By Julie Parise, CBSNewYork.com
Sometimes, we hear people propose outrageous ideas and we think that’s nuts.
Or that’s impossible.
Or that would never work.
Sometimes, those crazy ideas trigger a motivation inside of us to not just prove someone wrong, but to accomplish something no one else thought was possible.
Well, that’s exactly what happened to Lee Zalben. The founder and president of Peanut Butter & Company, the Greenwich Village sandwich shop, was behind the counter at his store one day when a patron unknowingly presented a challenge.
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“I bet you can’t make a different peanut butter and jelly sandwich for every day of the year,” the customer said, offhand.
And that was all it took.
“It was just a random utterance, but it stuck with me,” Zalben said. “It was like he threw the gauntlet down.”
PHOTO GALLERY: The Peanut Butter Creations In Pictures
Zalben and his team of proclaimed “peanut butter experts” embarked on what he called an “epic adventure”: To not just conceptualize 365 different peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – but to build and photograph each one.
The result: The Nutropolitan Museum of Art at SoHo’s Openhouse Gallery, a pop-up exhibit devoted to America’s traditional lunchtime favorite, the peanut butter & jelly sandwich.
“It’s all about having fun with your food,” he said.
Yes, fun – but with a little bit of work.
He recruited a food stylist and photographer to produce sandwiches like the “White Out”: White bread with white chocolate-flavored peanut butter and marshmallow fluff – topped with coconut flakes.
There’s also “All Hail the King,” a tribute to Elvis: Grilled brioche with smooth peanut butter, sliced bananas, bacon and honey.
Zalben’s favorite, however, is called the Peanut Buzzer Sandwich, and it pays homage to this great little city of ours.
The piece of edible artwork, originally supposed to be simply two slices of bread with peanut butter and honeycomb in between, turned out to be much more: A honeycomb replica of the New York City skyline, with a peanut butter-lathered slice of bread as a foundation. The sandwich is mounted on a yellow base, all presented in front of a black background. Behind the sandwich, a yellow taxi appears to be buzzing by.
“This is what happens when creative people get together,” Zalben said enthusiastically as he explained the dish, the concept behind it and how the Peanut Buzzer got its name.
“There’s all different levels of wordplay,” he said, pointing out that the sandwich’s name could be referencing either the taxi or the bees that produced the honey – or both.
All of the pieces will be displayed on the Peanut Butter Company’s upcoming blog, Nutropolitan.com, which will feature a new photo from the project every day.
“The reaction from the food community was great,” he said. “People are ready to break away from plain old PB&J.”
And your mother told you to never to play with your food.
Visit The Exhibit
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
On both days, the PB&J art studio will be open so that visitors will be able to make their own art. Additionally, peanut farmers will be on hand to greet viewers and answer questions.
Even more sweetness: Over the weekend, both the Van Leuwen Ice Cream truck (Saturday) and the Treats Truck (Sunday) will operate from in front of the gallery.
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