Friday, July 23, 2010

Lament to peanut butter

This post begins with a disclosure: I stopped eating the likes of Skippy and Jif at around the time my mom discovered Whole Foods, then known as Fresh Fields, and we realized how peanut-ty real peanut butter--you know, the stuff made with actual crushed peanuts--tastes. However, I have never lost my affection for peanut butter, which lives on in the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I bring for lunch every day.

Although I really should write that in the past tense: "brought for lunch every day". Becauuse, you see, it's only been two weeks since I stopped bringing the ol' PB&J for lunch. The reason is far less interesting than the sudden development of anaphylactic shock at the mere mention of groundnut. No, it's because I did a calorie count and realized that the peanut butter had to go if I ever wanted to lose the *ahem* pounds that I'd actively been trying to get rid of for the past 6 months.

Admittedly, I wasn't trying very hard. I mean, I don't really do diets. I eat right 95% of the time and exercise almost every day, running at least 4 miles a day most days of the week and let the biking and grocery-hauling take care of all the other muscles. But after about six months of this and not losing an ounce, I realized that something was wrong. And I counted calories.

Calorie counts here are usually give per 100g of the food item, which is NOT the typical serving size for most things. For liquids, it's given per 100 mL, which is again NOT the typical serving size. It's annoying as hell because you'll look at the package, thinking, "ZOMG THIS HAS HOW MANY CALORIES?!" and then suddenly remember that it's for 100g of food. You'll think that 100g is about 1/3 of the package, and then decide that it's a reasonable calorie count after all, except that when you eat the chips (or whatever it is) you never eat just 1/3 of the package, and then you realize that you've overeaten, but then think, "Oh, it's not that bad." Rinse and repeat a few times and it's no wonder that I'd been eating more than I thought I had been for quite a while.

So I stopped making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day. I continue to make two sanwiches, but with either the vegetarian deli-meat (don't ask--actually I hate the stuff but every now and then I just get so tired of cheese) or a huge hulking slice of cheese divided between two sandwiches. Ever since I've been doing that I've lost *cough* pounds.

Even so, I miss the PB&J. It wasn't just a delicious lunch, or a nostalgic turn back to my childhood (which did not actually feature PB&J to any major extent). It was also a singular American oddity in a sea of very Dutch sandwiches.

See, the Dutch think they've got the whole sandwich thing down. They'll put anything between two slices of anything else and call it a sandwich--and people will eat it and love it. In Maastricht, thanks to the influence of those decadent Belgains, this makes for a recognizable sandwich: meat or cheese or tuna fish salad, some lettuce, maybe a tomato slice, but definitely something dressy, and the bread is usually a whole roll. In Leiden, host to the Puritans escaping the Church of England, you´ll get two slices of bread, meat or cheese, and maybe some lettuce and maybe something nice--but only if you pay extra for it. In Amsterdam, they will smear butter inside a soft squidgy raisin roll and call that a sandwich. I've seen people eating what appeared to be two slices of bread with mayonaise in between on the train. In other words, anything goes, sandwich-wise, in the Netherlands.

But not a single Dutch person (that I've met, anyway) seems capable of comprehending the classicPB&J. The looks I get when I've tried to introduce the concept range from amazement ("What is this flavor combination of which you speak?") to skepticism ("Are you sure that's not deadly?") to downright disgusted (*excuses and runs to the bathroom, from which vomiting noises ensue*). I don't understand why: there is peanut butter and there is jelly, but for some reason, as ingenious as the Dutch can be, building things like Neeltje Jans and persuading the world that tulips are the future, they seem to have completely missed out on what was once a staple of my existence.

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