A Brief History Of...: Peanut Butter

If you'll allow me to make a silly joke (too late!), I am simply nuts about nuts. Cashews, almonds, hazlenuts--they are all simply lovely. Heck, I'll even throw some seeds into the mix (they're related, right? Darwin? Help a girl out here...). Basically, nuts r nice. And, being high in the "good" fat (whatever that means), I'm told I can indulge in nuts like a selfish squirrel. Hooray!

Of course, while I've got nothing against nuts, my real favorite is mmmmpeanut butter. Even bad peanut butter is good. I like putting it on ice cream, in honey, on crackers, and in my mouth. Since peanut butter has been getting a bad rap lately (note: problems were with peanut butter products, which shouldn't even be called peanut butter), I thought I would highlight some of its positives in today's "A Brief History Of..."

I just finished eating a bowl of peanut butter and I would totally do it again. I actually ate it with crackers, to appear more socially acceptable, but truthfully I don't have much of a problem with eating it straight off a spoon. I mean, why the medium? It's not like it's ketchup or anything. My office has old-fashioned peanut-grinding machines where you flip a switch and all the peanuts start to rumble and freshly-crushed golden joy emerges (it is so wonderful that one time I booked a guest to come to our headquarters and he was more excited about the peanut butter machine than the interview). I worry that, should the recession get to be too much, my beloved peanut-butter machine will be the first thing to go, but for now, I indulge (side note: one of my coworkers said he'd heard the peanut butter upstairs got two people sick and I was like "WHAAAT?!?" and then he laughed and said "Gotcha!" .... I didn't actually do anything, but for some reason my response made him flinch).

Despite the hoo-ha you hear about George Washington Carver inventing peanuts and/or butter (also being famous for carving up George Washington), peanut butter, according to an informative article at Slate, has been around for a while, delighting young children and the protein-starved for centuries (Carver, to be fair, helped modernize and popularize peanut-growing techniques). The Aztecs were first to put peanuts to grindstone, and it was popularized in 1897 by J.H. Kellogg, a psychiatric doctor who developed a patent on it (Kellogg, btdubs, is the creator of the eponymous Kellogg cereal, which he would give his patients. He discovered the crunch-crunchiness of the hard cereal helped make his patients more responsive, and marketed the cereal as a breakfast food designed to wake you up. The More You Know*). It started making its way onto tables big time after World War II led to a drive for more protein, and peanut butter delivered. Cue 1950's-era cheerful ads depicting moms making peanut butter sandwiches for chubby kids. A star was born.

Since then, peanut butter has become as American as apple pie, which, ironically, would not be improved if you added peanut butter. Jif, the largest peanut butter company in the world, churns out 250,000 jars a day (a day! that is crazy!). March is National Peanut Butter Month, to be celebrated by, I guess, eating peanut butter? The Peanut Butter Lovers Club says you should tell your friends Americans eat about 3 pounds of peanut butter every year and peanuts are actually not nuts at all! So. Um. Go tell your friends.

For eats, you really can't do much better than peanut butter. Mixed with chocolate or spiced up into a sauce, it's always pretty amazing. (of course, there is also pb's favorite partner, j, as in jelly. I actually wouldn't know what a pb&j tastes like because I've never in my life eaten one. I know how that sounds).

I leave you with my favorite peanut butter recipe, peanut butter fudge, which is basically regular peanut butter + butter and sugar. Enjoy!

PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE, FROM Doris E. Hashman OF Columbus, OH
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 stick margarine
pinch of salt
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix sugar, milk, margarine and salt in a saucepan.
Boil, stirring frequently, until it forms a soft ball in cold water.
Remove from stove and add peanut butter and vanilla.
Beat until creamy and pour into buttered 9x9 pan.
Let cool before cutting.


  1. your blog is cool because it's similar to flipping on a combination of PBS, History Channel, and Discovery Channel during midday, when all the good random subjects are featured. Shows like How It's Made - Crayons, Black History Month on the HC featuring turn of the century scientists, or Rick Steves' Iran - these are the shows that really add value and can suck you in for a highly-concentrated dose of information and entertainment.

    So I guess your blog reminds me of being home sick in middle school and lying on the couch. But in a good way.

  2. Wow! Thanks! When I finally get the book deal I so clearly deserve, I will put this blurb on the cover.