Artist To Make 2,340 PB&J Sandwiches in Five Days

Originally published at DNAinfo on Jan. 28, 2016. 

EAST VILLAGE — A local artist is attempting to make as many sandwiches as her mother made over 13 years in only five days.

Jessica Olah, of Ditmas Park, did the math and estimated that from September 1990 through May 2004 her mother made 2,340 sandwiches for her to take to school.

“I was bringing someone their lunch [one day] and just marveling over the fact that my mom made me school lunches everyday,” said Olah, 30. “I stopped and thought, ‘Wow, my mom made me lunch every day, not only when I was younger but until high school.’ That is a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”

Inspired to “exercise empathy” for her mother, Olah began the task of making the same number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in five days at Specials on C, a former bodega turned creative space, in Alphabet City starting Wednesday.

After raising roughly $3,500 on Indiegogo and receiving peanut butter donations, Olah used personal days in order to spend five days spreading peanut butter and jelly on organic multi grain bread.

Her art installation will run through the weekend and the sandwiches will be donated to The Bowery Mission daily. Olah will go down to The Bowery Mission to hand out sandwiches in person this Friday.

“I wanted to understand how much that was and the dedication that might make someone do something like that daily for 13 years of school,” said Olah, who told her mother about the idea early on. “She probably said it was crazy but then I think she was flattered and curious.”

Her day begins at 8 a.m. when she arrives for the morning bread delivery from East Harlem’s Hot Bread Kitchen. From there she prepares for a couple of hours before starting the sandwich making at 10 a.m. Her schedule on paper goes to 6 p.m. but she said that many days she will be there until 7 or 8 p.m. to keep up the pace. It is easy to maintain a schedule, the amount of bread delivered daily is equal to her quota, she said.

“I was thinking about how doing something small like this could mean something much bigger if it is done with intentionality,” Olah said.

The table used to create the sandwiches serves as a stage at the center of the room, and 12 chairs are arranged around it for anyone who wants to stop by and watch. Peanut butter jars and completed sandwiches line one wall and photos of her mother making sandwiches line the opposite wall. Without music or any distraction, the room is quiet as she works.

The confines of sitting all day and repetition is the most challenging part of the project, Ollah said.

“I am still figuring it out because I am only on day two, I didn’t know what to think about this going into it,” she said.

Those who want to see the “2,340 PB&J Sandwiches” installation in person can swing by 195 Avenue C during the allotted hours through Sunday.

“I wanted to do this as a meditation on what my mother has done. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a metaphor for a lot of small tasks mothers might do,” Olah said.

For those interested in more of Olah’s art, she has a gallery show Monday at Roots in Brooklyn, and another from Feb. 9 through March 6 at W83 on the Upper West Side. The W83 show can be viewed from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The shows will feature drawings of people in church and portraits of people eating dessert respectively.

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