Wednesday, June 21, 2006

In A Huff Over Fluff

Now, the beloved Fluffernutter sandwich — the irresistible combination of Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter, preferably on white bread with a glass of milk handy — finds itself at the center of a sticky political debate.

Sen. Jarrett Barrios was outraged that his son Nathaniel, a third-grader, was given a Fluffernutter sandwich at the King Open School in Cambridge. He said he plans to file legislation that would ban schools from offering the local delicacy more than once a week as the main meal of the day.

Nuts to that, says Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein. Far from banning or limiting the childhood delight, produced locally for 80 years, Reinstein wants to make its iconic status official.
She responded with a proposal to designate the Fluffernutter the "official sandwich of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

"I'm going to fight to the death for Fluff," Reinstein said.

Ah, Fluffernutter sandwiches! When I was a kid, I envied those whose mothers who kept Fluff in the house and served it up with commercial peanut butter on Wonderbread, complemented by a side of chips and washed down with a 100% juice-free, vitamin-unenhanced beverage. I begged and begged my mom to buy some Fluff, but she was immoveable. I appreciate, now, that she was ahead of her time in insisting on whole-grain breads, home-made yogurt, fresh (preferably local) produce and so forth--but then? I thought she was weird, and I knew that's what my friends thought of my lunches (and, of course, by extension, of me).

The ironic thing is that, as a child, I didn't particularly like even whole marshmallows. So why was I so attached to the idea of Fluff?

Well, at least I got my mom to agree to buy Tang once or twice, and even Space Sticks (anyone remember those? do I even have the name right?) in the wake of all the Moon Walk excitement.

You know what? I didn't much like those either (though I never admitted that to my parents, on "principle").

As for the Massachusetts "kerfluffle," I dunno. Of course Barrios has a point: childhood nutrition is a serious thing, and we all have been made amply aware of "epidemic" obesity etc. among today's children. But I'm not so sure that legislating is the answer, nor banning or limiting marshmallow fluff or any other single item. After all, most of the generation in which I grew up were not obese as children, at least, and nor were those preceding it--despite consuming all those lunches I so envied. Then again, portions of everything were smaller, kids ran around a whole lot more, and people didn't seem to be offered snacks endlessly, in school and out, or at work and on every other occasion as well.

So, any Fluffernutter sandwich fans out there? Any formerly "deprived" kids who secretly envied their friends' lunches? And what so-called "kid" food do you still crave or even indulge in?

Update: Now, my husband had a Fluffernutter mother. He just described in detail her precise method of spreading the soft white bread with butter, then precisely lining one slice with bananas, the other with peanut butter, and then swirling the Fluff in between. She still has a jar of the goopy stuff in her pantry, or at least did as recently as last summer.

Nowadays, I can't imagine him eating such a thing. As it happens, my family's--especially my mother's--predilections prepared me most excellently for feeding a philosophically vegetarian mate, with a deep love of whole and ethnic foods and a passion for spice and heat. (Well, in the case of my own appreciation of hot peppers and sauce, that's a legacy from my dad; my mom and brother never could stand the heat.) Funny, the way life works out in the end.