If you read a lot of parenting blogs or websites (and oh, for the love of all the things please don’t), one of the myths you might encounter is the one about how if you do everything right, in your fourth month post-partum the pounds will literally melt off of you and you will suddenly weigh what you did in high school. It’s almost month five, and I did everything according to the literature but noticed this morning that my top is more muffin-like than it ought to be and my chins are more numerous than I remember. So you know what? Screw it. Sugar sandwiches.
By this point it’s well established that most of my happiest memories involve food, so it makes sense that some of my earliest recollections of my grandparents involve treats. My Dad’s mother died when I was very young and I don’t recall very much about her but I do remember sitting at her kitchen table, and the way my skin felt beneath my thin cotton undershirt against the cold vinyl of her kitchen chair, and the way my spoon scritched on the bottom of my bowl of Rice Krispies. I remember scraping brown sugar off the bottom of the bowl, my spoon holding more sugar than cereal, and how much better these Rice Krispies tasted than any I had eaten before.
More than 25 years later there is no more unhealthy breakfast cereal for me than puffed rice, because I can’t have it without adding too many heaping tablespoons of brown sugar – there is more sugar in my Rice Krispies than in five bowls of anyone else’s Cap’n Crunch. There can be no breakfast cereal in my cupboards.
My Mom’s Dad had as much to teach me. His penchant for sweets remains unrivaled by anyone I’ve ever met. Around my grandparents’ house there were always dozens of boxes of chocolate, some stashed in his usual spots – the kitchen, the living room, other parts of the living room, every container or drawer on his side of the bedroom – and some stored in the freezer for when his reserves ran low. At the end of every visit he would send me home with a sandwich bag full of the better flavours – hedgehogs, caramels, and never the gross orange cremes.
It was watching my grandfather that I learned about sugar sandwiches.
To make a sugar sandwich, you need good whole-grain bread (the whole-grainier, the better), non-fancy peanut butter, and brown sugar. After admitting on Twitter that I really don’t like natural peanut butter, I was comforted to discover that most people have strong feelings about, or at least have considered, what makes good peanut butter, and most of the time one remains loyal to the peanut butter of her childhood. And while natural peanut butter makes a good ingredient in other things, in sugar sandwiches we do not mess around. Use the kind of peanut butter you are faithful to.
You must smear a tasty amount of peanut butter evenly upon one entire side of each of two pieces of bread. Then add the sugar to one of the pieces of bread, spreading evenly over the peanut butter, even to the edges of the slice. How much sugar you use depends on you, but I have the kind of weak character that compels me to unapologetically don footed pajamas for company, so I use a little more than a rounded tablespoon.
At that point, you can slap your bread together and shove the whole thing in your mouth, or you can get a little bit fancy. You can add a few flecks of fleur de sel which will make your sandwich quite lovely if your peanut butter isn’t salty. You can jump back in time and toast each slice before peanut-buttering them up. You can shove the whole deal in a panini press, or you can put the sandwich under the broiler. I like the last option, because the effect of a crunchy exterior giving way to a soft interior is a sensation I enjoy. Warm, a sugar sandwich tastes very similar to fresh peanut butter cookies but it only takes two minutes to make.
Eat your sugar sandwich on the couch, with your feet jammed between the cushions and your legs covered by a blanket. You may want to have a book handy. A glass of milk or a cup of tea will complement the sandwich nicely. Linger long over your snack, drink, and book, and then indulge in a nap afterward. Calorie-counters and diabetics will take issue with this luxury, but the important thing is that Grandpa would heartily approve.