A Loss of Childhood Innocence and a Peanut Butter and Jelly Candle

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg

In 1895, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (the creator of Kellogg’s cornflakes); filed a patent for a “food compound” that was an early version of peanut butter. To make this product, he boiled nuts and ground them into a paste to create an easily digestible food that could be fed to his patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium.

One of his employees later invented machinery to roast and grind the nuts on a commercial scale. In 1901 this person launched the Lambert Food Company and began selling nut butter. A woman named Julia Davis Chandler published the first known recipe for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich later that year.

During World War I when meat was rationed, the sale of nut butter really took off. In 1917 a newspaper called the Daily Missourian reported that due to the “exigencies of war,” people were now eating bread spread with nut butter.

early nut butter

The problem with this early nut butter was that it was only a temporary emulsion. In time the nut oil would separate from the ground peanuts. If it wasn’t stirred, the ground nuts would spoil. Grocers who stocked this product had to intermittently stir the peanut butter to keep it from spoiling. This was both time consuming and inconvenient.

In 1921 Joseph Rosefield invented a chemical process that converted the oil in the peanut butter into a semi solid mixture or permanent emulsion that would stay blended. This process allowed peanut butter makers to create a shelf stable product that didn’t have to be stirred.

One of the first companies to adopt this process was Swift & Company which initially marketed this product as EK Pond Peanut Butter. In 1928 they rebranded their nut butter as Peter Pan. In 1932 following a dispute with this company, Mr. Rosefield launched a rival business. In 1933 his factory began producing Skippy brand peanut butter.

Long before schools started banning PBJ sandwiches due to the rising number of students with peanut allergies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a staple of sack lunches for American students. When I was a child back in the 60’s, a 16.3 ounce jar of Skippy peanut butter only cost 79 cents (as opposed to the current price of $2.49. It was cheap and easy to make. My lunch typically consisted of a PBJ sandwich, a piece of fruit, a bag of chips, and a couple of cookies.

Although I have always liked peanut butter and jelly, as a child I didn’t necessarily want it everyday. When I was in the 2nd grade, I started saving my allowance to buy hamburgers at the school cafeteria. Since nobody wanted to trade for the PBJ, whenever I bought a hamburger I would just throw away the sandwich. I had been doing this for about a month when my mother startled me after I returned home from school.

real peanut butter and jelly sandwich

“WHY DID YOU THROW AWAY YOUR PBJ SANDWICH?” she demanded.

“How did you know that I threw it away?” I stared at my mother with startled eyes.

“I’m your mother. I know everything.” She then lectured me about the sin of wasting food and concluded with the ominous words, “Just wait until your father hears about this.”

My heart sank because my father’s default punishment usually involved being spanked with a folded belt.

I swore off the burgers and stopped throwing away my PBJ sandwiches. A week passed and after arriving home from school, my mother again confronted me.

“WHY DID YOU THROW AWAY YOUR PBJ SANDWICH?”

At that moment I had an epiphany. Since I hadn’t thrown away my sandwich, I realized that my mother had LIED to me about “knowing” what I had done. This made me wonder. If mother had lied about knowing that I had thrown away a PBJ sandwich, what else had she lied about? Had my father also told lies?

I decided to make a list of things that my parents had told me that might not be true.

  • Santa Claus knows if you’re naughty or nice.
  • On Christmas night, Santa Claus travels around the world and brings gifts to all of the good children.
  • The sled that Santa Claus sits in is pulled by flying reindeer.
  • The Easter Bunny brings dyed eggs and chocolate eggs,
  • The Tooth Fairy will bring you a silver dollar if you put your tooth under your pillow.
  • If you blow out a birthday candle, your birthday wish will come true.
  • Chocolate milk comes from brown cows.
  • White milk comes from white cows.
  • Crossed eyes can get stuck (which is why you should never cross your eyes).
  • Don’t swim after eating a meal or you could get a cramp and drown.
  • Sitting too close to the TV will make you go blind.
  • Our family dog is happily living on a farm in Michigan.
  • Children can’t drink coffee because it will stunt their growth.
  • Touching a toad will give you warts.
  • Never swallow watermelon seeds or they could sprout and grow in your stomach.
  • Eating carrots will help you to see in the dark.
  • Storks deliver babies.
  • Cracking your knuckles can lead to arthritis.

After making this list, I shared it with Albert who was my best (and only) friend.

“Sheesh,” he sighed, “Do you STILL believe in Santa Claus?”

I stared at him. “Don’t you?”

“Nah. I just pretend I do so my parents will give me more presents.”

“So if Santa Claus isn’t real …”

Albert shook his head. “There’s no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy.”

