We were an odd couple. As a child, I was allergic to peanuts, carrying double EpiPens in a purple fanny pack to ward off anaphylactic shock. At age seven, I attended five months of counseling to quell my attacks — whenever he came in the room I found myself nervous, short of breath, petrified that he would somehow slip his way over and touch my lips, perhaps sticking to an unwashed jam knife. When other kids pulled out the pb-and-j’s, I fled.
The first few times I made his acquaintance post-allergy, I thought he was nothing special. Then, on a few hiking trips and in the college dining halls, I felt the attraction undeniably. But love requires a singular attention, and I wasn’t ready to commit. I didn’t even know I loved him until I said it, pronounced it, to the mass of awkward pre-teens I had just picked up at the airport to lead on a three-week bike trip up the New England coast.
“Creamy,” I found myself declaring, “is for the weak. Chunky — extra, super chunky — is the only one for me.”
And so it was. Through rain and broken chains and Miley Cyrus sing-a-longs, on bagels and cookies and any other simple carb, Jif Super Chunk stood by me. At the end of a long day (or in the beginning, or the middle), there was nothing to ease the aching muscles and the whining children like a quiet moment with my jumbo jar. My campers knew this — when I looked especially explosive, they would scamper out of my path, lob me my Mr. Chunk, and wait for his sweet, processed-sugar nothings to calm my wrath.
Alas, our affair was short-lived. After my trip, when I was no longer burning 10,000 calories a day or striving to feed 14 young mouths as cheaply as possible, it became challenging to integrate my new lover into my former life. Did he really need to cover everything that approached my mouth? (He was always a bit clingy). Distance didn’t help — days after the trip ended, I flew off to South Africa only to discover that my seeming soulmate wasn’t such a hotshot outside the United States. Ask for him there, you got Marmite. I still remembered him fondly, imagining how this exotic fruit or that chocolate croissant would be infinitely improved by his presence, but we fell out of touch. By the time I unpacked all my gear and unearthed my sticky spoon, I felt only a faint, nostalgic nausea.