When Fluff is an East Coast Thing, Not a West Coast Thing

My first mistake was taking hold of the strawberry flavor. One of my co-workers said it was “the way to go.” She had said it with a cool, smoke-like demeanor as if she were slipping me a tip on how to try some new illegal drug. Strawberry is “the way to go,” hun.

Is it just me or is fluff—that creamy egg-white-filled, liquid-marshmallow, comes-in-a-jar product called Fluff—not a West Coast thing?

Photo credit: Associated Press, NY Daily News

Last week, I had gotten into a conversation with a few co-workers about lunch (this is in Connecticut). I had fancy homemade rice. One of them had a frozen burrito. We had just been at the microwave in the kitchen, as interesting as that sounds.

On returning to the desk, the topic came around to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And when “peanut butter and fluff sandwiches” came up, and when I didn’t respond, it was as if I had done something way out of line. Punched a computer monitor off a desk. Dropped the water cooler refill jug on the copier. Poured my lunch into someone’s lap. Typical office shenanigans that you’d expect would get you sent off with a box in your hands before rush hour.

Except this was about Fluff.

Everyone came in hollering about the “childhood magic” of “peanut butter and fluff” and how I “had not lived.” At least a dozen co-workers surrounded me, telling me the merits of this weird sandwich that, until moving to New England, had never crossed my mind. Who are these people and why are they so excited about this thing? Does life after the mid-twenties get that boring?

One of them made me swear that I would try it in the next week. Another told me that she’d bring in a jar of it for me to eat with a spoon.

The day left me spinning. I hadn’t made a fuss when none of them claimed to have eaten a peanut butter and honey sandwich. That was my “childhood magic,” my form of “living” on the West Coast, with the occasional addition of bananas.

So, either this office had something dark going on that I couldn’t see or they were really on to something about this fluff. I had to find out.

According to an Associated Press article published on NY Daily News, Fluff is not that well-known beyond the East Coast.

… Grocery stores in other parts of the country usually place Fluff in the baking aisle because it is used in recipes for fudge and other desserts, or in the ice cream section because it is sometimes used as a topping. But in New England, Fluff is in the bread aisle — right next to the peanut butter … (NY Daily News)

So, there were probably jars of the stuff in the baking aisles back on the West Coast. Having grown up in a pseudo-healthy household with mostly-vegetables and occasional-meats but rarely dessert-desserts (this is a terrible sentence), I did not often go near the baking zone.

I had skirted around this gooey thing-in-a-jar my entire childhood until I had moved to a town in Connecticut not two hours from Somerville, the place of its birth. This moment of enthusiasm and confusion from people who’ve grown up here was bound to happen at some point.

To make good on my promise, I purchased two jars of peanut butter and a jar of Fluff. This event occurred on a rainy Saturday afternoon, and it felt like an initiation. Some weird, New England initiation.

After a short search for the peanut butter aisle, and on entering and running my eyes down the shelves, I came across a sea of white jars. You know that scene in Game of Thrones with the endless rows and rows of wildfire sitting in barrels?

A scene from “Game of Thrones.” Someone pours wildfire into a large jug.

If not, think of a gigantic storage cellar at a vineyard or of that last scene in Indiana Jones with the ark getting toted off on a pallet truck into crate city

Image result for indiana jones ark last scene
The last scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

I had found the white jars.

The section was twice the size of the peanut butter section. And, while you’d think there’d be different brands—the big name companies; smaller, more expensive organic ones; a few non-profits; and then the nondescript, plain-ugly store-brand kind—there was just one brand of exactly the same size laid out five shelves high and six deep. FLUFF.

My first mistake was taking hold of the strawberry flavor. One of my co-workers said it was “the way to go.” She had said it with a cool, smoke-like demeanor as if she were slipping me a tip on how to try some new illegal drug. Strawberry is “the way to go,” hun.

My second mistake was not covering up the jars of peanut butter and fluff while waiting in an unusually long line at the checkout. I was seventh or so in line, and there were about five people behind me.

The older man standing ahead of me—he looked like he had just stepped off his aluminum vessel with worms, rod, and a cooler—glanced back, noticing the jars in my hands. He smiled. “Boy I wish I had me some of that fluff right about now,” he had said. Those were his exact words.

And then, without time to fully register the man’s words, or the presence of this fisherly man himself, a woman spoke up. “But you’re making the wrong choice with strawberry there.” She was with her husband or boyfriend. They both nodded, solemnly, at the older man.

“You don’t want strawberry,” the older man said. “Does he?” He nudged the man in line ahead of him—teenage, with three friends and a mom—and he and the rest of the people in line ahead turned toward me.

How had I failed?

The older man sent me off to swap out my jar of fluff, promising to keep my place in line.

If I fully recounted the happenings after purchasing the fluff, it’d be a disappointing story. I tried the fluff and it was, is, well… For five days straight, I have eaten oatmeal, apples, peanut butter, and fluff for breakfast. The fluff is just the right sweetness for oatmeal, but at 5 grams of sugar for just one tablespoon not too sweet to feel guilty about (because, as a millennial, I’m prone to feeling guilty about unhealthy foods).

Also, while half the jar is now gone, I don’t have to worry. That co-worker I mentioned earlier brought in a huge jar for everyone in the office.

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