After a fun April Fools’ Day, it’s time to eat! April 2 is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day, celebrating the sandwich that countless children bring to school every day. Of course, adults love them too, as you could see when Jimmy Kimmel handed them out at last year’s Emmys.
Here’s what you need to know about this special holiday and the sandwich it celebrates.
1. It’s Not Known Why April 2 is National PB&J Day
Since the popularity of the Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich (PB&J) could be celebrated any day of the year, it’s not clear why April 2 became National PB&J Day. National Day Calendar couldn’t find a creator for the holiday either. In March 2012, a Twitter user did create @NationalPBJDay, but the account has been inactive since 2014. It also links to an inactive website about the holiday.
Despite its unclear origins, which don’t appear to be tied to any important date in the sandwich’s history, the PB&J sandwich is still worthy of celebration.
2. The Marriage of PB&J Was First Mentioned in a 1901 Boston Cooking Magazine
The earliest known reference of pairing peanut better with jelly between two slices of bread came in a 1901 issue of The Boston Cooking-School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics, in an article by Julia Davis Chandler.
“For variety, some day try making little sandwiches, or bead fingers, of three very thin layers of bread and two of filling, one of peanut paste, whatever brand you prefer, and currant or crab-apple jelly for the other,” Chandler wrote. “The combination is delicious, and, so far as I know, original.”
According to the New York Times Magazine, at the time Chandler’s article was published, peanut butter still wasn’t widely available in the form we know today. Many readers might have had to grind their own peanuts to make “peanut paste.”
Once both peanut butter and jelly became both widely available by the 1920s, the popularity of the sandwich among children skyrocketed. Food Time Line also notes that, around this time, manufacturers began adding sugar to peanut butter sold in stores. Since it was cheap, the sandwich became ubiquitous for children during the Great Depression.
3. Soldiers Had PB&J Sandwiches on Their Ration List During World War II
Another important step on the PB&J sandwich’s road to immortality in American culture was its role during World War II. According to How Stuff Works, peanut butter, jelly and bread were all on the U.S. military ration list during the war. Kitchen Project notes that sales of peanut butter, jelly and bread skyrocketed when soldiers came home. No one would dare buy one without the other two.
Serious Eats reported in 2007 that the average American child will eat 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before he or she graduates high school. Peanut butter is also eaten in 89 percent of American households.
4. George Washington Carver, the ‘Godfather of Peanuts,’ Didn’t Invent Peanut Butter
Peanuts were a key part of the Aztec and Inca diets, and the first patent for peanut butter was actually filed by Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal in 1884. Therefore, as the U.S. National Peanut Board points out, George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter.
It is a common misconception that Carver, who was born into slavery in the early 1860s, was the inventor of peanut butter. This isn’t true. Carver’s work with peanuts focused on farming methods. As the National Peanut Board notes, one of his most famous works was How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it For Human Consumption, which taught farmers how to easily turn to peanuts as a cash crop. Carver also had other ideas for how to use peanuts, including for cosmetic use.
As Today I Found Out notes, Carver created several products from peanuts and other plants, including shaving cream, paints, dyes, shampoo, axle grease, lamp oil, insecticide, printer’s ink and even laundry soap.
5. 3 Million People in the U.S. Have Allergies to Peanuts & Tree Nuts
According to Food Allergy Research & Education, Inc., approximately 3 million people in the U.S. have reported allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study in 2013 showing that food allergies overall have jumped by 50 percent among children between 1997 and 2011, and there’s no clear reason for the jump.
A 2013 study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology show that 26.6 percent (or 1,245 children) of the children studied outgrew their food allergies at the average age of 5.4 years old. However, the likelihood of outgrowing a peanut allergy was significantly lower than those with milk, egg or soy allergies.
LiveStrong.org also reports that it is possible for a child to develop a grape allergy, although it is much more uncommon than a peanut allergy.
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