Who among us still throws dinner parties to show off our mastery of French cooking techniques, or is even – since the pandemic lockdowns ended – still keeping their sourdough starter alive? Time being once again a scarce commodity for most of us, five-ingredient, 15-minute recipes are what tend to dominate cookbooks, magazines, and websites nowadays.
The animals in Bambi Edlund’s new children’s book apparently didn’t get the memo on this front. While it’s true that their peanut butter sandwich recipe only requires two ingredients – store-bought bread and raw peanuts – actually making the sandwich involves 17 “easy” steps, raising the question: what on earth could they be?
The book begins with a “you will need” list whose wacky mysteriousness dissipates as we move along. A raccoon and three oranges? The basis, of course, for a juggling act that will generate the funds necessary to buy ingredients. A donkey and two sets of clogs? The former will don the latter to pulverize the raw peanuts into paste (after they’re shelled by the raccoon, who’ll then play an accordion to inspire the donkey’s rhythmic stomping).
The Rube Goldberg-ian, shaggy-dog approach is reminiscent of Laura Numeroff’s If You Give … series (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, etc.), in which simple gestures unleash an absurdly complex chain of events. But where Numeroff’s books are circular, each ending in the same place they began, Edlund’s linear tale ends with the sight of our merry group of co-conspirators – which, in addition to the aforementioned donkey and raccoon, includes an otter, badger, and skunk, as well as mice, crows, and squirrels – consuming the fruits, or, more precisely, the sandwich, of their Byzantine labour at an outdoor picnic. (Given the restrictions on peanut butter in schools and other indoor venues, it is just about the only place kids can eat the once ubiquitous concoction these days).
Young readers will love the silly, over-the-top complications, and no doubt enjoy dreaming up more while reading this simple but appealing tale.