Off the beaten path with peanut butter sandwiches

A man finds that he's not the only one who pairs his peanut butter with unusual ingredients.

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"A peanut butter and tomato sandwich? Yuck!"

I've gotten that reaction ever since grade school when I brown-bagged it with my mother's lunch creation. No one in the cafeteria ever wanted to trade. My mother was the only other person I knew who ate it. Fifty years later, I still fix it for myself. My wife turns her nose up at it. Friends and relatives give it that "thanks, no thanks" look.

I began to think I was alone in relishing unusual peanut butter sandwich combinations. But then I ate at Mo's Restaurant in Burbank, Calif. There, I discovered the Foggybottom Burger, which features peanut butter and sour-plum jam, in addition to other toppings.

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I was telling my wife's cousin this and he recalled, "Near Purdue, the Triple XXX Family Restaurant served the Duane Purvis All-American." The menu describes this as a hamburger on a "toasted sesame seed bun with melted cheese on top with lettuce, tomato, pickle, [and] Spanish onion.... Add thick creamy peanut butter on the lower deck and you're in for the touchdown!"

I began asking friends and total strangers if they knew of other out-of-the-ordinary peanut butter sandwiches. I discovered that I run in a very sheltered culinary crowd. Almost without exception, they mentioned the pedestrian peanut butter and mayo combo. The exception was a delightful young woman with purple hair, who said, "You just gotta try peanut butter and spicy mustard."

Not long after, I came across an article about an Elvis cookbook, "Are You Hungry Tonight?" Turns out that the King loved fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, although Elvis experts debate whether he preferred sliced or mashed bananas.

Recently, I got the bright idea to search for fellow peanut butter sandwich adventurers on Craigslist.org.

"I used to like peanut butter and fried egg sandwiches," wrote eshta from Boston. "When I was a kid, I think I ate it on a dare, and it was surprisingly good so I kept making them."

Quackyduck yearned for "foods I miss from Jersey/Philly." An example: "peanut butter, bacon, and honey on toast sandwiches."

"My wife grew up eating peanut butter and pickle sandwiches," spanman from san fran reported.

Others listed peanut butter (PB) and brown sugar on toast, PB and bologna, fruit and yogurt PB sandwiches, and PB and kimchi (the Korean pickled vegetable dish).

One of my favorite Craigslist postings is "Spitwad Sandwiches" from San Francisco's fatcat94585. The recipe: "2 sl bread, creamy peanut butter, 2 lg marshmallows. Tool: Butter knife. Spread each slice of bread with peanut butter. Using clean fingers, pull apart marshmallows into many, tiny spitwad-size pieces. Press marshmallow wads onto the peanut butter. Put together, wad sides facing, and enjoy. Serves 1 who loves spitwads."

I also learned that PB and mayo does not have to be pedestrian.

"An organically grown, hand-crushed peanut butter and hand-whisked mayonnaise sandwich is the greatest thing on this earth," wrote turbid_rabbit from San Francisco.

I was starting to think that there was a business venture in opening a restaurant specializing in peanut butter sandwiches. Then korncobbed in nyc directed me to www.ilovepeanutbutter.com, which took me to the site for Peanut Butter & Co., a sandwich shop in Greenwich Village. Its menu features spicy peanut butter and chilled grilled chicken with a little pineapple jam, a peanut butter BLT, and a "Peanut Butter Sampler" of freshly ground peanut butters, served with Melba toast and freshly cut carrots, celery, and apple slices.

I'd succeeded in my quest: I'd found people like me, food adventurers willing to try strange and wonderful combinations with our favorite food, peanut butter.

Still, I haven't found anyone else willing to try peanut butter and tomato on wheat toast. Maybe someone will read this and give it a try. Maybe Peanut Butter & Co. will put it on their menu. I can dream, can't I?

Grilled Peanut Butter & Banana Sandwich – The King's Favorite

6 to 8 tablespoons smooth or crunchy peanut butter

8 slices whole-grain bread

2 large ripe bananas, sliced into a total of 16 pieces

Honey, to taste

Honey-butter-flavored cooking spray

Spread about 1 tablespoon of the peanut butter on each of the bread slices. Place the banana pieces on top of the peanut butter on 4 of the slices, and drizzle with honey. Press the remaining slices of bread on top to make 4 sandwiches.

Place a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the bread with the cooking spray just before browning each side. Sauté or grill sandwiches in batches until golden brown (approximately 2 minutes per side). Slice the sandwiches diagonally and serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

– Adapted from the National Peanut Board

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