Here’s something that’s been amusing me recently: my students, all of whom are Japanese, and for whom no snack is more delicious than green tea flavored chocolates or or deliciously salty than dried squid jerky, get really freaked out when I eat peanut butter on an apple.
The discussion began in one of my beginning level classes. Students were asked to use the following sentence patterns to make a small presentation to the class:
“My favorite snack is ______. I like it because it’s ______ and _______. I like to eat it when I’m _______ing or ________ing.”
I provided an example, saying, “My favorite snack is peanut butter on an apple. I like it because it’s sweet and crunchy. I like to eat it when I’m watching TV or reading. Any questions?”
In retrospect, it was asking if they had questions that was the mistake. I spent the next 30 minutes of class amusedly answering their queries about whether this was common in America and if there were other fruits involved and did this habit extend to all English speaking countries, etc. etc.
After much discussion, I decided to make a small fact sheet for the students, using the white board’s printer function. On the sheet, I wrote:
Popular Peanut Butter Snack Combinations in the United States:
Peanut Butter and Chocolate
Peanut Butter and Apples
Peanut Butter and Bananas
Peanut Butter and Celery Sticks
Peanut Butter and Crackers
Stuff about Peanut Butter:
Peanut Butter is an American staple. Most school kids eat Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches quite often.
Peanut Butter is also popular in the UK, Canada, and Australia, but not as popular as it is in the US (I think).
American Peanut Butter comes in two varieties – smooth and crunchy, and neither is as sweet as Japanese Peanut Butter.
So. I got through that class and decided to ask all my other classes what they thought about pb and whatever and got similar reactions most of the time. The only time I got reactions of the “yum” variety were in the advanced classes, where some of the students have lived in the US or Canada.
Then, this weekend, just for kicks, I decided to try peanut butter (one of the import stores carries American brands) with a nashi (a large Japanese pear that has a texture more like an apple than a North American pear). I cut one up and spread the pb on it and offered a slice to my wife. She looked at me like I had gone crazy and took a tentative bite. When I asked how it was, she said “Peanut butter is good. Nashi is good. Peanut butter and nashi is strange.”
I, on the other hand, thought it was delicious.