5:50 in the early morning, 1996. The sun has just begun to rise over the rows of houses in a tiny and quiet neighborhood. Dawn is taking shape. High above—it spreads it’s light into the sky—casting with it’s descent, a colorful hue that mimics a cacophony of sound and color beyond the mountains. 6:20 in the morning. The sun has brightened and its warming rays slither through the far off distance, past the empty school, across the street. It finds its way through a white picket fence, and creeps over the trimmed lawn, painting its yellow color on the white walls of a modest family home. 6:40 in the morning. Tiny streaks of sunlight gleam through closed blinds illuminating certain areas of a disheveled and disorganized room. Remnants of a once-clean abode can still be seen beneath all the clothes, toys, and books that are thrown about littering the floor, shelves, and desk. Crowded, picture-laden, walls go undisturbed by the light that has made its way inside the unsuspected domain. As time ticks, by the light, emitting from the outside world, begins to grow stronger. It fights off the darkness within, and fills the room with a warmth that is not welcomed at this early hour. 7:00 in the morning and the alarm buzzes for the fourth time. Something stirs on the bed, and the sheets begin to rustle. Beneath the crisp bundled mounds of striped cloth lies an eight year old me awakening from a deep sleep. A tired, limp hand emerges from underneath a giant pillow, hitting the alarm clock. The buzzing sound ceases and the room is quiet once again.
7:20 in the morning. The boy dashes from the closest to the bathroom, back and forth. Rapidly brushing his teeth, combing his hair and putting on clothes, he prepares for school. The mad dash only intensifies as time slips away becoming more apparent that a tardy is in store if he does not hurry. He enters the kitchen and sees his sisters dressed and ready to go. Just waiting for him to finally make his appearance. He ignores their stares and scoffs—for the school is right across the street—and goes straight to the breakfast table where his morning fare awaits. No time to enjoy it at a reasonable pace, he practically swallows it whole without breath, without hesitation, giving off the impression that this is a daily occurrence. He has become accustomed to it. Only when stripes of maple syrup are left alone, on the plate, are they ready to depart. Ready to go to school and learn. One by one they each pick up their sacked lunches. Their names neatly written across the front brown paper, allows for no confusion as to which bag belongs to which sibling. The contents within are always the same. Expected and required. A fresh fruit, a string cheese, frosted circus animal cookies, a juice box and a delicious sandwich.
The sandwiches vary from child to child revealing that their tastes and sophisticated palates are unique to each sibling. For the girls, a turkey with swiss on wheat, no crusts and a provolone and tomato no mayo, with plenty of mustard. The boy’s is much more simple and modest in flavor. Peanut butter (crunchy) and jelly (raspberry) on whatever bread, slightly toasted. The salty and sweet sandwich give him something to look forward to among the long hours stuck in a classroom. Each day he awakens not wanting to go to school, dragging his feet as he gets ready and makes his way to the kitchen where his sisters await impatiently. The only salvation that comes his way is knowing that his lunch will always be the same. Right there on the counter waiting for him to pick it up and take it to school. Waiting to be eaten and enjoyed. Only when he walks out the door with his brown sack—”Jon” written in block letters—can he face the day. Only then is he willing to make the best of what lies ahead, PB&J in hand.
These cupcakes were inspired by that infamous PB&J of my early years in school. Flavors that mimic and recreate my childhood are paired together to construct a treat that brings us all back to the days of our youth. We begin by making the jam. Yes, the jam. You might not want to take this extra step in making your own jam, but I think you should! It’s super easy and a lot healthier. Healthier because you know all the ingredients that are going inside. Healthier because it is made without any weird preservatives or thickeners.
If you make your own jam people will look at you as if you are a master in the kitchen. It works. Let’s make jam together. I’m using two types of fresh berries for this one. Blackberries and Raspberries. Why? Because I like those two flavor profiles together. But also because they were the best looking ones at the farmer’s market that week. You can use whichever fruit you prefer or whatever is in season.