Friday, September 07, 2012

Universal experiences - not! PB&J sandwiches

In a talk today one of my colleagues used the making of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a metaphor for the piecewise synthesis of molecules and asked his audience whether they made their PB&Js by putting peanut butter on piece of bread, jelly on another and then sandwiching the pieces or by putting the peanut butter on a slice, then spreading the jelly on top of the peanut butter, and topping it off with the second piece of bread.

When he was done, I mentioned that I've never (ever)1 made a PB&J sandwich, or eaten one, for that matter. Regardless, the metaphor worked for me, probably because I've seen enough sandwiches made using things with similar textures, but it did get me thinking about the examples I use in class. I know that there are not many truly universal experiences I can draw on (particularly when it comes to food), but I'm hesitant to strip the chemistry entirely out of the everyday experience students may have.

Now I wonder what other ubiquitous experiences I haven't had....

1. And I don't mean "never" in the HMS Pinafore sense: "What, never?" "Well, hardly ever!" - I mean not one single time. I'm allergic enough to peanuts to carry an EpiPen and to never have had enough peanut butter to know what it tastes like.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! I have never eaten a PBJ but have made plenty of them. I prefer my peanut butter sandwiches plain, and open-faced.

    Food experiences are very cultural in nature, once you factor out food allergies, so if your classes are not culturally homogeneous, you can't count on that prior knowledge of things even as simple as PBJ.