Peanut butter and jelly: It’s as American as apple pie, but apple pie, at least the store-bought kind, ain’t what it used to be.
The Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich in America has been turned into — courtesy of The Corporation — PB&J, Inc. Yes, the ampersand separating three letters strikes again!
Admittedly, I am a finicky eater, and I’ve been very picky — choosy, in fact, about the peanut butter that I eat.
I never chose JIF, as a mother, or otherwise. But JIF is now Big Peanut, eaten by billions who don’t know any better, but ought to, since JIF is owned by a Fortune 500 company, Smucker’s. JIF and Skippy are presently battling it out for global supremacy. As for the consumer/customer, well, we’re an afterthought!
I used to eat Skippy Chunky until about 3 decades ago, when I, and a health-food-exercise-nut co-worker, discovered the stuff was loaded with dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, and other garbage ingredients.
He and I were in the habit, each one of us, that is, of scooping a teaspoon-ful out of the jar and gradually eating it. When we jointly read the label, he flipped the door of his overhead flip-bin workspace cabinet and threw out the offensive item. Me, I started to buy an alternate brand, named Adam’s.
Within the past few years, however, I’ve noticed that Adam’s Chunky Peanut Butter is more like hard-paste, or peanut spackle, although spackle is more spreadable with the appropriately sized spatula.
Last week, I needed to eat a quick lunch, and, for whatever reason — perhaps memories of my long-ago peanut-butter past — I decided that PB&J would fill that bill. I took out of the frig the necessary components for this sandwich.
First, I chiseled out of the bottom of the Adams jar about 2 tbsp. of the peanut paste onto a butter pat. Then I put the plumber’s putty into the microwave on low for 10 seconds. The stuff still wasn’t soft, but I didn’t have time — EVEN USING A MICROWAVE — to wait any longer. I spread the semi-hard cement onto the slice of untoasted rye, and, inadvertently, massacred the bread. It broke under the sheer weight and force of the troweling knife in my little hand.
Next came the jelly, a topic to be discussed later. If peanut butter has been ruined in America, wait until we get to The Jelly.
I ate my dry sandwich, and proceeded to check into the collapse of the peanut butter industry in this country. In my extremely biased opinion, peanut butter has never been the same, or as good, since the stagflation days of that Peanut Farmer in the White House.
It turns out that Adams has been owned since 1998 by Smucker’s, the schmucks who have destroyed jam, jelly, preserves, marmalades and hundreds of other foodstuffs, for humans and for pets.
I asked Dear Husband if there isn’t an alternative to what is obviously corporate peanut butter. We spent 45 minutes searching the Internet. The results were predictably appalling.
The Marketing Geniuses out there have figured out that if they create a label and image of Granny’s Homemade Anything, then the buyers, millions and millions and millions of them, who are fed-up with being fed Corporate Crap will take the bait, or the worm.
There are labels with phoney-baloney handwriting for organic peanut butter that is merely a subdivision of a company that’s waiting, with bated — or baited — bad breath, to be gobbled up by The Corporation (which is always wrong).
And then there’s the bowing to the eco-freaks who cannot abide palm oil. (Guess what, neither can I.) A guy named Justin with “his” organic peanut butter has overtaken that share of the market.
I wonder why I think of that idiot with the fake eyebrows in Ottawa?
At last, I found the Kirkland Brand of peanut butter, sold at Costco online, not in vats, but in 2 jars. They’re en route to the homestead. This concoction is organic and creamy, but I’ll chop some nuts to spread on the top, and pretend that organic is a real thing, cause it’s so omni-present it can’t be authentic. It’s yet another marketing gimmick. So much for a quick lunch!
Now for the jelly.
I used to purchase Dickinson’s Marion Blackberry Preserves, without the seeds. The jar alone was a work of art, a thing of beauty!
I cannot recall precisely when this brand became very hard to find in stores, but, about six years ago, I switched to the French jam called Bonne Maman. This product is filled with sugar, and I subsequently started to eat less and less jelly on toast which is a twice-a week-breakfast. Even my PB&J sandwich became peanut-butter-on-toasted-whole-wheat-bread.
Last night, I researched Jelly World in the USA. It’s an absolute mess.
The brand named Dickinson’s has only recently been discontinued because of the corporate raiders who bring us every recession known to America. As inferior replacements, several jellies, at top-gouge price, are made, somewhere, in New England. I could not find a manufacturing location on the private-enterprise website . It was almost like looking for makeup!
The company gives Their Story, which has got to be the biggest PR firm focus-grouped bunch of hooey I’ve heard in a lonnnnng time. And, yes, when I read the words, I hear them. What I heard from this website was:
“Please buy so much of our overpriced jelly that we get bought up by The Corporation!”
This Maine-based company (I got this factoid from an unrelated source) was indeed bought up by a Private Equity Firm in 2019. The term “angel investor” has to be revised to “devil at work”. This business venture is a real adventure in a part of the United States that taxes everything except breathing, and I daresay the masked bandits known as bureaucrats royally cleaned up during the plandemic.
Directly countermanding the contrary position of Dear Husband, who deemed the price of this Yankee jelly to be confiscatory, I purchased 1 jar of Stonewall Kitchen (which my mind hears as Stonewall Jackson) Seedless Blackberry Jam and 1 Jar of Seedless Black Raspberry Jam.
The price is sky-high for 12 ounces, but I cannot properly criticize what I haven’t tasted. I can, however, carp about this entrepreneur, whoever It is, copying the elegant design of the Dickinson’s jar. And if this imploding domestic economy keeps right on imploding, the Micro-Jams of this non-Recession are about to become the Micro-Brewery of the Eternal Recession.
I did discover that aioli spread is all the rage on these small-batch jelly sites. The humble Concord Grape is nowhere to be found at a humble price; and I haven’t bought a jar of Welch’s since the days of my youth in New Jersey. Somehow, the wine-caves in California can’t seem to offer up some stomped grapes for preserving anything but the next payola election.
The Sun-dried Tomatoes that infested every restaurant in The States in the 1990s are making a return to jams. The tomato farmers must be in a jam.
In desperation, I looked at an online shop located in the UK. Here’s where the Spice Route figures into this essay. The most reasonably priced, healthful, and appealing jelly is created in Ireland. I bought 6 jars of Folláin blackberry jam — without the liquor — for the bulk discount.
St. Patrick’s Day in my house will feature Irish blackberry jelly, without seeds. I’m saving the Lingonberry Preserves for Santa Lucia Day.