Looking Back Moving Forward

My WordPress year-end analytics tell me my most popular blog post continues to be my exploration of the Fluffernutter sandwich from 2012. I never would have guessed that, but I get it: people love a fluffernutter. Somehow, the Cro-Nut just couldn’t compete. But, what’s next?

Since my last post about Niagara Falls and the Moosewood Restaurant much has changed for Bean Pie. It was time for me to leave Maryland and go home. I drove cross country arcing through the northern part of the United States — no shortest-distance-between-two-points Interstate 80 for me this time — and was pleased to see, amongst other things, parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota (the unfortunate and extremely untimely National Park closures notwithstanding) and Utah, if only from behind the wheel (most of my camera roll for that trip was shot from inside the car with one hand on the steering wheel. Shhhhh.).

I did finally try a Waffle House…

Waffle House, Toledo, Ohio

Waffle House, Toledo, Ohio

…and stopped in Madison, WI and was impressed with what they had going on:

And who could forget the National Mustard Museum (home of “the Condimental Divide”)??? They had thousands of kinds of mustard, plus a mustard tasting bar and the tiniest little hot dog buns I’ve ever been privileged to see.

Oh, and the Corn Palace??? The Badlands? Mt. RushmoreSalt Lake?

There are so many amazing things to see on the road. But that journey ended and a new one has begun. My coordinates were set for Sacramento, CA and I made it safe and sound. After a whirlwind few months of half-unpacked boxes, hectic online classes, and substitute teaching, things are settling down a bit around here. Time to take stock and set my sights on the future.

Right now the near future involves more online classes, more substitute teaching, fewer unpacked boxes, and some job searching. Lots of job searching, in fact.

Baby, it’s cold out there.

My plan was to get some cool part-time gig — you know, catering prep or cake decorating (you’ll remember my huge success with piping buttercream under pressure) —  I could do in between subbing and classes to get some recent retail or other food industry related experience while I get my foot in the door on the way to my Future Fabulous Job somewhere involving training, buying, or coordinating.

Enter the reality of a post-recession world where even the person who hands out samples at grocery stores has to have an intensive marketing background and three years of previous experience putting cubes of toaster-ovened food into paper cups.

When I put in an application at Sur La Table for seasonal sales — a job I would find truly interesting and a company I sincerely like –  the salesperson smiled at me pleasantly (the way people who already have the job are wont to do) and told me that they receive over 150 applications per week for their store alone which was a pretty nice way of telling me not to hold my breath.

Cold, indeed.

Well, these things take time.

So what does a newly-transplanted foodie do once the kitchen is (somewhat) in order, the books are (somewhat) unpacked and life is on (somewhat) of a more even keel? She explores.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento declared itself “America’s Farm to Fork Capitol” in 2012 and the following year Sacramento’s mayor declared 2013 the “Year of Food.” Something is happening in Sacramento’s food scene, folks, and I aim to find out what it is.

So let’s you and I start scouting the scene, casing the joint, finding the pulse of this crazy hot state capitol that appears to be throwing off the heavy mantle of the Bay Area food scene which has hogged all the culinary oxygen for too long.

Sacramento has plenty of sun and it’s ready to shine. There’s got to be something in this town at least as interesting as the history of the Fluffernutter. Let’s see what we can find.

Suggestions on where to start?

Fluffernutters, or as some call them, “Liberty Sandwiches”

I found myself making the strangest care package the other day, and decided it was time to chronicle The Fluffernutter.  I’ve never heard anyone call them Liberty Sandwiches, but Wikipedia lists it as an alternative name, so it must be true.

Quite simply, a fluffernutter is a peanut butter and marshmallow creme sandwich on white bread. I used to eat them all the time growing up in Pennsylvania. I haven’t had one in ages, but I found myself hankering for one after trying to explain to someone what they are. I guess they didn’t have them in Berkeley circa 1980, which makes sense since they are, by nature, almost completely artificial and the parts that aren’t unnaturally contrived are highly processed. But still! Give it a whirl!

These basic components travel well. Sorta.

Here’s the thing about fluffernutters: you have to make them on white bread if you want historical accuracy. You need that soft, squishy texture that only gen-u-ine white bread can provide. This is one of the two times that this sort of white bread is my preferred starch. The other is summer tomato sandwiches — the kind of love affair between sweet, heavy, homegrown beefsteak tomatoes right off the vine, mayonnaise, and white bread. If you have ever had one of these, you are nodding in agreement right now. If you haven’t had the pleasure then put that on your white bread bucket list, too.

Here is a visual aid, in case you find the assemblage at all confusing.

Yup, pretty simple. Lay it on, though, don’t skimp!

And the finished product…hello, childhood…

And the twist I wish I had known about a long time ago:

Now that’s taking it to the next level.

Marshmallow creme was invented in the early 1900’s in New England and a recipe for Liberty Sandwiches, using marshmallow, peanut butter, and oat or barley bread, was published during World War I. Other Liberty Sandwich recipe variations walk on the savory side by pairing marshmallow creme with things like sliced olives or chopped nuts, but it’s the peanut butter combo that really seemed to stick.  The sandwich wasn’t called The Fluffernutter until 1960 as part of a new ad campaign by Durkee-Mower, the company which sells the product Marshmallow Fluff and trademarked the name Fluffernutter.

Lest you think this is all, ahem, fluff, it’s worth noting that Fluffernutter has some political intrigue. Durkee-Mower has sued Williams-Sonoma for trademark infringement (I love it when the big boys fight!), and in 2006 a Massachusetts senator went nuts when he thought that the public school cafeterias made fluffernutters available to school children, including his son, every day. A Massachusetts State Representative fought back by swearing to fight for Fluff  “to the death,” and tried to make fluffernutters the state sandwich. Twice.

If you need to know more about Fluff, consider a trek to Massachusetts for the annual “What the Fluff?” festival in September. You can see highlights from last year’s festival (no joke!) here on the festival’s official website. I haven’t been to Massachusetts lately. Anyone??