The Prose and Condiments of the American Sandwich
In September 2005, Gourmet published a recipe for “Elvis Presley’s Hot Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich.” The recipe was accompanied by a photograph of a tidy toasted number sitting in a stylish cast iron skillet. Calling for modest amounts of the sandwich’s principal ingredients (peanut butter, ripe banana, and butter), the recipe presented a nostalgic, relatively heart-healthier version of Elvis’s favorite sandwich. Popular legend has it that The King would scarf down close to a dozen of these monster sandwiches in one sitting, and after adopting the sandwich as one of my own staples, I can see why.
Many Elvis historians maintain that the original recipe called for the sandwich (constructed from white bread, smooth peanut butter, and a very ripe mashed banana) to be fried in an entire stick of butter. While I don’t doubt the flavor-based and textural benefits of this amount of butter, I have yet to make the sandwich that way. Two tablespoons of butter, as listed in the Gourmet recipe, has worked just fine so far.
The fried peanut butter and banana sandwich may fail as a health food, probably obliterating most of the banana’s nutritional offerings with the sandwich’s fat content, but as a comfort food, it may be one of the best sandwiches out there. It’s crunchy, salty, sweet, gooey, and warm. The sandwich’s narrative content, or the unique historical character the sandwich carries with it, places it among the most legendary of sandwich favorites, among such storied ensembles as the Reuben or a towering Dagwood. According to David Adler’s book The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley, eating the sandwich was something of a ritual for Elvis: “Elvis enjoyed eating picnic style. However, he fastidiously used a knife and fork to eat his peanut butter and banana sandwiches.” Probably not a bad call: it’s one of the messier sandwiches you’ll find.
Perhaps less well known than the peanut butter and banana combo, another of Elvis’s favorite sandwiches, the Fool’s Gold Loaf, follows a similar recipe, though with kicked up portions and flavor combos. The Fool’s Gold Loaf is made by coating an entire uncut loaf of bread in butter, then toasting it in the oven until browned. Then, the loaf is halved lengthwise and hollowed out. An entire jar of Skippy peanut butter, an entire jar of Smucker’s grape jelly, and one pound of cooked bacon later, and the Fool’s Gold Loaf is the mother of all peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
You can read Gourmet‘s take on fried peanut butter and banana here
and learn about David Adler’s excellent book here.