Today was the second day of my English winter camp at my all girls’ middle school.
After learning the English names of different foods and matching pictures and words: it was time to make sandwiches. My students were down with ham and cheese with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. That’s the Korean sandwich way. What they weren’t down with was, wait for it, peanut butter and jelly.
After telling my students that in the USA, not only do we love bald eagles, apple pie, and burgers with glazed doughnuts as the bun, but also PBandJ sandwiches, they were floored.
“You eat peanut butter and jam…together?!” one student exclaimed with a twisted face of disgust, as if I had eaten a case of anchovies in class. “Oh my gosh.”
Other students just made sounds of disbelief. They would believe that I could fly before they believed I ate peanut butter and jelly together. It was almost unreal, unfathomable that I would eat such a thing. Ham and cheese, that’s natural. But peanut butter with jelly? Wait, woah, hold the phone and call the operator. We’ve got a problem. You can’t put two things like that together.
Oh, but you can. And we did.
After reviewing English sandwich terms like “bread,” “mayo,” and “spread,” I showed my students how to go through line and make their meal in an orderly fashion. The students went through like the well-behaved participants they are and almost all of them chose ham and cheese with various veggies. It wasn’t until round two until peanut butter heck broke loose and the Peanut Butter Genesis began.
My wonderful co-teacher had brought her toaster in for students to make “toast.” CULTURAL NOTE: In Korea, “toast” is another word for a sandwich with toasted bread. For example, my host sister handed me a piece of wrapped toast, and it was an egg and bacon sandwich. After the students went through the line, she made peanut butter and jelly toast, and proceeded to share it with a student.
The same student, the one who was appalled that I would eat PBandJ, had what I believe to be an out-of-body experience. She tried PBandJ toast, and the rest is history.
“OH MY GOSH TEACHER, SO DELICIOUS. SO GOOD. OH MY GOSH.”
Students then started making their own unique creations with the peanut butter and jelly. I saw a PBandJ with ham. I saw PBandJ with ham, lettuce, and tomatoes. I saw things that would make your stomach turn. I saw new flavors of toast being born before my eyes, conceived in the moment of peanut butter experimentation. I saw the Peanut Butter Genesis.
And it was good.