Making a PBJ in 2016
However, I just went to the grocery store and had a jarring experience, so to warm up, I’m going to write about that first.
I went to the grocery store because I want to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I needed peanut butter, jelly, and bread. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?
I walked into the grocery store, and the first thing I saw was a shit ton of colored objects of various shapes. None of them were bread, and they definitely were not peanut butter.
I logged onto Quora and posted some pictures to get some help. I refreshed my mobile browser repeatedly while looking around nervously, getting more and more bewildered by the second.
Finally, Josh Bremis, Experienced Grocery Shopper, replied. He said that the objects were called produce! Further, there were multiple kinds of produce, the largest categories being “fruits” and “vegetables”. Okay. Totally intuitive.
Then, Matthew Beasley, Senior Grocery Shopper, noted that one of my pictures contained an taxonomical interesting case. It had a tomato in it, which was often thought of as a vegetable but was actually a fruit because it housed seeds.
MOTHERFUCKER I’m not a goddamn plant life biologist! I just want a PBJ (Peanut butter and jelly sandwich), not this superflous grocery culture bullshit!
I asked a grocery-man, “Grocery-man, which one of these is peanut butter? Which is jelly? Finally, which is bread?” I held up a hairy brown ball. “Is this what bread is like now?! Round and hairy?”
“Oh, no, sir. That’s a cocoanot. Peanut butter and jelly are in Isle 18, and bread is over in Isle 6.”
“Isles!” I said. “They’re on isles? Are there footbridges that go to them? Or do you have gondolas?”
“Uh.” said the grocery-man. “No, they’re just over there. It’s a very short walk.”
“You’ve dried out the sea between the isles? That sounds really excessive and hubristic. Why don’t you just put the peanut butter right here?”
“Well, the produce is here.”
I stared blankly, trying to think of a way to break out of this grocery-man’s circular argument. We shared a long silence.
“Hey, how about I just take you over to Isle 6? You can follow me.”
So, I cautiously followed Grocery-Man on his journey to the Isles. I learned a couple of things on this journey:
- There was a lot of shit in this grocery store. We walked past all sorts of oddments: glass canisters filled with suspended shapes, animal limbs severed from their host animals, Go-Gurt and Yo-Gurt, fish from the sea, and a twisted complement to the animal limbs: food intended for animals. None these things had anything whatsoever to do with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Maybe grocery shoppers just like shit to be as complicated as possible.
- These “Isles” were isles in name only. Rather, they were rows. Or possibly columns, depending on your perspective. Instead of making a choice and calling them “Row 6 and Row 18” or “Column 6 and Column 18”, bloated grocery culture has given them a misleading arbitrary name just to frustrate people.
When we finally arrived at “Isle” 6, my guide in this twisted land waved and said, “Here you go! Our white bread is over on that side, and whole wheat bread is over here. There’s a nice Tuscan pane that I like right there.”
WHOLE. WHEAT. BREAD.
I seethed with rage. What in fuck does wheat have to do with bread, and why the fuck do I have to deal with it.
Controlling myself, I stated plainly, “Hey, man. I just want regular bread.”
“Oh, OK. You mean white bread?”
“I don’t care about the color of the bread. I don’t care if the bread is green, purple, or black — I just want standard bread like the kind I used to have. And I don’t have anything against Tuscans, but I want bread, not pane.”
I took a deep breath. I re-centered myself. Grocery-man stared.
It was then I noticed next to the Tuscan Pane, a sign that said “flatbreads”.
“Why are they making the breads flat! What was wrong with 3D bread?”
Grocery-man looked nervous. “Oh, that’s just another kind of bread. You can use it for falafel sandwiches and…” He trailed off. “Don’t worry about it! It’s here, but you can ignore it since you–”
“Why the fuck would you make flat bread! Why are you guys making this so hard? I just want to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Why do I need to deal with flat breads and wheats to do simple food-making?”
An older grocery-man appeared. “Sir, is there a problem?”
“Yes. There is. I want to make a PBJ (peanut butter and jelly sandwich), you guys and your insane culture have created too much shit. Do these breads all do the same thing?”
Grocery-man thrust a bag of bread, heavens knows what kind at me, and said, “I think this should work! It’s a fairly standard bread.”
The other grocery-man piped in, “I’m a manager here. I’ll make sure you get the rest of what you need for your sandwich. Follow me, please.”
Too laden with grocery-fatigue to argue, I went along with Grocery-manager, clutching the bread, which I suspected was not truly standard. Grocery-man vanished, probably to bring another 18,000 kinds of bread to the Isles.
We passed by black beans and coffee beans (some of which were black), cream of corn and creamed corn and whipping cream, breakfast cereal and cereal bars. Not to belabor a point, but:
None. Of. This. Fucking. Had. Anything. To. Do. With. Making. A. Goddamn. P. B. J. (Peanut. Butter. And. Jelly. Sandwich.)
At last, we arrived at Isle 18.
Grocery-manager swiftly grabbed a jar and handed it to me. Jif Creamy. “Here you go! Peanut butter. Shall we head to checkout?”
He was standing in front of jars labelled “almond butter” and “Nutella”. Even more shit. Just senseless. I decided to try to ignore it as hard as he was trying to hide it.
“Well, I still need jelly for my PBJ.”
“OK, what kind of – actually, let me get you the jelly.” He walked away from his position, revealing a large sign that said “Nut Butters.” Under it, there was artisanal almond butter. Cashew butter. Hazelnut butter. Sun butter.
Instead of just letting something simple like peanut butter keep working on its own like it always has, the fucking grocery community went and created a similar-but-different peanut butter from the Goddamn Sun. In addition to creating confusing alternatives like creamed corn and sardines, they had fuck around in peanut butter’s neighborhood.
Grocery-manager was standing in front of many jars of jelly. They had a million fucking names and origins and functions and colors. But they all turned red.
I SCREAMED. I screamed for the days when you could just get standard bread and peanut butter and jelly. I screamed a scream for all the poor saps who came before me, just trying to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and had to take classes online and start a new career in order to deal with all the beans and tomatoes and dismembered legs and wheats and almond butters that these grocery fuckers created just to make making a PBJ overwhelming.
Then, I blacked out.
It was nice, actually.
I didn’t have to choose between purpling out or Tuscanning out or what kind of artisanal capillaries to use.
I just blacked out.