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The 60s Favorite Homemade Sandwich of Ohio

by Brenda K Oswalt

After school, the first thing we would do was run home, turn on the tube to watch “Dark Shadows,” the Barnabus Collins vampire serial, and head for the kitchen to make a PBL&MW, our favorite sandwich.

In the 60s, the favorite homemade sandwich in our Ohio town was the Peanut Butter, Lettuce and Miracle Whip.  Yes, that’s right.  Don’t knock it until you’ve actually tried it because it is heavenly.  Just the right combination of ingredients to create this sensational over-the-top sandwich, and it’s made from ingredients commonly found in the pantry and fridge.

No One Really Knows How It Started

No one has a clue as to the origins of the sandwich, but it seemed to explode in popularity about the middle 60s and has had tremendous staying power ever after. Some folks claim Kraft, the makers of Miracle Whip sandwich spread might have started it, but we could never locate a single ad for it anyplace.

Kids and grownups alike enjoy the unique flavor of this tasty sandwich.  Yes, I know, they’ve done a remake of “Dark Shadows”. But, trust me the original one was better, and they can’t do a remake of this sandwich.  No way, no how. Some things just never change.  It’s nice to know that.

Surprise Your Friends – Elvis Did

Try making a PBL&MW and surprising your friends.  One time, I cut the crusts off white bread and made fancy “tea” sandwiches to serve my mom’s company and nearly every sandwich-eater asked for the recipe.  Luckily, I saved her buns by writing some up. Country-club folks ate it, factory workers enjoyed it, poker players and quilters nibbled it while competing with neighbors and friends on a Saturday night.  In short, it was the hottest “cold” homemade sandwich of the day.

Elvis Surprised his Friends with Peanut Butter

Elvis loved peanut butter and his favorite way to eat it was a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich. Don’t laugh. Elvis’ sandwich is really good, but for all that extra fat and carbs it’s nowhere near as good, even with bacon in it, as the PBL&MW.  No way.  Our sandwich kicks Elvis’ peanut butter favorite out of the box…takes peanut butter to a new level, for sure.  The mystery of how this homespun sandwich got its legs will probably remain a puzzle forever but I, for one, would like to have someone start a contest.  When did you have your first PBL&MW and how did your family find out about it?

The Perfect Sandwich

Why is the PBL&MW the perfect sandwich?  Well, it’s vegetarian… has protein, green leafy veggies, whole grains, starches, plus the most import ingredient - full flavor.  What more to ask for?  And, it can be homemade in a flash.  After all, it’s “no fry, no bake.”   Heck, you don’t even have to toast the bread.  If fact, don’t ever toast the bread.  Just get that bread – white bread or wheat bread, but never rye – and smear Miracle Whip on one piece of bread, followed by a spread of peanut butter on the other piece.  Now, seal the deal with 3 or 4 pieces – be generous now – of fine green leaf lettuce and smash both sides together.

Check out the visuals to be sure you’ve got it right.  Right ratio of peanut butter (your favorite kind, of course) and right proportion of Miracle Whip and scads of lettuce – pretend it’s a field of lettuce with nice dressing on both ends.

What’s Not to Love Already?

Once, my girlfriend and I, during a sleepover, were watching Steve McQueen in “The Blob”… and we each ate two PBL&MW sandwiches in five minutes.  I admit it was during the most thrilling part of the movie.  You know, the part where they are in the movie theater and the blob presses into the projector room?  Then, it goes for the diner crowd.

Yep, we each ate two and then polished off a third one with a quart of milk when “The Monolith Monsters came on.  Remember that flick?  It was an old 50s flick, but we didn’t’ see it until the 60s…  Check out the link at the end of this article and enjoy the trailer.  Freak night was fun night at most homes back then. Nothing like a good scare-flick to ramp up the appetite.

Every Fridge Was Ready

Every house in the 60s had the base ingredients to make a Peanut Butter, Lettuce & Miracle Whip sandwich and probably still does.  Do not ever underestimate the power of this wonderfully simplistic creation, for it’s a true work of art.   Keep the ingredients on hand for emergencies. I’ve given it to prudes, snobs and heart throbs.  They all raised their eyebrows and said, “Now that’s really good.”   So give this puppy a try.  A blast from the past, the Peanut Butter, Lettuce and Miracle Whip Sandwich. It’ll take you places you never dreamed of.  You learned about it here and now. Sigh…better late than never.

And Now The Sandwich Deconstructed

Use white or wheat bread.  Do not use rye bread or it will taste strange.  Kinda.  As you can see by the photos, slather 2 to 3 Tablespoons of your favorite brand of peanut butter onto one bread slice and 3-4 Tablespoons Miracle Whip onto the other slice.  Top with lots of leaf lettuce.  Pretend you are at a garden party here.  Be generous with the green stuff. Apply the lettuce liberally and then fold it together, press, slice and enjoy.  No baking, no toasting, no problem.  Just the pure joy of food well eaten.  Hope you have relished your trip down memory lane and that you will never eat another Peanut Butter, Lettuce and Miracle Whip sandwich without thinking of me.  Enjoy!

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Brenda Oswalt is a French-trained cook, writer, businesswoman and inventor who holds several medical patents.

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  1. Christina Gregoire

    Hey Brenda, I love this article because it reminds me of going to my best friend Chelle's house after school. We always ran into the kitchen to get cheese and crackers (or tuna salad and crackers if there was some in the fridge). And, we always had some 7up to wash it down. This was a daily ritual. Oh, after the show, we played records like "The Doors" or "Pearls Before Swine" or some other musique noir. We were totally addicted to Dark Shadows... everyone was. That show was Goth before its time.

    • Brenda Oswalt

      Yes, Christina... and you know that they have done a re-make of Dark Shadows... like anyone could ever replace the original Barnabus Collins. Please.

      Lots of kids ate those cheese and crackers or those cheese cracker things which I never got into!