In the last WTF Fun Fact, we told you about the invention of sliced bread. Now, we’re here to tell you about something so delicious it actually pre-dated automatic slicers – the first PB&J, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Whether it was the Earl of Sandwich or someone else who decided to first put things between bread, some would have you believe that the PB&J is an integral part of history.
History.com (cited below) says “After English speakers adopted the word “sandwich,” they began coming up with new words and phrases to describe different types, from meaty Sloppy Joes to the layered club sandwich.”
We understand that desire to put meat and vegetables into a sandwich, but we’re still stumped on what made someone decide to create a sandwich out of what are largely considered to be two condiments.
“The first known recipe for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich appeared in 1901 in The Boston Cooking School Magazine of Culinary Science & Domestic Economics. During the 1920s, companies began to mass-manufacture peanut butter in the United States, and targeted children as potential new consumers. This helped make the PB&J a common school lunch.”
Standardized in Home Ec and rose to fame via school lunches? Ok, we could have guessed that.
How the PB&J came to be
So we can date the formal sandwich itself back to 1901, but did it exist in some form before that? Well, the answer is we’re not sure, but it’s unlikely.
Smithsonian Magazine has the answer to how the PB&J came to be, and if you guess “because of vegetarians,” you are correct!
Around the late-19th century, ladies’ luncheons were popular, and tiny tea sandwiches were often served. Alongside the cucumber and cheese option was one that contained no animal products at all. In addition, “health food advocates like John Harvey Kellogg started promoting peanut products as a replacement for animal-based foods (butter included). So for a vegetarian option at these luncheons, peanut butter simply replaced regular butter.”
Peanut butter wasn’t created for mass manufacture until the 1920s. And at that point, it was marketed specifically to target children.
Smithsonian also reports that it was cookbook author Julia Davis Chandler who wrote, “some day try making little sandwiches, or bread fingers, of three very thin layers of bread and two of filling, one of peanut paste, whatever brand you prefer, and currant or crabapple jelly for the other. The combination is delicious, and so far as I know original.”
Ladies took the sandwich idea from the garden party to their children’s lunch boxes in the 1920s when they could finally get mass produced peanut butter (with hydrogenated vegetable oil and sugar to make it tasty).
And no one was happier than Skippy, the first brand to target children “as a potential new audience, and thus the association with school lunches was forged.” — WTF fun facts