The Prose and Condiments of the American Sandwich
At the heart of Massachusetts legislative issues today: the Fluffernutter sandwich, and its potential to become the official sandwich of the Commonwealth. Also up for state status this day: Charleston Chew, an elephant, and the number six. If these bills sound like an episode of Sesame Street, or at least the work of a tenacious group of youngsters, that’s because Massachusetts middle school students have been flooding the state legislature with their alarmingly specific, sometimes random, but generally well-researched petitions.
The least random demand made by the local gang of schoolchildren is of course for the Fluffernutter sandwich to be crowned with the distinguished state status. Marshmallow Fluff is evidently the pride of Massachusetts middle school students, who seem to enjoy the sticky combination of Fluff and peanut butter just as much as the generations upon generations of hungry students past. The thin marshmallow spread was invented in Somerville, MA, and has been produced in Lynn, MA for eighty years. This year’s attempt to elevate the already sacred status of the Fluffernutter sandwich comes just three years after a former state senator, Jarrett Barrios, attempted to limit the availability of the sandwich in school lunch programs. Today’s bill marks the second attempt by a state lawmaker to grant the sandwich official status.
That middle school students should work so hard to honor the sweet, gooey sandwich should come as no surprise. Their willingness to push for state legislation seems to indicate, at the very least, fierce loyalty for a food they probably eat multiple times a week. That, or Massachusetts middle school students have become domineering and power-hungry beyond their years. Just like its slightly more traditional cousin peanut butter and jelly, the Fluffernutter is a sandwich made popular by its accessibility. In the 1920s, with the advent of pre-sliced bread, sandwich-making became a simple and safe occupation for hungry kids (no need for the little ones to start swinging a big bread knife around). Easy spreads like peanut butter and Fluff made for especially user-friendly assembly. In 1986, the Great American Food Almanac stated that the average American student consumed over 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before high school graduation. One would guess that in Massachusetts, the figures for Fluffernutter consumption are not far off.
The idea of a state sandwich has sparked an enthusiastic debate among sandwich proponents nationwide. At least, this is what is suggested by recent activity in the food blog community. The ultra-cool Serious Eats posted a brief article about the Fluffernutter campaign, and was very soon bombarded with reader-comments suggesting official sandwiches for many states. Conflict and regional food prejudice abound. Some suggestions are far less contentious than others, but some popular pairings include the French Dip for California, the Hot Brown for Kentucky, and a classic deli hot pastrami sandwich with mustard for New York. Sandwich lore is brimming with regional disputes about recipe origins, and about who does a Cheesesteak best, and so on.
And so, local schoolchildren and the sandwiching community at large await the results of the Fluffernutter legislative action as the factory in Lynn keeps pumping out jars of Marshmallow Fluff. If the sandwich makes the cut, it will join five other classic snacks that have been granted this coveted status: the corn muffin, the baked navy bean, the chocolate chip cookie, and the obvious Boston cream pie and doughnut.
Good luck Fluffernutter. We’re all counting on you.
Check out the Boston Globe article about today’s legislative matters here
and read up on the state sandwich debate at Serious Eats here.