The Perfect Peanut Butter Partner

When I was a boy, I was always searching for the perfect addition to peanut butter in a sandwich. Sure, I had tried all the usuals: jelly, honey, banana, and marshmallow. Having the cast-iron stomach of youth, of course I couldn’t stop there. I moved on to peanut butter and American cheese – an interesting texture, creamy against the hard slab of cheese; and peanut butter and mayonnaise – a greasy concoction I now can scarcely even think about. But my fondest combo was chunky peanut butter and bologna. It was so good, at times I skipped the bread altogether and wrapped it in a think circle of the lunchmeat like a kind of bizarre roll-up.

I use this reminiscence to continue my thought on the need that kids have to sample a wide range of aesthetic experiences. (See Feast On!) As parents, we want so much for our children to remain creative as they grow. Feeding their minds with a buffet of ideas is just the first step; the second step is for them to combine thoughts in unique ways.

Arthur Koestler has described it best: “Creativity is a marriage between ideas which were previously strangers to each other.”

It’s all about combining things. Or connecting things in new ways. It’s pulling together thoughts that exist unrelated in the minds of almost everyone else. Like the old Reese’s commercial, two ideas blithely stroll along until – BAM! – there’s peanut butter on someone’s chocolate. Or in my case: peanut butter on my cold cut. It’s the same process. Sometimes it happens in a flash; sometimes it takes trial and error.

So when I see my sons reach for the peanut-butter jar, I try not to flinch when they start experimenting. After all, as far as I know, its perfect partner may still be out there, waiting to be discovered.

I have a hunch it wasn’t bologna.

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2005 Bruce Van Patter