A debate topic that sticks to your ribs

Lawmakers wrangle over whether a Fluffernutter sandwich — a concoction of Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter slathered on bread — is a real meal.

Published July 2, 2006

Two Massachusetts lawmakers who debated the fate of a New England icon apparently know which side of their bread is buttered. 

The one with the Fluff.

They were arguing over the fate of a sandwich called a Fluffernutter.

Not worth jamming the gears of government, you say? Apparently, peanut butter and marshmallow cream on white bread is more American than apple pie. Callers flooded radio talk shows to rhapsodize about sandwich as childhood memory. Legislative aides were reduced to talking about Fluff. Literally.

The tussle began last month when state Sen. Jarrett Barrios proposed an amendment restricting Fluffernutters in Massachusetts public schools after his third-grade son was served one in the cafeteria. Barrios wanted to limit the high-sugar sandwich to once a week and attach the rule to a pending junk food bill limiting soft drinks, candy bars and potato chips in school vending machines.

State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein, aghast at the snub of a staple of New England lunch boxes, proposed making the Fluffernutter the state’s official sandwich. Her bill, she told the Boston Globe, would “preserve the legacy of this local delicacy.’’

So happens the key ingredient — Marshmallow Fluff — is made in her district by Durkee-Mower Inc.

“Everybody on the planet started calling us. It was crazy,’’ says company treasurer Jonathan Durkee.

After a few days, everyone calmed down and decided to focus on more important things, like the Red Sox.

But the fortunes of the Fluffernutter reflect a national debate — spurred by increasing rates of childhood obesity — over healthy food in school. Last year, Citrus County banned junk food in public school vending machines. Hillsborough County is weighing the sale of Krispy Kremes for fundraisers.

On a personal level, talk of school lunches resurrects memories of fish sticks and mystery meat. A lunch packed at home was too frequently Oscar Mayer bologna on white bread with Miracle Whip, or PB&J mushed by a Thermos of Quik. Pity the kid with deviled ham: Puhleeze, Mom. None of the kids will trade with me. The guy with the Twinkies had all the chips.

Oh, for the days when sugar syrup, egg whites and vanilla whipped into a sticky cloud, then stuck on peanut butter between two slices of white bread, was unquestionably good.

The name Fluffernutter was coined by an advertising agency in the 1960s. H. Allen Durkee, the grandfather of company treasurer Durkee, and Fred L. Mower began making Marshmallow Fluff in 1920, cooking it in their kitchen and selling it door to door. According to the company’s Web site, Durkee-Mower Inc. was one of the first companies to sponsor a radio show, Flufferettes, in the 1930s.

“There’s no reason why Fluffernutters can’t be a part’’ of school lunch menus today, says Jonathan Durkee. “We’re very grateful to everybody who spoke in favor of us.’’ He says he is also grateful that they’ve stopped speaking because “the whole thing was a little ridiculous.’’

There are those who would still meddle with tradition. Disney World chefs created a Fluffernutter for the company’s Pop Century Resort made with tie-dye colored bread. Some people add banana slices or M&Ms or chocolate syrup.

For  authentic Fluff, go online
to www.marshmallowfluff.com. To make the sandwich:

2 slices white bread, preferably Wonder
Peanut butter
Fluff, or another marshmallow cream
Spread peanut butter on one side of each slice of bread. Dot marshmallow cream on peanut butter. Place covered sides of slices together.

Susan Aschoff can be reached at (727) 892-2293 or aschoff@sptimes.com.