’d brought and there was the peanut butter and pickle sandwich. She insisted that we just had to try it sometime, so one day I did.

    I’m not going to call it my favorite sandwich, but it’s better than it sounds.

    I also make my own pickles and have found that cucumbers aren’t the only good pickled vegetables. If you can, try your peanut butter sandwich with some pickled onions thrown in.

  • *record scratch*

    Wait, B-Dub is ALMOST SEVEN? Wasn’t he four like, two weeks ago?

    Kids, man. They go through life at a different speed from us.

  • Also, I’m now curious about mixing in some giardiniera to give it just a *little* heat, and slipping in some chicken.

  • If you happen to find yourself in Portland, Oregon you might enjoy the peanut butter, pickle, bacon combination at Killer Burger: https://killerburger.com/menu/

    It’s legendary.

    I try to order something else every single time I go and am lured back into the luscious web of the PBPB every time.

  • When my father was in high school, his mother asked him what sandwich he’d like her to make for his lunch one day. He said, “I dunno … peanut butter, baloney, mustard, jelly, cheese …” “All on the same sandwich?” asked my grandmother, in equal parts fascinated and horrified by the first child she’d brought into the world. My dad, being a teenage boy, simply shrugged.

    And that is how he got a peanut butter, jelly, and mustard sandwich in his lunch that day.

    And he loved it. And he taught his first-born daughter to love it.

    And that is why, to this day, I eat my PBJs with a squirt of yellow mustard on them. And they are AWESOME.

  • During grade school my mom packed PB and Pickles in my lunch — ALOT. My dad would sneak bacon onto the sandwich every now and again. In Junior High I wanted to kiss boys so I refused the sandwich at school but ate them on the week-ends!

  • I gotta go dill pickles, as I’ve never liked bread & butter. My favorite sandwich as a kid was peanut butter, dill pickles, tomato, and lettuce on rye bread — preferably the rye bread with the caraway seeds, and preferably toasted quite dark. My niece upped the ante when she introduced me to peanut butter, dill pickles, tomato, hummus, and mustard, and it was just amazing. Pickled jalapenos make a great substitute for the pickles, if you like a bit of spice.

  • I am so adding pickles to the peanut butter, honey, and sriracha sandwich I have occasionally. I’ve had the thought before, but something always stopped me. I always assumed that something was sobriety, but it was something else. Something afraid, something boring. Something that Chuck Wendig may have just slain with his words of foody truth.

  • May 7, 2018 at 6:30 PM // Reply

    A favourite here when our kids were small was banana and mayonnaise sandwich. It has to be a good quality mayo – not too vinegary. In the UK that would be Hellmans.

  • Many years ago we used to have peanut butter days at my (Australian) office. The challenge was to try the weirdest combinations. The favourite was peanut butter and tomato – great combo, love it still. The consensus was that peanut butter does not go with sardines. Almost anything else (including pickles), but not sardines.

  • I’m not crazy about pickles, but during my undergrad years, decades ago, I was introduced to BLT with p.b & mayo. That expanded to bacon cheeseburger with p.b. & mayo. I still treat myself to whatever I happen to have around plus p.b. & mayo.

  • I really don’t like sweet with savoury. But peanut butter isn’t sweet – not unless you add sugar to it for some reason (or the manufacturer did, in order to get you hooked on the stuff).
    Despite this, the idea of adding peanut butter to a delicious melange of pickles (or gherkins as we call them down here), mayonnaise, bacon, and – let us not forget – bread, just doesn’t appeal.
    On the other hand, I am now wondering how hard it is to make mayonnaise (because there’s none in the house and with this cough I should probably be staying away from the public food-trove that is the supermarket) in order to assemble a peanut-butter-free version.
    Side note: peanut butter and Vegemite are really good together. Slap a slice of cheese (real cheese, none of that plasticated rubbery stuff) in the middle for extra flavour.

  • May 8, 2018 at 12:50 AM // Reply

    Okay, I tried just the peanut butter and pickle (dill pickles b/c I think bread and butter pickles are gross), and then I tried it again with mayo- sans bacon because we don’t have any right now. HOLY SHIT THIS IS A FREAKING GREAT SANDWICH. I’m definitely going to be experimenting with different breads, nut butters, etc.

  • I have been enjoying sandwiches like this since the age of 9. The really sublime PB&pickle sandwich is with homemade dilled carrots or beans (pickled carrots are exactly what they sound like: slice carrots into spears, add garlic, dill, vinegar/salt/water combo, ferment a few weeks. Green beans ditto, except add some hot pepper flake, too.)

  • Peanut butter and bacon (on toast) has been a family favorite since the late 1950s. I saw it on restaurant menus back then and into the early ’60s and for a time there were jars of peanut butter with bacon bits mixed in. I found one at an LA restaurant in 2011 (with apple slices) but nowhere since then. I still make them every month or so. Never liked pickles, but the pineapple is intriguing…

  • I’ve been eating pickle & PB since I was a kid, although I prefer a dill hamburger pickle – not sweet, but not over the top garlic dill.

  • I took some bread.
    I spread some peanut butter on it.
    I put some pickles on it.
    I smashed that motherfucker together.

    It was a sandwich and I ate it.

    I thought: well, that’s fucking good.

    Thank you sir. I look forward to disturbing my wife and son with this new found sandwich knowledge.

  • I was not prepared. This is a truly tasty sandwich. It satisfied urges I didn’t know I had. I want to share it with the world, and yet I want it all for myself.

    So, do we need to do anything special for this new cult? Cuz I’m all in.

  • As someone whose body frequently rejects bread and other gluten things, this also makes a fantastic topping for Basmati rice. Throw on some pickled onions and jalapenos and you’ve got a lunch that will make your coworkers very concerned for your mental health.

  • You know, I really, really would sample this concoction, but I’ve tried pickles many times in my thirty-eight years, and I detest them. They literally make me gag. I can’t even stomach the smell of them.

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