Part of me felt relieved. Since Easter was supposed to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, I had never understood what this had to do with chocolates and brightly colored hardboiled eggs. As for the tooth fairy, why would anyone collect teeth and what did she do with them after she got them?

The fact that Santa Claus wasn’t real was also a relief because I couldn’t understand how Santa delivered toys to all of the world’s children in just one night. The idea that he could just come and go from each home without being detected was also a bit creepy. For that matter, I had never seen a reindeer that could fly. Reindeer did not have wings and they didn’t seem aerodynamic. Their bone density was also much too high. Do I even need to mention the sheer expense of giving presents to all of the world’s children? Even if Santa and his elves made their toys from scratch, who paid for all of the supplies that were needed to make these toys? Who paid for the brightly colored gift wrapping paper?

My introspection was interrupted when Albert laughed. “Birthday wishes don’t come true.”

“They don’t? My dad always told me that my wishes never came true because I talked about them. He said you have to keep the wishes secret so the magic could happen.”

Albert shook his head. “When I was in kindergarten, I wished for my big sister to disappear.”

“What happened?”

My friend stared at me. “Are you kidding? Who do you think locked us in the closet last week and tied the door shut with a jump rope?”

“Oh. Right. Since your sister locked us in the closet, she never disappeared.”

“No duh!” Albert returned his attention to the list. “Oh. About this.” He tapped the list with a finger. “Your dog Gigi isn’t living on a farm in Michigan. She died. I heard my mom talking to your mom about this. Gigi was on the balcony of your apartment. When some kids called for her to come down your dog jumped off the balcony and fell seven stories.”

“Gigi is DEAD? Why would my parents lie about that?”

“They probably didn’t want you to feel bad. Adults are kinda weird like that.”

Although we were uncertain about whether or not some of the other items on the list were true or false, there were enough mistruths to make my head spin. Since I’m autistic and have a literal mindset, I tended to believe everything I was told. I also liked rules because they imposed structure and order upon a chaotic world that I didn’t always understand. The fact that my parents had lied to me made me question why they had a no lying rule. If it was wrong for me to lie as a child, why was it okay for my parents to lie as adults? This made me wonder. Did other adults tell lies? Was telling lies okay if you were an adult? Was this why my father always said, “No,” in response to my mother’s question, “Does this dress make me look fat?”

When President Lyndon Johnson was aired on the nightly news to claim that the United States had no intention of escalating the war in Vietnam, had that been a lie? I couldn’t help but wonder about this because in 1967 my family was living in Bangkok, Thailand. My father was a doctor in the U.S. military and because many of my classmates at the ISB (International School of Bangkok) were the children of U.S. Air Force pilots, I knew that planes from our airbases in Thailand were bombing the North Vietnamese. I also knew from an overheard conversation between my parents that more U.S. troops were arriving in Thailand for jungle warfare training prior to being sent to Vietnam. In later years I learned that although President Johnson had claimed that the United States would not be escalate the war, units sent in 1967 to reinforce our existing forces in Vietnam had raised our troop levels from 385,000 to 500,000.

I was seven years old when my world went topsy-turvey. Fifty-three years have now passed and I still don’t understand why my parents lied to me. For the record, everything on the aforementioned list turned out to be untrue. Some of them, like the idea about not swimming after eating a meal were urban myths that a lot of adults believed. Others like the idea that chocolate milk comes from brown cows appears to have been a joke even though I had never known my parents to laugh or to tell jokes.

Having recently found an on-line vendor who produces a peanut butter candle fragrance, I used this aroma to create a candle of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich from my childhood. Since this was a candle, I decided to go overboard and to create an overfilled sandwich that was oozing peanut butter and jelly out the sides. In real life, I would never have been given such a sandwich because the oozing jelly would have dripped free and made a mess. Since my mother did not like messes or wasted product, she was always skimpy with the peanut butter and jelly.

This candle smells of bread, peanut butter, and jelly. The jelly was made using medium density candle gel. I also made this candle using “toasted bread.” Although most kids ate their PBJ sandwiches on untoasted white bread, I always liked my bread toasted. The toasted bread was crunchy and more resistant to the jelly’s moisture which could turn untoasted bread soggy.

The peanut butter in this candle was made using soy wax (Golden Soy 416) that was dyed with brown, yellow, and orange to give it a peanut butter color. The bread’s crust was literally painted on using melted brown wax.

I made two of these candles as production test models. I am uncertain as to whether or not I will make more. As with so many of my production test models, a lot of the candles I make were made for fun and to see whether or not I could even make them.

Both of these candles will be added to my virtual store’s inventory once I get the store up and running.

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