Had a conversation today with friends about peanut butter. It is amazing how something as simple as peanut butter can elicit a range of firm opinions and ideas. I am a big fan of organic, crunchy, no-stir peanut butter. (Whereas my husband likes Jiff smooth.) When I was a kid, my dad liked Skippy crunchy peanut butter on wheat toast, so of course, that’s what I wanted. Dad didn’t want me to eat crunchy peanut butter, because he was afraid I would choke on the peanuts. At five years old? Now I wonder if he just didn’t want to share his Skippy peanut butter. (When he wasn’t around, Mom let me have crunchy peanut butter, with the understanding that Dad didn’t need to know. Ha!) For lunches I got peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches, until I refused to eat grape jelly, which it turned out Mom didn’t like either. So they became peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches. Then my friend Lynn taught me about peanut butter and sweet pickles, and peanut butter and bananas. When I started making my own lunches, I used Mom’s apricot jam with my peanut butter. Or put peanut butter on my waffles. When I was in high school I discovered what a Newport Beach sandwich shop called the Energy Special: A slice of whole wheat bread topped with crunchy peanut butter, sliced banana, drizzled with honey, and sprinkled with sunflower seeds — yum! I was always a fan of peanut butter nestled in the groove of a celery stalk. Peanut butter in health shakes was big in the 70s; in Missoula, Montana they made something like that they called the Nut Whip.
Did you know that peanuts were originally grown in the southern United States as a food crop for animals? They were known to be a crop in South America as early as 950 B.C. (the Incas made a peanut paste), from whence they traveled to Africa, then Spain, and eventually to North America (North Carolina, 1818). They were called Goober Peas, and during the Civil War there was a song written about “Eating Goober Peas.” Because peanuts were inexpensive and easy to grow, George Washington Carver did a lot of research beginning in the 1880s on what could be made from peanuts, to encourage them as crops for the newly emancipated farmers in the South. He came up with over 300 products you could make from peanuts, and one of them was peanut butter. However, Carver believed food products were all gifts from God, so he never patented his formula.
While peanuts themselves are very healthy (unless you are allergic to them), they do contain lots of fats (hence, a good source for peanut oil, often used in Asian cooking). They are relatively high in protein (for a vegetable source), and create a complete protein when teamed with grains. They are also a good vegetable source of iron. Be careful about buying brands that add sugar or corn syrup to the peanut butter, as they add unnecessary calories and other complications. Remember to refrigerate the peanut butter after opening the jar, as it can go rancid quickly. (As can all nuts unless they are vacuum-packed.)
Today my friends were talking about peanut butter and dill pickles, and peanut butter and raw baby carrots. All the talk about peanut butter made me hungry for some, so I got out a jar from the refrigerator (shown above). When it comes right down to it, all you need with peanut butter is a spoon to eat it. 🙂
How do you like your peanut butter?