How to make peanut butter toast

There are steps to follow if you want to do this right.

  1. The night before, just as you’re about to fall asleep, remember that you will be eating peanut butter toast in about eight hours. It will give you a mysterious Mona Lisa smile.
  2. Get out of bed after snoozing once. Use those eight minutes to think about peanut butter toast and about how you’ll never live up to your full potential as a human being. Decide to focus on the toast.
  3. Go pee and take your pills: birth control and citalopram. Wonder if you should stop taking the citalopram; really, you haven’t felt intense anxiety in a while, and you might be able to get by on a smaller dose or none at all, and if you were only a stronger person, you would be able to exist without pills to clear your brain out, and maybe even without birth control, because you wouldn’t be so scared of having a child and messing it up. These thoughts all float through your mind in the five seconds it takes to rattle both pills into your hand, tip your head back, and swallow them. Decide to focus on the toast.
  4. This part is important: Start the coffee first. If you drink tea, consider drinking coffee. Tea is not strong enough to stand up to peanut butter toast. Don’t put anything in your coffee. You drink it black, like your dad does, because when you started drinking it at 16 you wanted to be like him.
  5. Take the loaf of Dave’s Killer Bread out of the fridge; the one with the green label. It’s “21 grains and seeds,” or something, and the only reason you might not have it is that they don’t sell it at Trader Joe’s and you didn’t feel like going to a second grocery store that week. The only acceptable alternative is Orowheat, which you always have stashed in your freezer, but the day won’t be good if you start with Orowheat. Also, does Trader Joe’s have an arrangement to take the bad produce from produce companies so they can sell it cheaply? It’s fine, but your raspberries were soggy from day one. Raspberries are the best berries to have with peanut butter toast, followed by strawberries, then blueberries, then nothing.
  6. Put the bread in your toaster with the dial turned to halfway between a 3 and a 4. This will always give you the right amount of toastedness.
  7. Smell the coffee. Think about the 16 year-old girl who drove to school at 6am to get a parking spot and how she stopped first at Pat’s Pantry, a nearby corner store half a mile in the wrong direction from school, to get a cup of coffee in a styrofoam tankard, how the group of older men who met there every morning were impressed that she drank her coffee black and told her to drive safe to school, how you will never again be that age, how Pat’s Pantry doesn’t even exist anymore. Why are you crying at 7:30am?
  8. Remember to feed your dog.
  9. The toast pops, and it is CBT: Critical Buttering Time. Apparently CBT means something very different to regular readers of Dan Savage, which my sister once pointed out, but for those of us without dirty minds (ha), this is the most important moment of the whole process. Wait too long and you’ll be left with a cardboard layer of peanut butter sitting on top of cold bread, which nobody likes. Get the bread immediately out of the toaster, put it on the plate you have already laid out, and use the knife on the plate to apply a medium-to-thick layer of JIF (always JIF, smooth, if you disagree you can see yourself out) on the side of the toast that is less burnt. The more burnt side will have those little black particles on it that are fine on their own but really damage the integrity of the peanut butter if they are mixed together. Make sure you apply the peanut butter all the way to the edges of the bread. You will not eat the crust, but you want to get as close as possible.
  10. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and look at what you have just created. It is good.
  11. Do you get the newspaper? You should. If not, think about subscribing. Newspaper writers are like celebrities in my family, and they help you to be informed about what’s going on in the world so that for a moment your anxieties seem less important, and the comics make you laugh, and the local stuff is always a little stranger than you thought it would be. It’s the best companion to peanut butter toast.
  12. Put on some music. I recommend Jim Brickman’s “Picture This” album, which is mostly instrumental and which, if you’ve listened to it almost daily since you were 13, contains a world of memories and made-up lyrics to welcome the morning.
  13. Sit down. At a table, or on your big armchair if you don’t have a table.
  14. Enjoy.