Anyone who has been to the grocery store lately knows what a rare and expensive delicacy peanut butter has become.
Therefore it comes as a real surprise when the Brokaws brought out an entire jar of it for cocktails the other evening. The jar, which weighed at least a pound, contained the extra-crunchy kind that you can find in only the finest restaurants. It was sitting in a carved figure of ice surrounded by toast and pats of jelly.
"I didn't know this was a special occasion," one of the guests said.
Meredith Brokaw replied, "It isn't, but every once in a while Tom and I get the urge to splurge, and we treat ourselves to a luxury."
I whispered to my wife, "There must be money on her side of the family, because I know Brokaw could never afford a jar of peanut butter on what he makes."
She said, "Hush, they'll hear you. Anyway, what difference does it make? You only get to eat peanut butter once in your life. Let's make the most of it."
We all gathered around as Mrs. Brokaw started spreading the golden substance on toast and passing it to her guests.
Some people asked for jelly with theirs, but a few purists like myself wanted it without any condiments.
We all "oohed" and "ahhed" as we tasted it.
"This is the real stuff," I said. "Where on earth did you find it?"
"We have a connection at the United Nations," Brokaw said. "He gets it through the diplomatic pouch."
"Did you know it takes three pounds of peanuts to make one jar of peanut butter?"
"No wonder no one can afford it," I said.
One of the guests said, "I remember when I was a kid, my mother used to keep a jar in the closet and after school we used to spread it on bread like butter."
Another one said, "I recall those days. I didn't know what I had and used to trade my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at lunch hour for ham on rye."
"Help yourselves," Meredith Brokaw said. "We don't want it to go to waste."
We didn't need to be asked twice. I put two large teaspoonfuls on a piece of toast.
"Don't make a pig of yourself," my wife whispered. "You act as if it's the first time you ever ate peanut butter."
"It's the first times in months," I whispered back. "If they're crazy enough to serve it, why shouldn't we get our share?"
"I was once on the Queen Elizabeth, and they gave you all the peanut butter you could eat."
"They always make a big deal of that on luxury lines," someone else said.
We all laughed as we kept digging into the jar.
One of the guests said, "Does anyone here remember when we used to feed peanuts to the elephants at the zoo?"
"I recall when we used to eat them at baseball games."
Mrs. Brokaw brought out more toast and jelly.
"I went to a bar when I was in college and you'll never believe this, but there was a bowl of peanuts on each table," I said. "We used to throw the shells on the floor."
By this time the jar was empty and the toast and jelly were gone.
I tried to lick the inside of the top, but my wife stopped me.
It was an evening I'll never forget. I've been to houses recently where there have been a few canapes of peanut butter mixed in with the smoked salmon sandwiches. But I've never been in a home where someone actually brought out an entire jar of it, and passed it around like it was caviar.