Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A portrait of the blogger as a young eater of sandwiches

Posted by on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 7:50 AM

Now that the “new restaurant!” frenzy has quieted, is anyone still paying attention to Opb&j?

Yes, as it turns out, which may relieve those of you who saw in that question a glimmer of deep-reaching metaphysical doubt. One does wonder whether, for the above-school-age set, a peanut butter sandwich can retain its allure as a daily staple. In doing so, we wonder whether the bedrock of our childhoods is just as evanescent as the other things that jostled those sandwiches for lunch box real estate. (Anyone eat a Go-Gurt recently? No? How about a Capri Sun?)

Can we recognize in ourselves anything of that small person who chomped through peanut butter and jelly week in, week out for years on end?

If nothing else, after a Monday visit to Opb&j, it’s plain that my childhood self’s love of dress-up has survived intact. How else can I justify my sandwich including hickory-smoked peanut butter, peach-jalapeño jam, sweet chili-glazed bell peppers and a sprinkling of fresh-cut watercress? (Never mind that 5-year-old Claire would not have touched any of that stuff, even if you promised her a shopping spree at the Fluffy Sparkly Princess Gown Store.)

Now that I think of it, that bribe may have been legal tender for most of the other occupants of the restaurant. I went at about 11:45 on a Monday morning, and was amused to discover that I was about 24 inches taller than the majority of the clientele. Besides the staff and the woman who joined the short line after me, I was the only person there who didn't obviously fit into the categories of mom, dad or toddler. The first thing I heard as I walked in was, "Daddy! They have chocolate peanut butter!"

I gave the chocolate a pass, but the sandwich was decent — although halfway through I began to regret the overwhelming taste and lockjaw texture of the peanut butter. The heat and crunch of the veggies helped, as did the bitter tang of the watercress. With the help of a grapefruit Izze soda, I finished the whole thing.

However, I’m confirmed in my initial impression: I believe Opb&j’s staying power will depend entirely on how well they cater to the inner children of their clientele: to the love of fanciness, to the love of sweets, to the love of making a mess, and above all, to the love of novelty. If I heard that Opb&j was going to debut a new jam flavor next week, I’d go back.

Otherwise? Well, I’ll let you know next time I get hungry for a peanut butter sandwich.

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