Like Peanut Butter and Jelly: Literary Friendships Reimagined as Sandwiches

Like Peanut Butter and Jelly: Literary Friendships Reimagined as Sandwiches


Nothing goes together quite like peanut butter and jelly, and similarly, some literary friendships are just so perfect that it’s hard to imagine the characters paired up with anyone else. Every friendship is different, though: Not every fictional friendship reminds us of PB&J. Some remind us of less appealing sandwiches like liverwurst and onions, and others have the classic yet complex flavors of a BLT. Here are some of our favorite literary besties and the sandwiches (delicious or otherwise) that they remind us of.

Joe and Sam: Peanut Butter & Jelly
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

There’s no denying it: Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay go together like peanut butter and jelly. These two best friends bond in their teens, and while their relationship deepens and becomes more complicated, they continue to bring out the best in each other. Kavalier and Clay build a veritable empire out of their comic book business, and the web of relationships around their friendship will define the course of their entire lives. Kavalier and Clay are, like peanut butter and jelly, a classic pairing unlikely to ever fall out of favor.

Kathy and Ruth: Spam
Never Let Me Go

At Hailsham, Kathy and Ruth are inseparable, but the dynamics of the friendship are always a little bit off. Ruth is controlling and manipulative in barely-detectable ways that slowly but surely eat away at her relationship with Kathy. This reminds us of a sandwich with Spam on it. The problem with Spam is that it’s so overpowering that no matter what you put on a sandwich with it, it’s still going to be all about the Spam. Unfortunately, Ruth’s friendship with Kathy shares this dynamic: Ruth is self-centered and attention-seeking, and much of Kathy’s short life is spent just trying to share the spotlight with her.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione: Breakfast sandwich
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Most sandwiches focus on one or two key ingredients, but the breakfast sandwich can have multiple stars. Take away the egg, the cheese, or the sausage, and your sandwich is definitely missing something. Similarly, in J.K. Rowling’s beloved series about young wizards, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger are best friends who balance each other out: remove one from the equation, and nothing works quite as well. This trio has its ups and downs, but every test of their friendship confirms what the reader is likely to have suspected all along: three isn’t a crowd—it’s just right.

Bridget, Lena, Tibby, and Carmen: BLT (with mayo)
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

The BLT sandwich is made up of three obvious parts, and one unsung hero (the mayonnaise) that acts as the glue. Without the mayo, the sandwich is dry and doesn’t hold together very well. This is similar to the dynamic between the four best friends in Ann Brashares’s The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Lena, the quiet friend and resident peacemaker, is the mayo. She binds the other three friends, Tibby, Carmen, and Bridget, together. This setup, while not exactly fair, seems to work for the four girls.

Theo and Boris: Liverwurst and onions
The Goldfinch

You either love liverwurst and onion sandwiches, or you hate them. Connoisseurs will tell you that these two ingredients complement each other perfectly, but that doesn’t mean everyone will like eating it. This is also a pretty apt description of the friendship between Theo and Boris in The Goldfinch: it isn’t for everyone, but on the most technical level it works. Theo and Boris meet at a particularly vulnerable time in both of their lives: Theo is coping with the devastating loss of his mother, and Boris is coping with an abusive father, an essentially rootless existence, and various substance abuse problems. This friendship isn’t pretty: it’s boozy, drug-addled, and predicated on the sort of “sharing” that anyone else might call theft and/or exploitation. But in its own dysfunctional way, it really works.

Iris and May: Tuna melt
Iris Has Free Time

This friendship is close, but it also has a very real shelf life. The relationship between Iris and May is borderline codependent: They share everything at the beginning (from answering the phone when the other’s boyfriend calls to swearing they’ll live together once they’re married) and it’s tough to discern where Iris ends and May begins. But ultimately, this mayo-based-salad sandwich of a friendship expires. May meets a boy, and gradually the two drift apart until May seals the deal by leaving New York. This semi-autobiographical account of being a twenty-something makes one overarching point: Nothing lasts forever. Tuna melts don’t, either.


Ratty and Mole: Grilled cheese
The Wind in the Willows

Ratty and Mole, protagonists of the much-loved childrens book The Wind In the Willows, have the best kind of friendship: the uncomplicated kind. They care deeply for one another, and are extremely loyal. They also have a ton of fun. This reminds us of a grilled cheese sandwich: neither friend overpowers the other. Instead, the two form a team, and together, they take on Toad. Plus, both the grilled cheese sandwich and The Wind and the Willows are crowd-pleasing favorites that deliver a hefty dose of nostalgia.


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