This Artist Is Making A Peanut Butter & Jelly Ode To Her Mom

Photo: Connection/REX Shutterstock.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were the ultimate childhood lunchtime food — and no one feels that more than artist Jessica Olah. In fact, she did the math and her mom made her a whopping 2,340 PB&Js throughout her time in school. Now, Olah is planning to recreate every single one of those sandwiches as part of a performance piece that she describes as "an exercise in empathy with my mother." And she's planning to do it in just five days. (Note: At the end of each day, the sandwiches will be donated to the Bowery Mission in New York City.)

We caught up with Olah, who recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund the project, to find out more about the epic undertaking. Check out her responses, below.

How did you come up with the idea for this project?
"I have a day job as a receptionist at a finance company. Every day, I take the Seamless lunches to the kitchen for our employees. I was chatting with a coworker about lunches and asked if his mom used to write notes to him in his school lunches when he was growing up. He replied that his mom never made him lunches, she just gave him lunch money to buy it from the cafeteria.

"That made me stop and think about how incredible it was that my mom made me lunch every single day of school — all the way until graduation. And I realized: That was a lot of sandwiches. It's something I can't really relate to doing, as I don't have children of my own yet. She was my current age when I started going to kindergarten. I wanted to experience what it was like to have made that many of the exact same sandwiches."

Do you remember your first PB&J?
"I don't remember the first one ever. But I remember being really pleased whenever my PB&J didn't end up soggy from the jelly soaking through the bread."

Did you ever get sick of eating the same lunch?
"There was a time in middle school where I didn't want to spend any time hanging out in the cafeteria, so I would throw away my sandwich (sorry, mom!). Aside from that, I never could commit to anything different."

What is your favorite sandwich now?
"I don't eat sandwiches very often anymore, but if I had to choose one, I'd probably go with a tuna sandwich with lots of avocado and tomato."

Will you carry on the PB&J tradition if you have kids?
"Probably not. It's an easy thing to make, but it is also pretty much like a dessert. I had low blood sugar growing up, and I think eating so many PB&Js contributed to that."

What do you think you'll learn from this project and what's the message you're hoping to convey to the public?

"I imagine that doing an action so repetitive in nature will be physically demanding, but I also think that it will be interesting to see where my mind goes while I'm making the sandwiches. Although I am doing the piece to experience empathy with my mother, I also think it will also cultivate discipline and commitment as I work through the process of making 2,340 sandwiches. Ultimately, I don't know exactly how it will turn out or what I'll learn, but I am committing to see it through. I'm sure that will lead to something.

"As for the public, I hope it might bring awareness to someone who sees the project of how special the small things their mother did for them growing up were. I also plan on using ingredients that are locally produced and low in added sugars and preservatives. Growing up as a child in the '90s, a lot of people, my household included, ate highly processed food. I'm trying to provide something of better quality for the recipients of these sandwiches. I hope this small gesture can brighten someone's day, even if it's only for one meal."

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