Sandwiches for a Crowd

She said I needed to hold back a bit; not everyone liked that much. I watched her garish pink lips and wondered at the pigment in the creases around her mouth. You can’t taste the jam with all that peanut butter, she explained. 

I spread the peanut butter the way I wanted anyway. A thick application that overwhelmed the bread’s integrity. My job was the peanut butter; she did the jam.

I liked a lot of peanut butter. Besides, she wore weird summer shirts with rhinestones and liked making minestrone. Blocks of frozen minestrone lined the freezer for months after each visit. You can’t trust a minestrone-lover to know anything about peanut butter, really.

The author's great-grandmother living life to its fullest

The author's great-grandmother living life to its fullest

She said I had to think about what other people might want as her knife swept the excess off one slice and onto a fresh one. I focused on her liver spots I was sure had once been freckles like mine, confused as to why anyone would object to more peanut butter. 

It was just too much, she said gently.

But really I was too much, and that’s why I was hardly ever asked to help. More trouble than I was worth in most areas. The peanut butter had been my job and I had mucked it up like always. I climbed down from the chair I’d been standing on to help.

She stopped me and handed me an uncorrected, heavy sandwich.

It’s okay to not like the same things, she said.

- Jennifer Kovelan moves numbers around during the day and studies development economics in the evening. Occasionally she puts words on the internet and in print. Her clothes always clash and she has too many cats. She laughs much louder than you are probably comfortable with.

Peanut Butter Crackers

Mom would place a box of Salerno saltine crackers, a large jar of smooth Peter Pan Peanut Butter along with a couple of sticks of Blue Bonnet margarine on the kitchen table, putting my older brothers and sister in charge of breakfast. The center of the table had a stack of comics for our morning reading. Coffee was bubbling in the percolator on the table’s edge.

My oldest brother Rich would open the box of crackers to begin the process. He would cut a wedge off the margarine and spread it across the crackers, salty side in. My other brother Pat would slide a knife full of peanut butter on a separate cracker and press the buttered side together with the peanut butter one. My older sister Ruth would pour us each black coffee while I watched the assembled crackers rise on a plate like a Jenga tower before my two brothers decided we had enough.

We would each grab a stack and dip them in our coffee, watching the oil seep across the surface. I loved to squeeze my crackers to make margarine ‘worms’ curl out through the holes. Speaking was at a minimum while we dunked crackers in coffee, ate, traded comics and refilled coffee cups. It was the start of our day.

Two more kids and a half dozen apartments later, Mom would reminisce how she kept us healthy with the peanut butter meals we consumed. She had gotten the tip from a woman she worked with during World War Two when rationing was in place. “Protein keeps you going and peanut butter was one item we didn’t have a problem getting,” she said. “I did what I had to do and you all turned out fine.”

 

- Kathy Doherty has a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University Denver. She has published work in airplanereading.org, Metrosphere, Foliate Oak, Hot Metal Press and One Million Stories Anthology. She lives in Parker, Colorado with her amazing Siberian Forest cat, Vladimir. 

J.R. Joslin's Thrifty Kitchen

My grandfather grew up during the Depression. Eventually, he became a successful shipbuilder, paid for his children to go to college, and retired comfortably, but he always believed a shower should last only three minutes, socks should be darned not replaced, and a meal could be made using whatever was on hand. 

On our fishing trips, he concocted sandwiches to demonstrate this last point. 

“Which would you like?” he’d ask. “Peanut butter and mustard, or refried beans and mayonnaise?”

The author and his granddad, 1981

The author and his granddad, 1981

I gobbled these sandwiches like ambrosia. In the last few years, I’ve treated my own children—who never knew my grandfather—to these inventive comestibles. As a kid, I wanted to love these sandwiches because I loved my grandfather, but the truth is, they’re barf-inducing.

While not all of his depression-inspired dishes were delicious—or even edible—my grandfather’s spirt of thrifty resourcefulness has followed me into adulthood, and more specifically, into my own kitchen. As my children can attest, sometimes the results are less than delectable, but at least one is five-star:

In a bowl, combine:

1 package boiled Ramen noodles;

3 tablespoons leftover Ramen water;

1 Ramen flavor pouch;

1 tablespoon peanut butter;

1 pan fried hot dog (sliced up);

 Hot sauce to taste (Sriracha works best)

I frequently recommend this recipe to friends, to rave reviews. Even my children like it. One day, maybe their children will, too.  

 

- Matthew Hobson's work has appeared in literary journals including Hayden's Ferry Review, The Chattahoochee Review, River City, South Dakota Review, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, The Baltimore Review, Hobart, and Driftless Review where, in 2014, he won the annual flash fiction contest. Currently, he is completing a literary mystery novel. He teaches at Loyola University and lives in Baltimore with his wife and two children. You can read more of Matthew’s flash nonfiction by clicking here.

When you don’t have enough, it’s okay to substitute.

Any chef will tell you substitutions are crucial to innovation. However, in grandma’s house, innovation often tasted bitter. Grandpa would point us to the refrigerator and nearly beg us to eat whatever was in there. “Get it out of the house,” he’d say.

One of grandma’s favorites was Rice Krispy treats, a delight in nearly any other kitchen. Here, they were always rock-hard. Yet the recipe is so simple I can easily recite it from memory.[1]

In grandma’s kitchen, lining up ingredients was not part of the recipe; she’d only check the pantry as the list demanded. And she wouldn’t have enough of something. Maybe Karo syrup. So she improvised. Just add more granulated sugar. Or peanut butter. When grandma asked me to taste a spoonful, I’d think of ways to not hurt her feelings. “You can really taste the peanut butter,” I’d say, or, “Wow, what are these? Raisins?”

Pictured: T  he author's brother and grandma, with a safe, store-bought cake. T  he fact that we have no pictures of   her in the kitchen helps prove the point that she was not   immortalized there.

Pictured: The author's brother and grandma, with a safe, store-bought cake. The fact that we have no pictures of her in the kitchen helps prove the point that she was not immortalized there.

Now that I’ve learned to cook, I want to take her into my kitchen, to resurrect her from memory and make her real again. We’ll spend an afternoon skipping work, playing in the kitchen. She’ll ask where the rolling pin has gone, and I’ll tell her it’s in a box back in Spokane, along with her china and matching silverware. She’ll pet the cat and ask if I’ll ever move back home. And while we make our batches of gooey, peanutty treats, I’ll tell her that I would if she would be there, too.


I would, even for her home-cooked meals.


[1] See author bio.



- Jenne Knight’s Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats are made with 1c granulated sugar, 1c Karo syrup, 1c creamy peanut butter, and 6c Rice Krispies cereal. On the stove, slowly melt the sugars and peanut butter in a large soup pan. Remove from heat. Stir in the cereal. Once coated, immediately pack the mixture into an 8 by 8 pan. Let cool. Eat. Find more at www.jenneknight.com.