Welcome to American Sandwiches Week, a celebration of the mighty sandwich through the lens of Americana.
My mom tells me that sometime in the mid-’90s, I out-of-the-blue began asking for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made on toasted Eggo waffles instead of bread. What prompted the request is still a mystery, but I’m certain now it must have been divine inspiration, because the Eggo PB&J remained my favorite sandwich until—actually, it’s still a damn good sandwich.
I quickly graduated to toasting my own Eggos and assembling my own sandwiches at whatever age it is that kids can operate a toaster without jamming their fingers in it. The Eggo PB&Js became a small badge of my fledgling independence, a breakfast or snack or lunch that I could make myself, without asking for help. I’d pry open our clanky, heavy kitchen step-stool, reach into the freezer for the ever-present Eggo box, and prepare my favorite food: smooth Skippy peanut butter and Welch’s grape jelly on Eggo.
It’s simple to see why the toasted Eggo was such an excellent bread substitute. Its warmth slightly melts the peanut butter, which then sinks into the waffles’ craggy pits to ensure waffle-wide distribution of both PB and J. Eggos are also inherently buttery and slightly crunchy, with a Maillard savoriness that white bread lacks. I tried to riff on the original, once by testing the suitability of Cinnamon Toast mini-Eggos, which produced dainty, finger-sandwich-sized versions of the classic. The cinnamon sweetness was unnecessary, though, and I quickly stopped messing with perfection.
Throughout my childhood, I was happy as a clam with my culinary ingenuity, and continued to turn to the Eggo PB&J as a fast snack through high school. When I worked in a restaurant during school breaks and summers, I’d usually arrive home around midnight, hungry despite a 10-hour shift around so much food. No matter the time of night, there were guaranteed to be Eggos in the freezer and peanut butter in the pantry.
Once I got to college, though, I’d forget to buy Eggos at the store, and I got a job working at a wonderful deli that provided access to actual, grown-up sandwiches. When I’d return home for holiday breaks, I found my parents had stopped stocking our kitchen with Eggos now that my younger brother and I were both out of the house. The sun set on my Eggo PB&J days, the toaster waffles dipping behind the horizon of childhood in a nostalgic sunset. If I ever have the occasion to host some nieces or nephews at my house, though, I know what I plan to serve them for breakfast.