By Sean Maloney | Green Label
Today we celebrate that most fundamental of American foodstuffs, a meal so beautiful in its simplicity that many never recognize it for the dynamic provision it is: the PB&J.
For national Peanut Butter & Jelly Day (April 2, it’s a thing, although unnervingly close to April Fool’s), we tracked down an entire food truck dedicated to this Mona Lisa of munchies, in Houston: Monster PB&J.
With an explosion in the food truck trend, in 2012, Houston couple Jill and Will were looking for that most mythological of foodstuffs: something that is vegan and universally loved.
Their quest brought them back to a childhood favorite. The PB&J, they realized, had so much untapped potential that it could please picky kids and snooty gourmands alike. Thus, the Monster PB&J food truck was born.
“People assume that our customers are children but really we see more adults than anything,” co-owner Jake Thorn tells Green Label. “A lot of the people that have kids love getting food here without their kids.”
With hand-ground nut butters, locally-sourced jams, and artisanal bread, Monster has made PB&J the next frontier for four-wheeled fine dining. From the gluten-free to the lactose-intolerant to the simply hungry, Monster PB&J has got you covered.
“It is so rewarding when you work on a flavor for weeks and weeks, that just seems to be right there on the edge and you finally discover that one thing that works,” says Thorn. “I think that is incredibly rewarding, but on top of that we have a lot of great customers.”
PB&J wasn’t always this way. It was originally limited to the, er, “upper crust” of American society, mostly due to the labor-intensive process of turning roasted peanuts into smooth, delicious peanut butter. But by the middle of the 20th century, the humble PB&J had taken on a starring role in lunchboxes once the process of roasting, shelling, and grinding was mechanized and industrialized. Thus, making a PB&J became as easy as opening a jar.
But it is the willingness to take this time-honored staple beyond the confines of its name that elevates Monster PB&J above the fray.
“A lot of people turn their nose up at it because it’s a little too crazy, but [my favorite is] The Mariella,” says Thorn. “It was named after my sister-in-law who was pregnant at the time of the sandwich’s development. It’s peanut butter, pickles and Sriracha—and it’s toasted.”
As the food truck trend begins to slow down and many operates shutter their side panels, the Monster crew are going strong, sling sandwiches to a devoted audience.