Thursday, December 31, 2015

It’s never just a PBJ

The video above is from an actual friend of mine, not just some random YouTuber, but I’m sharing it for the same reason I include all the others on this blog: It gives me a starting point for a larger topic, in this case, food and being a binational.

The video is by Paul Armstrong, who I met many years ago through podcasting, and who has been one of my inspirations for that medium as well as my own currently paused creation of YouTube videos. It’s precisely because I actually know him that it never occurred to me to share or mention his YouTube Channel, though I should have.

Paul makes all sorts of videos, some of them kind of tongue-in-cheek instructionals like this one, others are out in the world doing things, along with many other topics. Several of the videos also feature his husband, which is a nice bonus.

I like Paul’s videos, not just because he’s a friend or because I like his camera work or whatever (though all that’s true), but also because there aren’t that nearly enough active personal YouTubers who are much above 30. Earlier this year, I wrote about the cute young dudes who make YouTube videos and noted in passing that I was in an under-represented YouTube age demographic, so I appreciate seeing videos made by folks who reflect more of my life and reality.

Which brings me to this video. Paul shows how he makes a “peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” which led me to comment on the video:
My mother always buttered the bread for my PBJ sandwiches, so I do, too. My mother also cut the sandwich on the diagonal, but THAT I don't usually do—no idea why.

In New Zealand, "jelly" means gelatine dessert (like Jello brand in the USA). So when I used to talk about a "peanut butter and jelly sandwich", Kiwis got kind of grossed out—I don't blame them! So, now I always talk about a "peanut butter and jam sandwich", but to be honest, most of the Kiwis I know think even that sounds weird.
In a reply, Paul said, “You mean she put butter on the bread before the peanut butter??? Why?” and the short answer is, I have no idea. However, it was butter out of the fridge, which meant there were often chunks of butter under my peanut butter, and I loved it! I remember that with bologna sandwiches (or other sandwich meat), too.

But there’s no getting around deviation in different countries’ cuisine, and talking about it raises another: New Zealand doesn’t have US-style bologna, but has luncheon (also called “luncheon sausage” or even sometimes “devon”, though I seldom see that name in the store). It looks like bologna, and tastes somewhat similar, though I think it’s quite different.

So, as a newly arrived immigrant, I had to negotiate linguistic minefields around food: Always referring to jam, not jelly (even now, I sometimes slip), and being confused by different names for the same thing (luncheon and devon). And all of that was stirred up by watching a video that wasn’t even about food differences.

Being binational, as I often say, sometimes means being between countries, caught between the familiar and the foreign, the comfort of our past and the excitement of our future. It still amazes me how the simplest things can stir up that awareness.

So, to me, that video was more than just a tongue-in-cheek explanation of how to make a PBJ sandwich: It was a brief stop in that space between my two countries.


rogerogreen said...

"You mean she put butter on the bread before the peanut butter??? Why?" Yeah, I agree. But I haven't had PB in decades.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

I don't know why she did it, but I'd guess it was probably because she put butter on all our sandwiches. Now, it's what I'm used to and like.