Sandwich Assembly 101: Which Comes First, the Peanut Butter or the Jelly?

It may seem simple, but the peanut butter and jelly sandwich presents a contamination conundrum.
It may seem simple, but the peanut butter and jelly sandwich presents a contamination conundrum. (Al Behrman -- The Associated Press)
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By John Kelly
Thursday, March 5, 2009

No American need apologize for a love of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Easy access to peanut butter is an American birthright, and every true American knows that peanut butter tastes good slathered on anything from Hershey bars to Vlasic pickles.

I was reminded of this during my recent sojourn in England, where peanut butter is considered an alien foodstuff and is sold -- when you can find it -- in tiny ampoules instead of the giant tubs we favor.

They just don't "get" peanut butter there. In fact, one British acquaintance mentioned that she didn't really like visiting the United States because "it smells of peanut butter." I don't think that's necessarily true, but even if it is, you must agree that there are worse things for a country to smell of. (Stale beer and old cooking oil spring to mind.)

These days, of course, offering someone a peanut butter-laden comestible is akin to handing him an anthrax-laden ├ęclair. American birthrights sometimes collide -- in this case, profit and peanut butter. I'm sure, however, that the recent leguminous health scare will subside.

In the meantime, I've been reflecting on a great philosophical question: When making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, is it better to plunge the knife into the jelly first, spread it on one slice of bread, then put the knife in the peanut butter and spread it on the other slice? Or is it better to do it the other way around -- spread the peanut butter first, then the jelly?

The former method risks contaminating the peanut butter jar with jelly; the latter, contaminating the jelly jar with peanut butter. Thoughts?

TV Funhouse?

Arlington County resident Jim Dinegar is the father of elementary-school age kids. "I've watched my share of 'The Wiggles' and different kids' shows," he said.

The shows are as boring to him as PBS's "NewsHour" would be to a 5-year-old, but Jim says he feels virtuous watching them with his children. If only he could engage in a little multitasking. He wishes the same technology that enlivens the screen during grown-up programming could be employed during kids' programming.

"Couldn't you scroll at the bottom news headlines or sports scores?" Jim asked. "Just give me some stock information. Tell me how the Dow's doing."

If Jim had his way, crawling under Barney or Dora the Explorer would be an Associated Press news feed, Wall Street ticker or the latest Las Vegas line. Most of the material would go over kids' heads, he said, and broadcasters could stay away from the especially gory stuff.

Alas, Jim said, he looked into it and discovered that there are FCC rules against commingling adult and children's programming.

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