Entry #28 - The Nostalgia of Sandwiches
by Matt Bonner
Sandwiches might be the one common food item that binds us all. No matter where you come from, you can relate to eating a sandwich. Even Trick Daddy grew up on sugar water and mayonnaise sandwiches.
Sandwiches are instruments of nostalgia. Conduits to the past. Nothing can take you back to a moment in time like a sandwich. Especially if it’s a sandwich your mom used to make.
Every time I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it takes me back to second grade… Right there with He-Man, Larry Bird, and Oil Can Boyd. My mom will probably dispute the following account and maybe my memory is skewed since it was so long ago, but I remember having peanut butter and jelly every school lunch for the first seven months of the school year.
It was a glorious run, but just like the band Creed, all good things must come to an end. For me, that end came on the first day of spring.
One of the best parts of growing up in New England, is that first real day of spring. I’m not talking about March 21. The calendar might say it’s spring, but anyone who has spent a winter in northern New England knows it’s really up to Mother Nature.
I’m talking about that long-awaited day when the snow is finally all melted and the sun thaws the earth into mud – when you can finally fall onto the grass and not have to worry about skinning your knee or ripping your Celtics/Red Sox/Patriots sweatpants or UConn/BC Starter Jacket on the jagged frozen ground.
The temperature rises into the upper 60s making it feasible to ride a bike in a Red Sox T-shirt and thus freeing hordes of children from a five-month winter prison term.
It is the best day of the year.
When I was in second grade, the first real day of spring happened on a school day. As a result, our teacher let us eat lunch outside to enjoy the change in weather. Upon exiting the school, I threw my brown paper bag lunch on the ground and immediately delved into a wicked muddy game of school yard tackle football.
Per the usual, I immediately declared myself to be Lawrence Taylor. My friends snatched up the personas of Joe Montana, Bo Jackson, Steve DeOssie, etc. After a multitude of vicious tackles (or what seemed like vicious tackles, to me) and thoroughly staining my dungarees, I made my way back to the school steps to eat my lunch.
As it turns out, I had unknowingly left my lunch baking in the sun for the past 30 minutes. I realized my mistake as soon as I emptied the brown paper bag and started in on the contents. First up was my string cheese, which had melted into mush. I couldn’t even peel it into strings and make a cheese mustache.
I ate it anyway.
Then I wolfed down my soupy applesauce, melted Fruit by the Foot and a Kudos bar.
At this point, my stomach was starting to feel a bit queasy. Still, I powered on and unwrapped the final item: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I choked down the first half and started on the other. I don’t know if it was the foul combination of physically hot snacks I had just devoured, or the fact that I had consumed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day for the last seven months, but I couldn’t eat any more. If I was on Fear Factor with $50,000 on the line and had to choose between finishing that sandwich or eating an assortment of arthropods, I’d have gone with the bugs.
Making matters worse: I was going to be sick. Luckily, I made it to a purple lilac bush before it was too late.
That spring day had two lasting consequences. The first one being that I went home and asked my mom to switch up my school lunch. I simply couldn’t eat PB&J anymore. I needed a break.
I soon got a steady diet of peanut butter and fluff, tuna, and bologna sandwiches. Moms are the best.
The other consequence is that just about every time I get a whiff of PB&J, it takes me back to that fateful April day in second grade. I smell the mud, feel the warmth of the sun, and get that fleeting sense of freedom only a child on the first day of spring can feel. And then I get a sudden urge to tackle someone, L.T. style.