Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a staple in American culture and whether you are 8 or 80 everyone is familiar with the American favorite lunchtime snack.
When I was in the kitchenette at my college the other day I was talking to my roommate while she made a PB&J. At one point an Australian girl came into the kitchenette to prepare her own snack, a Vegemite sandwich. When she came over to counter where we were and she crinkled her nose, “What are you putting on that?” She sounded like she was trying to not sound disgusted. My roommate was confused, she thought she had used a peanut butter jar that had gone bad. My roommate responded cautiously, “Its peanut butter and jelly.” The Australian girl’s eyes lit up in understanding, “Oh, that is what a Peanut butter and Jelly sandwich is?! I have always heard about them from American movies and TV shows but… where is the jelly?” Again my roommate was confused but pointed to the jar of strawberry jelly in front of her, “right here?” And once again the Australian girl seemed to be connecting the dots in her head. “Oh we call that Jam in Australia. Jelly is the gelatin desert. Do you know what that is?” I asked, “Like Jell-o?” The girl had never heard of Jell-o but she seemed more interested in something else, “When ever I watched American movies and TV I was always confused! I thought they used Jelly, as in our gelatin dessert, and put it in the sandwich. It sounded so gross. I thought Americans were so weird! But then again that is really strange that you put jam and peanut butter together on bread.” My roommate and I exchanged a look and looked at her own Vegemite creation. Ever since then I have noticed that any time I make a PB&J sandwich people are always curiously looking over my shoulder and then scrunching their noses in confusion as if to say “what are you doing to that poor sandwich?”
It is bizarre to think that something Americans have all grown up with could be seen as weird and gross in another country. What American decided to slap the two ingredients together in between two pieces of bread? How come something as simple as that never spread across over seas? How come Vegemite has never become a hit in American homes? It’s little differences like this that make me smile to myself and make me grateful to be here. Had I never left I would have never known that something as slight as an American sandwich would be seen as completely bizarre in another country. It reminds me to look for more of these differences that run under the surface of the Australian culture.