Back to School With Claire LaZebnik!

Hiya figs. You aren’t the only ones storming the halls this fall: Here on the blog, some of our favorite authors are writing about their own school days. Today, Claire LaZebnik, author of Epic Fail, a modern-day update of Pride and Prejudice set in an L.A. prep school, shares a memory of her constant fourth-grade companion: the peanut butter sandwich.




And Then There Was Peanut Butter

I made my own lunches back in elementary school. I’d get up early, trot downstairs, and after carefully constructing a sandwich, slide it first into a plastic baggie and then into a nice, new, crisp paper bag. Life was so easy in those pre-environmentally-conscious days.

I was the fifth child. That’s important to point out. My mother probably stopped making everyone’s lunches at the same time, and as the youngest, I got kicked out of Eden at an earlier age than the rest. My older siblings were mostly in junior high or high school by that point, where they could buy their lunches. Anyway, my mother may have stopped doing the heavy lifting, but she didn’t completely abdicate control: she made it clear the lunches had to be reasonably healthful. Which, to her, apparently meant enriched white bread (as opposed to unenriched white bread, I guess) and peanut butter. Also peanut butter. And then there was peanut butter. Have I mentioned peanut butter? Oh, and don’t forget about peanut butter. We didn’t.

In fact, I don’t think I ever made myself a school lunch that didn’t include a hefty dose of Skippy. We were allowed to add Fluff to it (to make a “fluffernutter”) once in a while, as a special treat. But jelly was acceptable. And sliced apples? Sliced apples were encouraged. Every day for a year—I think it was fourth grade—I made myself a peanut butter and apple sandwich.

Every day for a year.

What’s funny is that now, I feel guilty if I pack the same thing in my kids’ lunches more than once in any given week. I feel like they should have variety. But when I was in charge of my own lunch, I didn’t want variety—I wanted my peanut butter and apple.

As a mom, I think of that peanut butter and apple sandwich and my mouth waters—not because it sounds so good to me (it doesn’t particularly) but because it sounds so healthful. But there’s a no-nuts policy at my kids’ elementary school and anyway, they don’t think fruit belongs in a sandwich.

They’re wrong.

My sandwich was always squished by lunchtime (paper bags don’t provide a lot of protection and white bread is mostly made out of air) and I still remember how curved and deformed it would get by the time I pulled it out of its bag. It tasted all the more surprisingly delicious for its ugliness, the apples still crisp, the peanut butter melting into that mess of bread. It was always something to look forward to, its salty-sweet, crunchy-smooth familiarity a soothing balm to the eternally challenging, socially pressured jungle that was elementary school.

Want to read more back-to-school posts from authors? Check out these posts from Kate DiCamillo and Kim Culbertson.

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