Over the long weekend P, myself, R and S went on one of our road trips—this time to northern Maine, the farthest you can go north on the Eastern coast before you hit Canada. It was in this tiny hamlet that P and S, fresh from a landlocked mountainous country, started their American life at a rural state school near the ocean.
We connected with a few friends from their days “down east”—a professor, a classmate or two, and some local townsfolk friends. During our conversations, one story kept popping up, and of all things, it was about peanut butter. Mental note—blog about that.
So here I am, my post on peanut butter.
The first conversation started when our hosts asked what I wanted to pack for lunch since we were going to the Salmon Festival, and being a vegetarian, I wasn’t so interested in eating the local attraction of salmon-on-a-stick.
“Just give her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” S said, a hint of sarcasm in his voice, “She loooooves peanut butter and jelly.”
This snarky comment comes from the cross-country road trip the four of us went on in 2008. I was trying to think of easy foods to pack in case we were out on the road and hunger struck. What would any true-blooded American think of in such situations? Why the classic PB&J, of course!
Perhaps my companions didn’t notice when I stuck the large jar of peanut butter in our shopping cart in California, but on day two, when I pulled it out of the trunk during a rest stop at the Grand Canyon and proposed a quick sandwich for lunch, I was met with three disappointed stares.
“Come on guys, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are quick, easy, and filling. What’s the problem?” I asked.
“Nepalese hate peanut butter!”
How can anyone hate peanut butter? I admit I’m not as crazy as some Americans, who could literally lick it off a spoon, but a peanut butter and jelly sandwich definitely hits the spot now and again.
“Give it a try, its good, and it will hold you over until dinner.”
Well—I was the only one eating PBJ’s the rest of the trip.
The next time over the weekend that I told the story we were having lunch with an older American couple. They were equally surprised (especially since they have a Thai daughter-in-law, who uses peanuts in all sorts of cooking).
“But you like peanuts?” asked the woman.
“Yeah” agreed R, S and P.
“So what is the difference? Peanut butter is basically crushed spreadable peanuts.”
Still no takers.
“But get this…” I added, “A few nights ago when it was too hot to cook in our apartment a group of us decided to make summer rolls including a Thai peanut sauce made from peanut butter, vinegar and sugar. P loved the sauce.”
“I didn’t know there was peanut butter in it at the time!” He defended himself.
“But you still liked it.” declared the friend.
“It was mixed with other things.” He said, and S concluded: “You’ll never get a Nepali to like peanut butter.”
Sigh. I know that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a pretty American thing. As a student living in the International House, I proposed making PPJs for “American culture night” since they really resonate with me as a part of Americana childhood.
However, I don’t want to stereotype all Nepalis, because I hold out that there must be Nepali peanut butter lovers in the world, but I do offer a word of caution—don’t make PPJ’s for a road trip with Nepali friends and expect to be popular.